The great strength of independent watchmaking is to be able to offer watches with incomparable charm and true exclusivity. I had the opportunity to discover the work of Florent Lecomte through the photos of his first watch made in several copies, the Series n° 1.
Lecomte Series 1
I had been seduced by the proposal, by the quality of the work highlighted thanks to the finishes and by a timeless aesthetic not devoid of originality. This first timepiece emanated a technical atmosphere, underlined by the organization of the dial and the opening on the barrel. It was part of an approach that respected the principles of traditional watchmaking decorations, as evidenced by the care given to the details of the finishes such as the grained dial or the execution of the point on the barrel, visible from the dial side.
Unfortunately, I had missed the mark and all the parts had been sold out very quickly. However, I had kept in mind the project of acquiring a Florent Lecomte watch and the opportunity arose during the presentation of Series n°2.
Lecomte Series 2
The Series n°2 is part of the same approach as the first watch, namely to offer a hand-wound piece, with impeccable execution and which shines the spotlight on a moving element of the movement.
This time, to my greatest pleasure, it is the pendulum that plays the leading role. I must admit that I have a weakness for watches with an apparent balance wheel and for me, in the end, I don’t need a tourbillon carriage to appreciate the oscillations of the balance wheel.
The spectacle of the behavior of the regulating organ is almost sufficient in itself. The balance wheel in question still has to deserve such exposure and this is the case with the Series n°2 by Florent Lecomte. Moreover, the official name of the second series, produced in 12 copies, is the Lecomte Régulateur watch given this emphasis.
It operates at two levels. First of all because of the shape of the double-rim balance. This original shape reinforces the three-dimensional rendering of the balance wheel and makes it even more unique and impactful. Its diameter is already generous at the base (14mm) and indisputably, the balance wheel immediately catches the eye. Then, thanks to the vertical balance bridge with an irreproachable cradled polished finish that extends onto the dial. The frequency of the movement being 2.5hz, the oscillations are magnificent to observe and the ticking very pleasant to listen to. Watches with a large balance wheel and low frequency have a particular power of seduction, this Series n°2 by Florent Lecomte is a new demonstration of this.
The presentation of the front side of the watch is original with an upper zone dedicated to the dial offering a particular contour, combining curved segments with a segment almost at a right angle. The lower zone is devoted to the regulating organ and the second hand. There emerges from the whole a sensation of volumes, of reliefs which gives the watch originality and modernity in the context of a traditional approach.
What I also really liked was the desire not to gloss over the difficulties. It would have been easy to draw the outline without roughness or breakage in order to facilitate the task. Florent Lecomte ruled out this solution and preferred to insert an almost right angle, which makes bevelling more difficult.
The back of the watch is, without a doubt, on the same level as the front side: the architecture of the movement is certainly not surprising, but the finishing work is remarkable. First of all, the bridges are specific and manufactured and they offer an ambitious cutout with multiple re-entrant angles. It’s very simple: we no longer see this kind of cutout in the entry-level watches of the major luxury watch brands since the number of re-entrant angles tends to decrease over time like a trickle. In any case, Series n°2 bridges are an ideal starting point for finishing work. The bevels and the sanded finish are magnificent and I also appreciated the care taken in the execution of the ratchet. I could fault the bridges for not being open enough, regretting not having a better view of the moving parts. But the advantage of bridge surfaces is that they can be etched. Florent Lecomte thus offered a personalization option in order to engrave his initials by hand on the right bridge and an inscription “Finitions main – Morteau” on the left bridge (that of the ratchet).
This remark addresses one of the reasons that make the experience of acquiring a watch from an independent watchmaker so unique. I was very regularly informed of the stages in the manufacture of the watch and moreover, Florent Lecomte offered purchasers of pieces from the Series a list of options as well as improvements compared to the initial prototype. For example, the size of the name engraving on the dial side has been reduced. In addition, the eyebolt holder (which is very visible given the position of the regulating organ on the dial side) has been bevelled and decorated to make it more consistent with the refined atmosphere of the whole. What a pleasure to see that as the project progressed, improvements were made and that each owner was offered specific finishes to make their watch not only exclusive but unique. Proposals seemed at first almost harmless but the visual impact being considerable, it was almost impossible to refuse them. Each option made sense and raised the level of excellence even further.
The long-awaited moment arrived a year and two months after the order (I was lucky to be among the first delivered) and when I took possession of the watch, I was immediately convinced of the correctness of my choice. I could again mention the finishes and the attention to detail, but the most important thing is elsewhere. The work that is done is not demonstrative. It puts itself at the service of enhancing the regulating organ and what matters most to me is the hypnotizing behavior of the imposing pendulum. The watch itself is large (the diameter of the steel case is 42mm) but the whole remains harmonious. The movement generously occupies the case and the proper diameter of the balance wheel requires an appropriate framework of expression.
And then, how not to evoke the pride as French to acquire an independent watch created by a compatriot? French watchmaking is in full revival and I wanted to support this movement by acquiring a watch from this movement. I am aware that the watch cannot be considered purely French. For example, Philippe Narbel’s Manufactor team, located at the Abbey in Switzerland, did the exceptional decoration work. Moreover, the base movement is an ETA 6498 which is subsequently completely reworked and only a few moving components such as the barrel, the gear train, the lever are kept. But here it is, Series n° 2 is above all the culmination of a personal project and total commitment. Florent Lecomte showed unfailing determination by producing the balance wheel and hairspring himself. The three-dimensional dial is machined in the mass and I could continue the list of difficulties and constraints. Because if independent watchmaking had to be defined in a few words, it would be, in my opinion, the absence of compromise. This watch seduces me, charms me because it is the result of an approach that could almost be considered naive these days. Whatever means are used, the most important thing is the result. And frankly, it feels good to forget for a few moments the calculations of economic profitability and margin that customers always end up feeling.
Finally, Florent Lecomte’s proposal, despite this permanent quest for excellence, was very wisely priced during the pre-order. The final price was around 10/11,000 euros including tax depending on the finishes and options chosen, which was reasonable given the work done. In this context, it was difficult not to succumb and I made my decision in a few seconds (you should never procrastinate in this kind of situation). I am fully aware that this was an opportunity not to be missed because future pieces by Florent Lecomte will be in a higher price segment because they will include complications.
Be that as it may, the observation (or rather: the contemplation) of the pendulum makes me forget all these material considerations. The magic works instantly and I know it will work for a long time. The meaning of the message that I wish to convey through this article is therefore the following. If one day you have the opportunity to acquire a sincere and committed watch from an independent watchmaker, do not hesitate. Do not hesitate because you will not regret your choice by becoming aware of what true exclusivity is. And don’t hesitate because the choice must be made quickly, the most attractive pieces all being sold very quickly, sometimes within a few hours. It would be a shame to regret it later.