Watches: Antoine Martin Slow Runner

By Thierry Ané on November 15, 2013

Throughout most of the first half of the Twentieth Century, mechanical watches operated at an essentially standard 18,000 vibrations per hour (or 2.5 Hertz). Since then, in search of an increased precision, the trend has been towards increasingly faster oscillating balances. Indeed, although most of the watches introduced today beat at 28,800 vph (or 4 Hertz), the best manufactures compete with one another on the very high frequency field. Chopard’s L.UC. 8HF beating at 57,600 vph (8 Hertz) or the Classique Chronométrie 7727 from Breguet are only two recent examples of this quest for high frequency.

Going against the general trend towards small and rapidly oscillating balances, Martin Braun, the watchmaker behind Antoine Martin, has come up with what is said to be the world’s largest and slowest balance. Indeed, the watchmaker has created a timepiece that ticks at the lowest frequency possible for a horological creation while maintaining all the qualities of a fine precision timepiece.

The in-house calibre AM36.001 inside the new “Slow Runner” collection beats at a lazy frequency of just one hertz, or else 7,200 vph. According to the brand, “this is not even half as fast as the slowest-running designs currently available in the modern watchmaking industry”. Intuitively speaking, the less vibrations per hour a balance produces, the more affected the average rate will be by little disturbances or shocks. According to the brand though, “the unusually large diameter (24 mm) of the balance spring of the Slow Runner model, allows it to build up so much kinetic energy that the influence of small impacts or sudden extreme movements are so minimal that they no longer have any influence on it”. Saying it differently, fast-beating movements and small balances are not necessarily the only road to accuracy.

So far, the Slow Runner collection consists of three different models, two in stainless steel and a more luxurious version in pink gold. I personally love the shape of their very recognisable 42mm case. The dial design is also typical of this young brand (founded in 2009). Centre stage, taking up most of the bottom-half of the dial is the seconds counter with Arabic numerals. The seconds hand of the Slow Runner advances at the rate of exactly twice per second and it is quite fun to watch this seconds hand progress in extremely regular fits and starts. The hours and minutes counter with Roman numerals is located on the upper-right side of the dial with a small aperture at 3 o’clock for the date. To balance the overall design, a very useful sectorial power reserve indicator occupies the upper-left of the guilloché dial (anthracite for one steel model and silver for the remaining two).

The real sight with this watch, however, is the enormous balance spring visible through the sapphire case back. That’s where you understand what the brand means by “slowing down the passage of time and returning to a rhythm with which both Nature and human beings can feel at one”. There is not a single watch in the world with a high frequency minuscule balance that will overcome you with the same king of emotion you will feel by looking so closely at this gigantic watch heart beating at a rhythm that makes it almost alive. Beware! Looking at this watch may make you as passionate about watchmaking as I am…

Lastly, let me mention that the watch comes with a black (steel models) or brown (pink gold version) alligator strap with a nice folding buckle.

It is not often one comes across a watch that is so fundamentally different from the rest of the Swiss production while remaining very affordable. At CHF 19,500 for the steel versions and CHF 34,500 for the pink gold model, the Slow Runner is just that. I was already impressed by their introductory timepiece, the QP01 Perpetual Calendar that I particularly love in the open dial steel version. This timepiece was kind of “classical” though. The Slow Runner is an entirely different story and I do hope that next year will bring us more astonishing models from a watchmaker that has already proved in his previous brand that he is capable of anything.

For a technical description of the timepieces and additional pictures: