It all began with a mad challenge uttered in a defiant and passionate tone of voice. Some master watchmakers are plainly and simply masochistic. When taking up the insurmountable challenge announced by REBELLION TIMEPIECES, David Candaux had no idea what to expect. The task facing him was to make a case of sapphire crystal imagined by the designer Eric Giroud, which would already be complex enough as it is when made of steel, gold, titanium, or carbon. Armed with all the confidence of a true pioneer, somewhere between unawareness of danger and the wish not to disappoint anyone, he produced something that qualifies as a world premiere.

The 47,600 minutes that were required to machine and polish the extraordinary case do not include the hours and hours devoted to conceiving and verifying whether it would be feasible at all, one step after the other. It was a titanic job made possible by simulation using a computer and an advanced 3D software especially reprogrammed for the task at hand. Take the moorings that usually disappear into the mass of steel, gold or titanium: Here, they suddenly reveal themselves as very aesthetic beauty marks.

Because the sapphire crystal allows us to see everything. 

Superlative mind and tools

It involved reinventing, reshaping everything, from the tip of the smallest screw, to the most inaccessible panel reachable by human tools, right down to the gasket that maintains water-resistance, which had to be made of transparent silicon. “We had to put a lot of thought into finding each and every way to avoid changing the aesthetics of the watch while managing to assemble all the elements and making sure all the connecting elements were invisible,” says David Candaux on completing the job. 

As for the tools, they needed to be designed and made, or, in the best case scenario, just adapted. Sapphire is transparent, but it is also very hard and brittle. Not many materials are so hard to work on. In this project, the lifespan of a burr with a diamond tip, the only material able to get the better of sapphire and grind it down, was somewhere between four and thirty minutes. 

On the other hand, since breakage is inevitable in watchmaking, in order to actually have the timepiece presented at the Espace Vert in Geneva during the watch week in January 2016, three cases ended up being sacrificed on the altar of perfection..