If you like your watch wear to have more than a touch of bad boy anti-establishment cool, liberally laced with irreverent haute horology special effects, then you owe it to yourself to check out Ladoire. Ladoire Helvet Mechanic is the eponymous brand of rock drummer and jeweller turned renegade watchmaker Lionel Ladoire.
Ladoire understands the traditions of Swiss watchmaking, but he prefers to think of the grand daddy’s of haute horology as having had their day in the sun and believes it’s now his turn to shine. In his own words, ‘they’ve had their turn, now it’s ours.’
So this sets the premise for a series of watches that break the rules, defy convention, refuse to be predictable and openly encourage an air of two fingered insouciance a la Liam Gallagher. The brand was founded in 2007, but it was perhaps in 2011 that the Ladoire started to really get noticed by the Riviera playboys who can afford tens of thousands on a novelty watch.
This was when Ladoire spent a lot of time, effort, and no doubt someone’s cash in launching the Ladoire Black Widow collection. The Black Widow collection approached things rather differently from the typical elegant, carefully structured and stiffly formal Swiss watch launch.
It introduced the brand with a series of teaser ads about who the Black Widow may be. We quickly learned that, although linked to the deadly venomous spider by implication, in reality, the Black Widow was more of the predatory seductive female kind busy getting her fangs into Mr. Green. She’s a glamorous yet dangerous woman who can eat men for breakfast and blow them out as bubbles. It was intriguing and fun, and watch magazines and watch blogs lapped it up.
As to the watches themselves, they certainly had a fresh look about them. If you are going to run a watch brand based on the premise that you are doing things differently, there comes a time when you actually have to do it.
The Black Widow collection consisted of Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, Mr. Race, and Mr Ice. Four watches with a venomous spidery allure. Almost as rare as hen’s teeth, each of the watches in the collection was released in a limited edition of just twelve. This really meant that only a few in the know friends and well connected high rollers were going to be able to acquire a copy of the watches.
The dial architecture is open-worked to afford an excellent view of the complex movement beneath it, described as a patented HMS Planetary system, an in-house calibre with automatic winding via a micro-rotor. The movement features three multi-layered regulator-type offset hours, minutes and seconds zones mounted onto ceramic micro ball bearings.
Needless to say, reading the time is anything but conventional. The offset hour, minutes and seconds indications are displayed by cages mounted on 127 and 7 micro ball bearings, respectively.The large central hand is the GMT or second time zone which is controlled via a quickset push-button on the case side located at 2 o’clock. Then the hours and minutes are delineated by rotating disks on the lower half of the dial under the centre. Then 0-20 seconds is indicated by a small three-handed disk at 3 o’clock. The movement has a power reserve of around 52 hours.
Turn the watch over and the inner workings are beautifully displayed with bridges that reveal underneath them the rotor and the intricate design of the mainplate.
Depending on your choice of watch model, the raised Arabic watch numerals are in a various shades. Red for Mr. Race, Green for Mr. Green, Frosty silver for Mr. Ice, and yes, you guessed it, grey for Mr. Grey. Each comes on a quality custom double hand stitched leather strap with matching accented colours . With a square face and plenty of depth and action going on with the dial, the overall look is decidedly rock and roll chic.
Lionel went on to win the award for best “Watch Architecture” for the Black Widow series at a lavish presentation hosted by Couture Time in Las Vegas. The inaugural presentation ceremony took place in the fabulous Encore Ballroom at the Wynn Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas.
Since 2011 Lionel has released the RGT Time series, standing for Roller Guardian Time. These are watches with asymmetrical cases and suitably deconstructed time display. RGT Punk is an example which reveals Lionel’s latent punk sensibilities, and in many respects he is more ‘out there’ than the likes of Romain Jerome. One can never be sure what he will come up with next, but it will most likely be desirably cool and achingly unattainable.
Ladoire Black Widow Price
The strictly limited Black Widow series (12 unit of each version) retailed for close to 70,000 Swiss Francs per piece and no doubt today graces the wrists of some elite rock royalty.
More resources about the Ladoire Black Widow available on ABTW (Hands-On), and Official Ladoire Website.