By Keith W. Strandberg
For the majority of people, personalizing a car amounts to choosing options, colors, and floor mats. But when money is no option, that’s where things get truly interesting.
When a BOVET 1822 and Rolls-Royce collector decided to create his own coachbuilt car, he wanted to combine his passion for fine timepieces from the very inception of the project.
Right at the beginning, the house of BOVET was approached to develop two bespoke timepieces that could go from the wrist to the dashboard and back again, all very easily.
Both BOVET 1822 and Rolls-Royce accepted this unique challenge, and after three years of R&D, trial and error, and more than 3,000 hours of work, the project has finally been revealed. The Rolls-Royce designed and developed the Boat Tail car and at the same time BOVET developed two bespoke timepieces along with a system to mount them in the Boat Tail’s fascia as a dashboard clock. Created completely in-house at BOVET 1822, the pair timepieces had to be tested just like any other part of the car – for vibration, noise, temperature, safety and security, up to and including crash tests.
Pascal Raffy, CEO and Owner, Bovet 1822
"As a long-time Rolls-Royce owner and lover, I am particularly pleased to have an opportunity to work on such a special bespoke project,” explains Pascal Raffy, owner, BOVET 1822. “The engineers, designers, watchmakers, and artisans at BOVET 1822 went above and beyond to personalize these exceptional timepieces for the clients, integrating their wishes and key elements of the coach-built car itself. On top of this, both of the timepieces are able to be placed into a display mount designed specifically for this purpose, effectively making them part of the car and subject to the norms of automobile production standards.
"I am so proud of the BOVET 1822 team, who worked in tandem with the elite design team of Rolls-Royce, to produce something spectacular," Mr. Raffy continues. "The owners of the coach-built car and these bespoke timepieces are dear friends of mine and valued collectors of BOVET 1822, so it was important to do the very best for them -- two completely unique pieces that are unlike anything we have ever done before."
For Rolls-Royce, this introduction is a return to the marque’s illustrious past. “This marks a seminal moment for the House of Rolls-Royce. We are proud to unveil to the world the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail and with it the confirmation of coachbuilding as a permanent fixture within our future portfolio,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive, Rolls-Royce. “Historically, coachbuilding had been an integral part of the Rolls-Royce story. In the contemporary Rolls-Royce narrative, it has been informed by our guiding philosophy of Bespoke. But it is more, much more. Rolls-Royce Coachbuild is a return to the very roots of our brand. It represents an opportunity for the select few to participate in the creation of utterly unique, personal commissions of future historical significance.
“Rolls-Royce has carefully listened to its closest clients who have expressed their interest in deepening their relationship with the brand by creating ambitious, personal statements of true luxury,” he continues. “Rolls-Royce Boat Tail is not a concept created to be retrospectively sold to clients. Quite the contrary. Rolls-Royce believes in complete authenticity and Boat Tail is the culmination of a four-year collaboration with our most special clients.”
TIMELESS PASSION – A TRUE COLLABORATION WITH BOVET 1822
In a move that further demonstrates the clients’ visionary approach to contemporary patronage, two great luxury Houses with a common pursuit of perfection have been brought together at the clients’ behest. World-class craftspeople from the House of Bovet 1822, which was founded on the philosophy of ingenuity and engineering, were called upon to work hand-in-hand with Rolls-Royce’s own masters in their field.
The mechanically-minded clients sought to break new ground in horology. As esteemed collectors of both the Switzerland-based House of Bovet and Rolls-Royce, their vision was to create exquisite, ground-breaking timepieces for their Boat Tail. In an act of tireless endeavor and genuine collaboration, the Houses have come together to re-imagine Rolls-Royce’s iconic centerpiece, the dashboard clock.
The result is an accomplishment never before realized in either industry. Two fine reversible timepieces, one for the lady and one for the gentleman, have been designed to be worn on the wrist, used as a table clock, pendant or pocket timepiece, or placed front and center within the Boat Tail’s fascia as the motor car’s clock.
THE MOUNTING MECHANISM
The holder mechanism, made up of 51 individual components, designed completely by BOVET, started from a blank sheet of paper, as nothing like this had ever been produced before. The designers and engineers in BOVET focused on adapting the patented Amadeo convertible system, which was introduced in 2010 and is tried and proven, as the base of the system.
The timepieces, the holder, and the Boat Tail car were being designed at the same time, so there were many moving parts to this story. Adding to this was the requirement by Rolls-Royce that the system be developed and mounted into the dashboard at the exact time the interior of the car was finished, as no one wanted to have to open up the dashboard later.
There was a tremendous amount of back and forth between BOVET and Rolls-Royce. So many things had to be taken into consideration – any vibration from the car had to be isolated from the timepieces or compensated for, no noise could emit from timepieces, and the system had to be simple, easy to use, and, above all, safe and secure.
From the start, BOVET was determined to accomplish this project in a purely mechanical way, in keeping with its commitment to its in-house, Swiss Handcrafted production. As a result, the engineers and designers had to devise new solutions as they were encountering challenges that they never saw in watchmaking. The solution they chose was to keep all the mechanical parts of the system on the outside of the dashboard. Usually in anything similar, the fixation system never moves, and the movable piece just slots in, like sliding a CD into a CD player. Here it is exactly the opposite – in the dashboard is simply the place for the holder, which is equipped with all the mechanical pieces.
In addition, a special drawer was designed and produced as well, using the same leather as the seats in the Boat Tail. This holds the timepieces, the straps, the chain, the pendant, when not in use. This drawer slides into the dash as well, neatly and cleanly keeping everything in place and secure. Should the timepiece not be mounted in the holder and put into the dashboard, there is a special laser-engraved and lacquered display plaque in its place, to complete the aesthetic of the dashboard.
THE COMPLETELY UNIQUE BOVET 1822 TIMEPIECES
BOVET has a long history of creating pair timepieces, initially for the China market, and then for worldwide customers. Conceived to be completely original, the two tourbillon timepieces, one for the husband and one for the wife, use newly-designed 18K white gold 44mm cases, precision tourbillon movements, and special dials on both faces. Using the above-mentioned Amadeo system, which was invented by Mr. Raffy and is patent protected by and exclusive to Bovet 1822, these timepieces are reversible and can be converted without any tools. The gentleman’s timepiece is high polished while the lady’s timepiece is ornately engraved then filled with blue lacquer, entirely done in BOVET 1822’s in-house artisanal workshop.
Both timepieces feature a Caleidolegno hand-applied wood marquetry front dial, using the same exact wood from the Boat Tail, with the name of each owner on the dial, along with a hand-sculpted and hand-engraved statue of the Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” on the tourbillon bridge. This statue represents several weeks of work from the artisans in BOVET, fashioning the 18K gold by hand all day every day. The wood marquetry is accomplished by one expert artisan who has worked with wood his entire life.
On the reverse side, the dials are even more personalized. The masculine timepiece features an aventurine dial with the owner’s sky chart overlaid on top. The feminine timepiece features a miniature painting of a flower bouquet on a mother-of-pearl dial, done by one single artisan who specializes in this métier d’art. The flower bouquet theme is a historical hallmark from BOVET 1822’s long history making ornate and highly-decorated pair watches, and this concept was chosen by the owner and personalized by BOVET 1822.
In addition, both reverse dials have hand-engraved bespoke sculptures of the coachbuilt Boat Tail, lacquered to match the color of the car, with miniature painting for the details (wheels, door handle, mirrors, and more). Getting the color exactly right was difficult, but BOVET was aided by the relationship between Rolls-Royce and BOVET. The sculpture of the car is amazing in its detail and is a true and accurate representation of the coach-built car – a true work of art accomplished by Bovet’s artisans. As a finishing touch for this side of the dial, the name of each owner’s “better half” is engraved on the tourbillon bridge.
Weight was a real concern for this project, as there were restrictions from Rolls-Royce from the start – BOVET was given a maximum weight for the timepieces and the holder which could not be exceeded. In watchmaking, weight is rarely an issue for a complicated timepiece, so the decision was made to reduce the case size as much as possible, to 44mm, which necessitated creating an entirely new case.
PERFECT FOR A TOURBILLON
The tourbillon was developed at the end of the 18th century to solve a problem – when a pocket watch is placed in one position for any length of time, gravity will impact the movement’s precision. Thus, the tourbillon was invented to counter the effects of gravity on the precision of the time keeper.
Today’s timepieces, however, are by and large worn on the wrist, so the need for a tourbillon is diminished as they are turning and moving on the wrist all through the day.
The fact that these timepieces will be mounted into the dashboard in the vertical position means that the tourbillon was absolutely necessary to maintain the precision that BOVET 1822 demands. BOVET 1822 is a master of the tourbillon, making calibers with patented features that no other brand can realize – in fact, the House has been honored by many awards throughout the years, including the highest honor in watchmaking, the Aiguille d’Or, won in 2018 at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, watchmaking’s equivalent of the Oscars. In 2020, the House won again for Mechanical Exception.
BOVET 1822 is also one of the only companies in the watch industry to manufacture its own spirals and regulating organs. The timepieces have five full days of power reserve as well, making sure that the timepieces won’t wind down. The “standard” power reserve today is 48 hours, but it has always been BOVET 1822’s desire to meet the needs of its clients with usable and robust power reserves. In fact, a BOVET 1822 timepiece from 1910 owns the world record for the longest power reserve – 370 days. As a manufacturer with in-house production, the emphasis has been placed on steadily increasing the length of power reserve, without adding to the bulk and thickness of the timepiece.
To reduce potential impact from the vibration from the car, BOVET switched from ball bearings to pivots for the tourbillon, increased the weight of the balance wheel in the timepieces, which reduced the power reserve but increased the precision. At the same time, BOVET increased the oscillation rate to 21,600 to aid precision.
The conservative estimate of the total number of hours that went into this entire project is 3,000 hours, including the design, the engineering, the sculptures, the miniature painting, the marquetry, the creation of bespoke movements and cases, and more.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE BOAT TAIL
“Rolls-Royce Boat Tail challenges the notion of what a motor car is and creates a new definition of what a motor car means,” says Alex Innes, Head of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild Design, Rolls-Royce. “Boat Tail exists far beyond a mere means of transport. It is not just the method to reach a destination, but the destination itself. It is a concept of extraordinary scope, resulting in a work of art of historical significance.”