The most secretive new watch in recent history finally launched last night, as the long-awaited Harry Winston Opus 14 made its debut at a lavish 1950s-themed party at Kurhaus Casino in Baden-Baden, Germany — along with the surprise announcement of “Blurred Lines” crooner Robin Thicke as the watch-and-jewelry giant’s new brand ambassador.
Guests traveled to the event in classic American muscle cars from the ‘50s (mine was a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado) and were greeted by roller-skating hostesses before entering the main hall, which was decked out like a gigantic 1950s diner, complete with pinball machines, cocktail selections on old-fashioned diner menus, and black-and-white images of 1950s stars like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Cary Grant. On the main stage, flanked by jukeboxes, Harry Winston CEO Nayla Hayek presented the watch, after which Thicke, freshly introduced as a Harry Winston brand ambassador and wearing an Opus 14, wowed the international crowd with an impromptu concert.
For the 14th edition of the Opus collection, Harry Winston partnered with independent watchmakers Franck Orny and Johnny Girardin (“Frankie and Johnny!”), whose previous claim to fame is the Montblanc Metamorphosis watch.
The huge 54.7-mm case is made of 18K white gold and is covered by a sapphire crystal cut from a single block. The signature automaton complication evokes the mechanics of a miniaturized 1950s-style jukebox. Stylish details include the local time display on the off-center subdial display at 9 o’clock, the vinyl-style finishes on the various dials, the two-toned insignia bearing the number 14, the shaded red of the retrograde minutes arc, and the blue-toned hour markers. All together, the elements call to mind classic Americana, specifically the golden age of rock ‘n roll, classic diners, and the legendary Route 66 — all aesthetic touches also on display at the launch party.
The patented, world-first miniaturized jukebox mechanism reveals four disks housed in a store, each showing a specific display: local time, GMT time, the date, and a Hollywood Walk of Fame star bearing the signature of Harry Winston — a reference to the brand founder’s history as a jewelry supplier to Hollywood royalty.
Activating the selector, at 9 o’clock on the edge of the case, lets the wearer choose the desired display. This action sets the entire store into an up and down motion, thus freeing the selected disk. When pressed for the first time, the push-piece at 4 o’clock activates a moving arm that picks the disk up and sets it onto the platform to be read. While the disk displaying the local time remains in place at 9 o’clock, the chosen GMT, date or star disk is positioned on this platform. Pressing the push-piece a second time once the disk is in place reactivates the arm, which moves the disk back into the store. The entire process takes about eight seconds and even makes an audible sound reminiscent of a jukebox changing a record.
The complexity of the movement, created exclusively for Harry Winston and the Opus collection, lies in its two distinct power reserves: one storing up to 68 hours of timekeeping autonomy, the other supplying the energy for up to five back-and-forth disk movements. Although the power reserves are separate and function independently, they are driven by a shared winding mechanism. In addition, the push-pieces on the lugs at 12 o’clock allow the wearer to correct the date and GMT.
The Harry Winston Opus 14, a limited edition of 50 pieces, is composed of a staggering 1,066 components and will retail for 428,000 Swiss francs. It is the first Opus watch to be launched by Harry Winston Timepieces since its acquisition by the Swatch Group. According to Swatch Group’s Marc Hayek, who answered questions at the follow-up press conference, Opus fans can expect future editions to continue the theme of working with independent watchmakers with “crazy ideas,” but may have to wait a bit longer between them. “Not a new one every year but only when it suits, “ Hayek said. “An Opus has to be exceptional, it has to be fun, and — importantly — it needs to work!”
Below you’ll find a wrist shot taken at the press conference.