Extreme simplicity, attention to detail and the wish to create a timeless watch, visually and mechanically. This is how we could summarise the work of Nicolas Commergnat, an independent watchmaker who is launching his eponymous brand but who is also a well-known name in the restoration and auction world. Known for his ability to bring complicated pocket watches back to life and his skills when it comes to creating movements “for others”, he decided that it was time for his own name to be on the dial of a watch. And it’s here, with the Nicolas Commergnat Level One, the first of a series of watches developed in the frame of a clear vision for his brand.
Who is Nicolas Commergnat? Graduating from the École d’Horlogerie de Genève, where he’d interned at Patek Philippe, he started his career next to AHCI co-founder and master watchmaker Sven Andersen. In addition, Nicolas also worked as a restaurateur of antique pocket watches, his first client being the auction house Christie’s. But having an entrepreneurial mindset, he co-founded with Sébastien Billières (who’s behind Genus Watches) two companies, Alliance Genève Sarl and GMTI SA, specialised in movement assembly for various Geneva-based high-end watchmaking companies and the restoration of complex vintage watches.
Nicolas Commergnat later focused on the second activity, becoming a regular Bacs and Phillips Watches auction house restorer. There he restored and repaired some of the most legendary watches while making sure never to change the components. But it was time for him to practice his skills on his own, with the creation of a brand and watches bearing his own name on the dial.
The idea behind the Nicolas Commergnat Level One is quite simple: a watch that is timeless and could have been created many decades ago, a movement made using classic techniques and traditional materials, which could be understood in 50 or 100 years, and easy to repair or restored (which feels quite natural knowing the man’s background). The result, at least for this inaugural model, is a discreet, deceptively simple watch with Art Deco inspiration and a traditional time-only hand-wound movement conceived to last and please enthusiasts of fine watchmaking.
The Level One is traditional and timeless, classic in a pleasant way. Made of steel, the 3-part case measures 38.5mm in diameter, with a reasonable height of 10mm. Combining brushed and polished surfaces, it exudes Calatrava vibes and elegant watches from the mid-20th century. There are some deliberate biases in the construction, though, with a snap-on bezel and back and a dial that is protected by a hesalite crystal – because it has more charm, it doesn’t shatter into pieces and is easy to polish and thus doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced. Once again, repairability and durability were considered.
The dial of the Nicolas Commergnat Level One has been conceived in the same spirit of simplicity and timelessness but also brings a rather impressive level of detail when looked at closely. The glossy, milky surface is the result of lacquer coated with several layers of polished varnish. The H-M-S central display relies on a succession of indications, with pad-printed Art Deco numerals with a domed profile and a machine minutes track with pearls. Finally, a stylised railroad minute track sits in the middle of this two-tone dial. The lance-shaped hands are hand-bevelled and coated in ruthenium.
Inside the case is a manufacture movement, with an ébauche made by Jean-Marc Fleury Suisse Précision Composants and Fleury Manufacture (a well-known name of the independent watchmaking scene). Nicolas Commergnat applies himself to the decoration with polished bevels, large Geneva stripes (seven of them, as a tribute to the seven feathers of the eagle found on Geneva’s flag), perlage and polished countersinks. This hand-wound movement, beating at 4Hz, is otherwise traditional in its specifications, technical solutions and parts, then again to make it durable and easily repairable in the future.
Available exclusively from the brand’s website, the watch can be pre-ordered using the form. The price hasn’t yet been communicated with us. This Level One by Nicolas Commergnat is the first step of a series of watches that will later include the Level Two, Three, Four and Five with, respectively, a chronograph, a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and a tourbillon. More details at commergnat.com.