Behrens Creativity, Unchained
The Behrens Perigee utilises an uncommon mechanical transmission system
It is an oft-repeated phrase in mechanical watchmaking, that everything has been done, and that whatever we see now is iterative rather than truly innovative. To a certain extent this is true, but there is still plenty to discuss and to expand upon, all the same. The universe of mechanical watchmaking may be more or less thoroughly explored by now, but it is a vast and historically rich universe, and there are many areas in it which we may not have traversed as much as others.
One example is the system of chain transmission. The predominant system of energy transfer in mechanical watchmaking is gear transmission, as you will see in 99.999% of watch movements out there. And even in quartz timepieces, analogue displays use gear transmission for setting the time. The chain drive, most commonly seen in bicycles, is seen in only a handful of timepieces, many of them antique chronometers. This is because such timepieces frequently incorporated fusée-chaîne constant-force devices, a mechanism which aided precise timekeeping by supplying a steady level of torque to the balance and escapement.
Perigee © Behrens Watches
There are a handful of modern timepieces which continue to integrate chain-drive transmission systems, but, almost without exception, these are part of a fusée-chaîne mechanism or similar constant-force mechanism. The Behrens Perigee uses a chain-drive system to display the time, with hour markers mounted on a ruby-set roller chain that cycles in an elliptical shape around the 3D representation of the Earth in the centre of the dial.
It is this elliptical voyage that gives the watch its name, since the word “perigee” refers to the point at which a celestial object passes closest to another body it is orbiting. The example we’re most familiar with is the Moon’s slightly elliptical orbit around the Earth — when the Moon is full at the point of perigee, that’s when we observe a Moon that is larger than usual in the sky, the colloquially named Supermoon. Accordingly, it is at the perigee point between the hour chain and the globe that the hour is read (via a blue triangular marker).
Towards the 3 o’clock position, a retrograde display indicates the minutes, evoking yet another celestial phenomena — the planetary retrograde. Around the periphery, a domed disc makes its way around the dial in 27.3 days, representing the time it takes for the Moon to orbit the Earth (the actual cycle of 29.5 days between two consecutive full moons is due to the additional factor of the Earth orbiting the Sun).
Constell © Behrens Watches
This astronomical theme is carried across several of Behrens’s other creations, such as the Constell, with its large moon-phase display and dial decorated to resemble a star-studded night sky; or the Starship II, with its futuristic design. These timepieces highlight the Behrens ambition to reach the outer limits of mechanical watchmaking. The Perigee, marking the brand’s first in-house manual-winding movement, is certainly a worthy step in that direction.
Starship II © Behrens Watches