School watch projects are a fascinating insight into today’s watchmaking education system and a unique way of finding skilled young men and women who are passionate about the craft and looking to make a career out of it. Over time, we’ve seen a lot of interesting school watch projects from different manufacturers, and today we’re adding another one. Following Antonin Falk, Theo Affret, Alexandre Haagemann and others, young French watchmaking talent Theo Levaltier recently explained to us his personal school watch project. With the assignment of creating a jumping hour watch based on a movement by Arnold & Son (calibre by La Joux-Perret), Theo went the extra mile! Not only did he design the jumping hour mechanism, but also the amazing hour counter!
The School Watch, or Montre d’Ecole in French, is essentially the final exam of a watchmaking student’s education. A task given to students in their final year of watchmaking school, and intended to push watchmakers to new heights and create a unique watch based on an existing caliber. Over the past few years, we have seen some excellent examples of these school clocks. Watches with newly designed bumper automatic mechanism, jumping hours and retrograde minutes and tourbillon.
School clock making is not a new thing, even historical and experienced current watchmakers have had to create a Montre d’Ecole at some point during their education. The likes of François-Paul Journe and Laurent Ferrier also created a school clock in their early days. And while none of them were created with the idea of becoming a commercial piece, some inspired a series of production watches.
The Theo Levaltier School Watch began with the outline of creating a watch from scratch with a jumping hour system to be installed on top of the LJP6900 movement by Arnold & Son (created by La Joux-Perret and part of the Citizen Group by Arnold & Son). And as you can tell from the pictures, this watch turned out to be very special! It starts with the design of the watch, which is inspired by historic sailing yachts and racing boats, something Theo is very passionate about. The result is a shape that flows from end to end and has interesting features to say the least.
The uniquely shaped case is finished in a bronze alloy with a natural, dark patina. It is 43 mm in diameter and 13 mm thick. Theo explained to us that a unique feature of this particular blend is that any scratch in the material visually blends back in as it is “filled in” with patina again. So put it on the door or table and after two weeks you won’t notice it anymore! A conventional crown is used to set and wind the watch with an on/off selector for the chiming mechanism on the left.
The entire structure of the jumping and striking mechanism designed by Theo is visible under the sapphire crystal. It is built on a base movement with all mechanicals in plain sight. It reveals a very intriguing mix of contrast in color and materials. The large S-shaped bridge, for example, is made of titanium and acts as a pointer for hours while securing various components. The entire system that moves the hour disc can be seen in action, as well as the system for the amazing hour complication. The glass hour disc has “patinated” numerals made of brass particles in the glass by laser-pointing. It is blued with a large central minute hand (heat-treated of course, not lacquered).
Surrounding the entire “dial” of the watch is a gong for the chiming mechanism. It is struck by a long hammer mounted on the lower section of the module. When the hour disc jumps a full hour, this system begins to chime the hour number. So it strikes once at 1 o’clock and twelve times at 12 o’clock. A selector on the left side of the case can put the striking mechanism into silent mode, where it still strikes but one hand holds it against the gong. That way it still vibrates so you know the exact hour if needed, but it doesn’t ring normally. Very clever!
Everything you can see is done using traditional machines and tools as a common practice for school clock making students. Sure, the design may be written on a computer, but most parts are still made on hand-operated lathes. Make a mistake and you can start over. The same goes for the finish. All done by hand and using traditional tools and techniques. And as we’ve said many times before, it’s projects like this that give us comfort that talented newcomers like Theo are looking after the future of the craft. Preservation of these practices is vital to keeping the craft alive.
Theo Levaltier put a sailcloth strap on this unique and attractive watch, which was made by Parisian high-end strap maker Jean-Rousseau. The same material that was used for sails in the early 1900s and is still made today, it is also used to create a unique watch pouch. It fits the nautical inspiration of the watch perfectly, with its off-white color, canvas-like texture and blue stitching! Unfortunately, Theo doesn’t plan to make it into a commercial watch just yet, but I’m sure some people are very into this steampunk-esque style. Especially the La Joux-Perret LJP6900 movement with its attractive jumping striking hour mechanism sitting on top!
You can follow Here’s what Theo Levaltier did on his Instagram account.