Introducing: Raúl Pagès Régulateur
An amazing technical achievement from the independent Swiss watchmaker
Now this is the kind of release I can get excited about. Independent Swiss watchmaker Raúl Pagès has introduced his third project, the Régulateur à Détente RP1.
We don’t often write up press releases here, but Pagès’ new effort seems to have flown completely under the radar. So let’s take a look.
Before we get to the new watch, a quick introduction to Raúl. For the past 15 years, he’s been a watchmaker focused on restoring movements for some of the biggest names in watches. In 2006 he started in the restoration department of Parmigiani before moving to work on restorations for the Patek Philippe Museum.
In 2012, he struck out on his own, setting up his own workshop to design and handcraft his own timepieces. He started with the Tortue automaton, comprised of 352 pieces made entirely by Pagès own hands. Then in 2016, he produced his first wristwatch, a limited series of 10 pieces, the Soberly Onyx. The Soberly Onyx featured a restored vintage Cyma pocket watch movement from the 1950s. Shortly after the release of the Onyx, Pagès became a member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), the Swiss association dedicated to supporting independent watchmaking.
Now 39 years old, Pagès is back with his second wristwatch, the Régulateur à Détente RP1.
Introducing the Régulateur à Détente RP1
The Régulateur à Détente RP1 is designed and handcrafted by Pagès in his Les Brenets, Switzerland workshop. The utmost attention to detail has been paid to the dial, case, and most importantly, the in-house movement. Let’s take a look at each, starting with the amazing technical achievement of the new caliber.
What the hell is a detent escapement and why should I care?
The caliber is the first major piece of news here. It’s equipped with a pivoted detent escapement. Here’s what you need to know about the detent escapement: it’s basically the perfect escapement in theory. Unlike the typical lever escapement seen in pretty much any modern wristwatch, there is no lever, which means there is no sliding friction on the balance wheel. Instead, the escape wheel delivers an impulse directly to the balance wheel, which means the escapement does not need to be oiled.
In principle, this means the detent escapement is more stable and more precise. As such, you’ll often see it referred to as a “chronometer escapement.” It was often used in marine chronometers on ships, where accurate timekeeping was essential for navigation.
But here’s the problem: the detent escapement isn’t shock-resistant, which is why it was used in ships, where it could be placed in a big box to avoid shock, but it was never really adopted at scale in wristwatches.
Pagès says his new caliber featuring a detent escapement is “doubly in-house,” both designed and handmade by him. To solve the shock resistance problem inherent in the detent escapement, Pagès developed a patented system that prevents the escape wheel from leaving the rest position when the watch is shaken.
Here’s a fun video of Pagès illustrating the shock resistance on his Instagram:
According to Pagès, designing and developing the new caliber took about three years.
Listen, not that many shops are producing a detent escapement to begin with nowadays. Urban Jurgensen lays claim to developing the first detent escapement for a wristwatch, courtesy of Derek Pratt and Peter Baumbarger (and by the way, that was only 10 years ago, so this is still a new advancement). And I’m no denizen of indie watchmaking, but I’d be curious to know how many watchmakers are producing and finishing a detent escapement completely by hand like this.
Even the construction of the movement is different: the seconds wheel sits on the dial side of the main plate, which allows an unobstructed view of the escapement wheel. The detent and balance wheel bridges are made of mirror-polished steel, open-worked to provide a view of the escapement.
The other bridges are made of nickel silver, which has been frosted and beveled. The anglage (the chamfers on the edge of each bridge) is polished by hand with gentian wood. Each of the 171 components of the movement is hand-finished — beveled, polished, satin-finished, or circular-grained — by Pages.
A Le Corbusier-inspired regulator dial
The precision of the detent escapement caliber is matched by Pagès’ choice of display: the regulator. It’s a traditional display, giving each of the hands their own space. The minute hand dominates the dial, swinging around the center. The hour and seconds hands are located at 12 and 6 o’clock, respectively.
But Pagès gave the regulator dial a modern twist, adapting colors from the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The blue subdial is a bright “cerulean blue 59” for those keeping tabs on their pantones. The black outer hour ring beautifully circles the dial and has diamond polished edges. The handmade hands are sleek and polished. All of the elements seem to come together to give the dial interest and depth.
A modern steel chronometer
The stainless steel case is refined and modern, a manageable 38.5mm. The top of the lugs, bezel, and caseback are polished, while the middle case is satin-finished to offer a bit of contrast. In a bit of a wink to marine chronometers, Pagès screws the lugs into the mid-case.
Bringing it together
As some collectors said in my year-in-review piece on A Collected Man, 2021 was “the year of independents.” Some went so far as to suggest this will be the decade of independents.
But with so many of the independents becoming household names and achieving headline-grabbing prices, I’m most excited by new or relatively unknown watchmakers. That was the case when I chatted with Petermann Bedat in 2020.
Like Gabriel Petermann, Raúl Pagès had a background in restoring vintage timepieces before opening his own workshop. The vision these watchmakers have to adapt traditional watchmaking techniques with a flourish of modernity is something that truly excites me, and I hope we continue to see more of it.
In a hobby overrun with hype and high prices, it’s these corners of watchmaking that keep me coming back.
The new Régulateur à Détente is not a numbered limited series, but Pagès says that because the watch is entirely crafted by hand, he can only produce 4-5 a year. In other words, inquire now. For more information, visit Raúl Pagès website.
Manual wind in-house caliber
Pivoted detent escapement with anti-tripping system
Balance: variable inertia with four 18K gold weights
Power reserve: 47 hours
Frequency: 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz
Sandblasted, diamond and nickel-plated dial
Seconds dial matt lacquered, cerulean blue 59
Hardened steel hands: chamfered, rounded-off and polished
Material: 316L stainless steel
Polished bezel, top of lugs, and back; Satin-finished case mid-case
Dimensions: 38.5 mm x 10.2 mm (with sapphire crystal) x 19mm lug width
Water resistance: 3 atm (30m/100ft)
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That's a far higher WR than I'd anticipated! Such a wonderful piece.