Chances are you’re now somewhat familiar with the name Ludovic Ballouard. After all he was the man behind the incredible Opus XIII unveiled by Harry Winston last year. Still, his is not exactly a household name in the world of horology. Even in the smaller independent watchmaking circles he tends to shun the spotlight, preferring to spend his time behind the bench creating his wonderfully mysterious mechanical machines.
In some ways you could argue this is the way it should be. The master at work, creating for the sake of creating, innovating where others simply copy, all the while stretching a tiny budget to make the crazy ideas in his head a reality. It almost seems like a romanticized notion that belongs to another time, another era. And yet this is exactly what Ludovic Ballouard has been doing for the last four or so years since striking out on his own.
Before you get too concerned for his well being though you should know that he has had some of the best training the horological world can offer, first at Franck Muller and than later at F.P. Journe. In fact he spent seven years honing his skills on some of Journe’s most complicated models, including the Sonnerie Souveraine, before deciding it was time to follow his own path.
As you can imagine he left with quite a reputation. In fact the story goes that his first ever watch under his own name was pre-purchased by a Swiss banker before he had even seen so much as a sketch of what the watch would look like. Ballouard just assured him that it would be made completely in-house, feature a world-first complication and be unlike anything in his collection and boy did he deliver.
Ludovic Ballouard – The Upside Down Watch
The Upside Down watch caused quite a stir when its creator first unveiled it in 2010. A deceptive beauty, it took most people a second look to realize what made this new timepiece so special. Simplistic in its design, the clean face features 12 Arabic numerals displayed on individual discs. The only catch is, they’re all upside down, except one.
That’s why the model is called ‘Upside Down’ because only the correct hour is ever shown the right side up. The flame blued central hand indicates the minutes, whilst the seconds are shown on a small sub-dial above six o’clock. When the minute hand reaches 12 o’clock, the old hour number instantaneously flips upside down and the new hour simultaneously flips right side up. A small dot also appears on the disc, so that you can track it down easily.
It’s kind of hard to do it justice in words, so just watch it in action in the video below:
As you can see in the video Ballouard chose to exhibit the complication on the back of the movement, as opposed to putting it out of sight under the dial as would be the generally accepted approach. Each hour has its own Maltese cross that is rotated at the appropriate time by a large diameter wheel and so the decision to place the complication at the rear of the piece affords the viewer an obstructed view of this visual delight.
On the wrist though it’s all about that playful dial. The 41mm case is available in either rose gold or platinum, both of which feel very substantial. The ergonomic design of the lugs, milled directly from the case, means that the watch wears extremely comfortably although you’re probably not going to forget it’s on your wrist thanks to the weight. The standard version features a titanium dial but if you’re after something really special the version shown in the photos features a limited edition MOP dial, which as you can see looks sublime on a man or a lady’s wrist.
And in case you were wondering, yes the banker was extremely pleased with his first Ludovic Ballouard watch. Of course, why stop at just one, maybe he put down the first deposit for Ballouard’s next watch too?
Ludovic Ballouard – The Half Time
Following on from the success of the Upside Down watch Ballouard was soon back at work on his next crazy creation, and as with the first it was to feature a never before seen complication hiding in plain sight. Launched in 2012 the Half Time once again took horological enthusiasts by surprise. As you can see at first glance the hours are displayed on the outer chapter ring, whilst the minutes are tracked across the retrograde half-ring display that stretches between 8 o’clock and 4 o’clock.
So far so good but closer inspection reveals that all the hours on the chapter ring appear to be broken or misaligned, except for the one at 12 o’clock? It’s here again that we see the playful ingenuity of Ballouard in action. So, how does it work? Well as you can see the hour indexes are divided in two thus rendering them effectively unreadable, except for the aforementioned one at 12 o’clock. Now for the clever part; as the hour changes the rotation of two disks reconstitutes the index, forming a clean Roman numeral that allows the time to be read quickly and easily. The watch therefore has no need for an hour hand as the reconstituted hour becomes clearly visible at the top of the piece.
What makes this truly spectacular though is the manner in which it happens. The disks, placed on the same plane as the dial, cannot be distinguished by the naked eye, thus giving the illusion of an unmoving surface. This means that when the hour changes it seems completely instantaneous. Again this is one of those situations where words aren’t really sufficient; so instead just watch the Half Time in action in the video below:
As you would expect the movement itself is another stunning work of art. Visible through the sapphire case-back the beautifully finished calibre is comprised of over 300 different components, including the newly patented rotating disk complication. Presented in the same 41mm platinum case at the Upside Down watch, the Half Time is once again extremely comfortable on the wrist.