Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business
Watches

Hands-On With Angelus’s First Watch in More Than 35 Years—and It's Wild

Killed by quartz watches, the Swiss brand is taking on smartwatches in its second coming

Angelus, a watch brand that's been defunct since the 1970s, has been revived by movement makers La Joux-Perret. Today, at the Baselworld exposition, they unveiled its first new watch in more than 35 years.

The watch is quite different from what the historic chronograph and alarm watchmaker used to create. And that's the point. The brand gives La Joux-Perret another vehicle for showing off the creative watchmaking of its head of innovation, Sébastien Chaulmontet (La Joux-Perret also owns Arnold & Son). 

Vintage Angelus watches.
Vintage Angelus watches.
Source: Angelus via Bloomberg

La Joux-Perret acquired Angelus in 2011. Chaulmontet, an avid collector of vintage watches, and Chief Executive Officer Frédéric Wegner began soon after assembling a team of watchmakers to create a series of new Angelus watches.

"I got a call from someone saying they heard I liked Angelus," says Chaulmontet. "When I replied 'yes' and asked what watch he had for sale, he said it wasn't a watch but the brand. About a week later we bought it."

From the beginning, the goal was to utilize cutting-edge materials, to pay tribute to the old Angelus without directly copying watches from the past and to highlight brand-new movements created just for Angelus. So how'd they do?

The Angelus U10, the brand's first new watch in decades.
The Angelus U10, the brand's first new watch in decades.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

The first new specimen is the U10 Tourbillon Lumière, a rectangular watch that (intentionally) looks a lot like a funky late ’60s TV set. On the left is the time display, complete with deadbeat seconds, and on the right is a flying tourbillon suspended in a chamber surrounded by five sapphire crystals, letting you view it from all angles. A 90-hour power reserve indicator is set into the side of the case. That all this crazy watchmaking is cased in steel with multiple curved pieces of sapphire crystal only ups the ante.

The massive tourbillon is modeled after those from antique pocket watches.
The massive tourbillon is modeled after those from antique pocket watches.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

It's an unusual watch—and a big statement coming from a new brand.

Not only have they created a polarizing design and outfitted it with niche complications, such as deadbeat seconds and a pocketwatch-style tourbillon, but to release it in a 25-piece limited edition available only in stainless steel shows that Angelus has no intention of being a mass-market brand.  There will be people who love them, and plenty who won't. 

Personally, I'd like it better as a desk clock, as it's massive on the wrist and a little unwieldy. The mechanics are awesome, and the curved pieces of sapphire are incredible (Chaulmontet remarked than an early supplier told them "to give up and just use plexiglass"), but it's just too big to wear practically.

The back view of the U10.
The back view of the U10.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

For now, the U10 is the only watch Angelus is showing, but more will be coming later in 2015. Offerings will include a chronograph and other complications and will use such materials as carbon fiber, sapphire, and titanium in new ways. Additionally, there will be a more traditional, heritage-oriented collection that will make its debut early next year.

On the wrist, the U10 is massive.
On the wrist, the U10 is massive.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

There's something curious about the timing of Angelus's revival. It was the mainstream explosion of quartz watches that killed the brand, and now it's back in action just as smartwatches are set to launch another attack on the mechanical watch business. Sure, few people are going to suddenly forego an experimental tourbillon in favor of an $10,000 Apple Watch, but there has been talk of a second ice age coming for the watch industry that would affect all areas of the market. Time—told by this unique and wild new entrant—will tell.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE