The trend of reviving extinct watch brands and giving them a new life has been hot for a few years now. Frequently, the relaunches include a sincere effort to tie new timepieces to the brand history—like when Montres L. Leroy brought its new collection of watches to the 2013 Baselworld Expo and showcased them alongside antique highlights from centuries ago. The idea is that if you love the vintage pieces, you might want to buy a new one, because it feels like a next step for a brand with which you feel connected.
But when the European brand Angelus was brought back in 2011 by avid collector Sebastien Chaulmontet and the manufacture at La Joux-Perret, it didn't debut with a watch that harked back to its defunct models. It went in an entirely modern, even futuristic direction.
Founded in 1891 by brothers Albert and Gustav Stolz, Angelus was known over the years for elegant chronographs with multiple date complications. If Chaulmontet had wanted to appeal to longtime fans like himself, he could have easily come up with something traditional and slick, like the CT60 collection from Tiffany. Plenty of new watches today look like they could have been worn on board the Titanic—and Angelus could have jumped on this trend. Instead, it surprised the world with a debut watch that looked more Star Trek than stateroom. The Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumiere was an out-there, skeletonized time-only watch with a massive encased tourbillon in a separate sapphire container from the movement.
The design wasn't totally out of nowhere—Chaulmontet explained to Monogram Watches that he wanted to echo the travel alarms the company made in the middle of the last century. But it raised eyebrows, and it firmly established Angelus as a new-old brand to watch.
Now the second timepiece of the brand refresh has been announced, and while it looks more like a watch, it still feels decades away from the Angelus chronographs of yore. The Angelus U20 Ultra-Skeleton Tourbillon is made of sapphire, carbon, and titanium and wants the wearer to be constantly aware of the detailed, high-tech finishings. There is a central hours and minutes, plus a one-minute flying tourbillon at 6 o'clock. At 32.6mm it doesn't wear huge on the wrist, and at 5.8mm thick with its sapphire dome and anti-reflective inner coating, it's nothing if not legible.
The main plate is transparent sapphire, and the bridges are blued titanium. There are 18 rubies, set in solid gold chatons, and the hour and minute hands are rhodium-treated and skeletonized themselves. All components have been hand-chamfered and polished. Even the titanium lugs are attached to the carbon-fiber case with a carbon fiber-reinforced armature. Thought has gone into this watch.
Angelus has not announced a price for the watch yet (the U10 cost upwards of $100,000), but it will debut at Baselworld in March, where vintage fans will get to check it out in person. There will be only 18 pieces in the collection, so we may not know if this path will lead to broader success for the brand until we see more watches.