The most secretive new watch in recent history finally launched, as the long-awaited Harry Winston Opus 14 made its debut at a lavish 1950s-themed party at Kurhaus Casino in Baden-Baden, Germany. Opus is the brand’s creative outlet, a think-tank through which independent watchmakers have produced some of the most avant-garde pieces of the 21st century. A rare laboratory, where risk is encouraged. Harry Winston under Swatch Group ownership
Guests traveled to the event in classic American muscle cars from the ‘50s were greeted by roller-skating hostesses before entering the main hall, which was decked out like a gigantic 1950s diner, complete with pinball machines, cocktail selections on old-fashioned diner menus, and black-and-white images of 1950s stars like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Cary Grant. On the main stage, flanked by jukeboxes, Harry Winston CEO Nayla Hayek presented the watch, after which Thicke, freshly introduced as a Harry Winston brand ambassador and wearing an Opus 14, wowed the international crowd with an impromptu concert.
Despite its ownership of approximately 20 watch brands and supporting technical facilities, the Swatch Group chose to keep with the Harry Winston tradition of using independent watchmakers Franck Orny and Johnny Girardin to produce the highly complicated and technically innovative timepiece. It was a three-and-a-half year project. The testing facilities of Blancpain was used to assess the endurance of the watch. At a press conference Wednesday, Nayla Hayek, Harry Winston CEO, and Marc Hayek, Blancpain director, said the concept of the watch was already in place when Swatch Group acquired Harry Winston in 2013 but they immediately fell in love with the idea. “We really wanted to make it happen,” said Marc Hayek. “Seeing the idea and bringing it to life is fantastic.”
The huge 54.7-mm case is made of 18K white gold and is covered by a sapphire crystal cut from a single block. The signature automaton complication evokes the mechanics of a miniaturized 1950s-style jukebox. Stylish details include the local time display on the off-center subdial display at 9 o’clock, the vinyl-style finishes on the various dials, the two-toned insignia bearing the number 14, the shaded red of the retrograde minutes arc, and the blue-toned hour markers. All together, the elements call to mind classic Americana, specifically the golden age of rock ‘n roll, classic diners, and the legendary Route 66. “That’s what is so fun about Opus,” said a jubilant Marc A. Hayek. “Usually, you have to follow a strict line of conduct when designing a watch. With Opus, you have to find that line, and cross it, into something totally new.”
The hour is already shown on the top disk. When pressed for the first time, a push-piece at 4 o’clock activates a moving arm that picks the disk up and sets it onto the platform to be read. While the disk displaying the local time remains in place at 9 o’clock, the chosen GMT, date or star disk is positioned on this platform. Pressing the push-piece a second time once the disk is in place reactivates the arm, which moves the disk back into the store. The first activation takes five seconds and returning the disk to the original position takes three seconds. The entire process takes about eight seconds and even makes an audible sound reminiscent of a jukebox changing a record.
The power reserve for the patented HW4601 caliber uses two separate barrels, one for the automaton mechanism and the other for the clock operation. It provides 68 hours for the clock operation and enough power for five back-and-forth disk movements of the “turntable.” Although the power reserves are separate and function independently, they are driven by a shared winding crown. A second winding crown is used to set the time. In addition, push-pieces on the lugs at 12 o’clock corrects the date and GMT.
The Harry Winston Opus 14, a limited edition of 50 pieces, is composed of a staggering 1,066 components and will retail for 428,000 Swiss francs ($434,600). It is the first Opus watch to be launched by Harry Winston Timepieces since its acquisition by the Swatch Group.