For his latest horological “temptation” for WatchTime readers, Escapement Magazine founder Angus Davies gets up close and personal with the Arnold & Son UTTE (Ref. 1UTAG.M02A. C121G.)
Several years ago, I heard someone remark that the perfect wife should be a best friend, a loving mother, an amazing cook and an imaginative lover. Some of these characteristics, on the face of it, are mutually exclusive. However, from my own experience, I have learned that the perfect partner is the same on the inside, but exhibits a different face to the outside world depending on the role they are fulfilling at the time.
For many years, watch buyers have shown they appreciate choice. Arnold & Son, the high-end watch company based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, has evidently grasped this notion, offering several watches that are the same on the inside, but present a different face depending on the desires of the client.
A perfect illustration of this product strategy is demonstrated in the maison’s slender UTTE model. The four character nomen is an abbreviation for “ultra-thin” watch with “tourbillon escapement.” A few years ago, I recall falling under the spell of a special edition of this timepiece produced exclusively for Asprey, delivered in a magnificent palladium case.
Since my first encounter with the UTTE in 2013, Arnold & Son has released several other variations, each evincing their own character, but harnessing the same exalted craftsmanship within. Recently, I enjoyed a hands-on encounter with another UTTE model, again presented in a palladium 950 case, but in this instance with a dial formed of Tahiti mother-of-pearl and a silvery opaline off-center hour-and-minutes display.
It was while admiring this timepiece that I pondered whether it proffers a lifetime of wedded bliss.
The Tahiti mother-of-pearl exhibits different hues depending on its interaction with the prevailing light. Moreover, as no two pieces of mother-of-pearl are identical, the dial has its own unique DNA. The undulating surface of this material proves fascinating to behold, inviting eyes to scrutinize each wave within its lustrous surface.
The hours and minutes are positioned off-center on a small, silvery opaline dial, encircled with a railroad chapter ring adorned with circular satin-finishing. Roman numerals denote the hours, whilst openworked, thermally blued hour and minute hands communicate in seemly conversation with the wearer.
Positioned in the lower portion of the dial, the one-minute flying tourbillon attracts attention. It is affixed on one side only, with no supporting bridge. A triangular-shaped hand, mounted on the cage, points to the neat white dots applied to the mother-of-pearl canvas, indicating the passing seconds.
The tourbillon cage is incredibly attractive, with its unusual curving upper profile and distinct absence of screws. Indeed, this latter aspect appears to accentuate the presence of screws on the balance wheel.
Some tourbillons can appear unduly conspicuous, but no such allegations could be directed towards the Arnold & Son UTTE, which exhibits a delightfully graceful demeanor. Moreover, the arrow-shaped hands articulate time with superb clarity, proffering ease of interpretation.
Palladium is a rare alloy and it is often cited by watch companies, along with platinum, as one of the most challenging materials to work with. Its use is therefore a further illustration of the arduous and time-consuming pursuit of horological perfection that typifies this watch.
The caseband is stepped and eschews straight sides in favor of technically challenging, curved and tapering contours. All surfaces are highly polished and the slender crown neatly hugs the middle of the case, congruent with the slim and unobtrusive nature of the watch. Indeed, its diameter of 42 mm — and more pertinently, its height of just 8.34 mm —exhibit a tasteful discretion.
Inspecting the rear of the timepiece, the movement is visible via an exhibition caseback.
The hand-wound Calibre A&S 8200 is produced in two variants. The movement used on rose-gold versions of the UTTE is rhodium-treated, with côtes de Genève rayonnantes and an engraved tourbillon bridge. However, the palladium version features the darker tones of NAC treatment and the côtes de Genève is presented in parallel stripes, gracing the bridges, including the tourbillon bridge, sans engraving. Both are presented below.
Both versions of Calibre A&S 8200 are beautifully executed, with double colimaçon on the rachets, circular grained wheels and hand chamfered edges.
The movement is incredibly slender, measuring a mere 2.97 mm in thickness, distinguishing this as one of the thinnest tourbillon movements available. Despite its lithe waistline, the movement features a double barrel, delivering an impressive power reserve in excess of 90 hours.
The shrewd watch buyer should always seek the company of a lifelong timekeeping partner. There is little lasting enjoyment associated with a flirtatious horological filly, lacking any virtue. While the UTTE has many innate qualities that make it marriage material, its face, unlike a wife’s, is not subject to change. Therefore, prospective purchasers have to ultimately settle on one variant that confers a lasting love.
The availability of palladium or red gold is not the only choice the potential suitor has to make. Dial variants include light-grey and black lacquered options. Alternatively, hand-guilloché and hand-painted miniature dials also vie for attention.
Ultimately, I return to the captivating smile of this palladium version, with its face formed from Tahiti mother-of-pearl. It ensnares my heart with its array of qualities and proffers a lasting union, courtesy of its exacting creation.