Swiss watchmaker Romain Gauthier has just released the first series-produced watch in stainless steel under his eponymous brand. The Prestige HMS follows the original Prestige HM and was released in 2010, helping further establish the then-nascent firm’s capabilities before going on to more technically challenging releases such as the Logical One and the Insight Micro-Rotor. The model was previously produced in precious metals like red gold, yellow gold, and platinum.
The stainless steel Prestige HMS has been further enhanced courtesy of its dial, which is constructed of a rare piece of meteorite originally discovered in 1931 and sourced from the Henbury crater field in the Northern Territory of Australia. The chosen meteorite used in the dial construction is an Octahedrite — the most common form of iron meteorites — that has been subjected to a nitric acid treatment that reveals crisscrossing lines of nickel-iron crystal.
This pattern is known as Widmanstätten, or Thomson structures, and is formed during an extended period of cooling from the parent asteroid. The example used by Romain Gauthier is particularly noteworthy for the coarseness of its nickel-iron crystal bands, also known as lamellae, that adds a sort of glisten to the dial’s appearance.
To form the dial itself, Romain Gauthier and his team used a combination of three-axis machining and electrical discharge machining to create the actual disc that makes up the dial. This disc measures 33 mm in diameter and stands at only 0.8 mm. An anti-corrosion treatment has been applied to make sure the dial’s unique structure will not degenerate over time. Romain Gauthier was able to source the only known sample of the Henbury meteorite outside the South Australian Museum of Minerals, Meteorites, and Rocks in Adelaide.
The dial features an off-center hour and minute subdial at 12 o’clock and an overlapping small seconds subdial at 5 o’clock. The hour and minute hands are injected with Super-LumiNova and are constructed of blackened steel to heighten the watch’s legibility. The applied hour indexes are filled with Super-LumiNova as well and are made of white gold.
The choice to use this dial is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with minerals, crystals, and other specimens for Romain Gauthier. His father collected minerals like agate, labradorite, quartz, and desert rose, and would frequently bring a young Romain with him to mineral and gem fairs across Europe.
Given that this is the Prestige HMS — the HMS stands for hours, minutes, and seconds — the overall simplicity of the time-telling mechanism is aesthetically enhanced by its new, ferrous-focused materials. However, given that this is a Romain Gauthier timepiece, its relative simplicity is in the eye of the beholder. Lacking a traditional crown, the Prestige HMS uses a flat crown found on the watch’s caseback.
This choice helps increase overall winding efficiency because unlike a more “normal” crown, the energy transfer is more direct rather than transmitted through a 90-degree angle. The crown uses a small ceramic ball and rubber spring to handle the radial and axial forces exerted during winding and time setting better than a conventional crown spring would, while the ceramic used for the ball is resistant to wear and reduces overall friction. Two O-ring seals enhance the watch’s water resistance rating of 10 meters and protects the movement from dust when the crown is pulled out to set the time.
Inside the 43 mm, polished, stainless steel case and partially visible through the exhibition caseback is manufacture Caliber 2206 HMS with a 60-hour power reserve. The watch is sumptuously finished in Romain Gauthier’s signature Vallée de Joux style. Each bridge is polished and features rounded bevels as well as hand-chamfered and hand-polished jewel countersinks. The bridges and mainplate are black NAC-treated, but the straight-graining on the bridges makes them stand out against the hand-frosted mainplate, while the black NAC sets off the rhodium-treated, circular-grained gears. The gear recesses and backs of the bridges are spotted, while there is snailing on both sides of the mainspring barrel. As many as 60 hours have been devoted to hand-decorating the movement.
The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel with a meteorite dial comes on a black alligator leather strap with a satin-finished stainless steel pin buckle. It is a limited edition of 10 pieces and is priced at CHF68,000.