Breva Génie 03 Puts a Mechanical Speedometer on Your Wrist

This watch can serve as a backup for when the one in your vintage Ferrari fails

The Breva Génie 03 is the first wristwatch to contain a mechanical speedometer.

Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

To figure out speed from your wristwatch, you typically use a tachymeter scale. It's what race car drivers and pilots used for decades before digital timers emerged. Now Breva has a different solution inside its Génie 03: an actual mechanical speedometer that functions independently from the timekeeping mechanism.

It's not the most practical complication, sure, but I couldn't help but smile as I tested the prototype with a noisy air compressor in a buttoned-up Geneva hotel.

The 45-part mechanism must be deployed from the case (using the screw-down pusher at 2 o'clock) before it can be used. Once it has popped out, it stands 6 millimeters above the rest of the case and features an exposed set of Robinson cups, which are more commonly used to measure wind speeds. This a different approach than that used by the mechanical barometers and mechanical altimeters in Breva's other watches, which rely on pressurized membranes. 

Even though it’s large, the Génie 03 is lightweight and comfortable on the wrist.
Even though it’s large, the Génie 03 is lightweight and comfortable on the wrist.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

The air coming from the 1 o'clock direction (chosen for the angle of the wrist on a motorcycle's handlebars or a car's steering wheel) spins the Robinson cups. Eventually this force overcomes the tension in the visible spring, moving the needle to show speed in kilometers per hour. If we weren't talking on a millimeter scale, the mechanics would be really simple, but here it's well-deserving of a slow clap. I can't speak to how it works with your arm resting on the windowsill of a GTO, but using an air pressure gun to test it, the system was responsive and easy to read.

A set of tiny Robinson cups spin under the speedometer dial to measure speed.
A set of tiny Robinson cups spin under the speedometer dial to measure speed.
Source: Breva via Bloomberg

The real question is: Who wants or needs a speedometer on their wrist? The short answer is nobody. With a gadget like this, utility isn't the point.

If you're part of the large demographic obsessed with both watches and motorsports (you know who you are), this is sure to hold a lot of appeal. It's a racing watch unlike any other—even your friend with the perfect vintage Aston hasn't seen the likes of this.

The speedometer module sits 6mm above the rest of the watch when deployed.
The speedometer module sits 6mm above the rest of the watch when deployed.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

Oh, and yeah, the Génie 03 tells time, too. 

This is the first movement Breva has developed entirely in-house; its unusual crescent shape allows space for the speedometer. The transparent dial has three hands for hours, minutes, and seconds, and you can see the balance wheel above and power barrel below, too. Turning the watch over, you see the micro-rotor winding system, which makes the Génie 03 automatic. Even with the speedometer deployed, the movement compartment of the case is water-resistant, so you don't have to worry about accidentally hurting the watch when you use the complication.

The in-house movement is crescent shaped and wound by a micro-rotor.
The in-house movement is crescent shaped and wound by a micro-rotor.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

The 44.7mm x 15.7mm case is rather large, but it hugs the wrist nicely and feels much smaller than the specs would suggest. Also, the combination of being made of titanium and all the open space inside for the speedometer makes it rather light for its size. The Génie 03 still isn't subtle by any means, but it's more wearable than you'd think.

There are certainly those who will scoff that the Génie 03 is frivolous and useless. Fine, I see where you're coming from. But to ignore the creativity, mechanical ingenuity, and spirit of enjoyment would be to seriously miss what Breva has achieved.

The Breva Génie 03 will be available Summer 2015 for CHF 48,800 (about $56,834) plus taxes. 

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