Fabergé is perhaps well known for their eggs as for anything else. The Fabergé Easter Eggs (Russian: Яйца Фаберже́; yaytsa faberzhe) were created by Peter Carl Fabergé and his company between 1885 and 1917. These jewelled eggs gained fame as gifts from the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as Easter gifts for their wives and mothers. The House of Fabergé made 50 such “Imperial” Easter eggs, of which 43 have survived. Two more were planned for Easter 1917, but were not delivered due to the Russian Revolution. The final egg was never completed. This is the story of an effort to revive the legacy, and a new watch by the House of Fabergé: a new chronograph, called the Visionnaire Chronograph, sporting the latest groundbreaking chronograph created by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht – the Agengraphe.
The Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II had begun gifting the eggs as Easter presents to their mothers and wifes in 1885. A total of 50 eggs were made for the Tsars. The first of these was when Tsar Alexander III gave the Hen Egg to his wife, Empress Maria Fedorovnatsarina. Both enjoyed the egg so much that Alexander III ordered a new egg from Fabergé for his wife every Easter thereafter.
Records have shown that of the 50 Imperial Easter eggs, 20 were given to the their mothers and 30 to the wifes. Eggs were made each year except 1904 and 1905, during the Russo-Japanese War.
The final egg, known as the Constellation Egg was commissioned for Easter of 1917 and was never completed. Two eggs have claims to be the Constellation egg: one held at Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow and the other (completed) in the possession of Alexander Ivanov and displayed at Ivanov’s Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. There is some controversy over which of these two are legitimate. Fabergé Limited, who now own the trademark have stated the former, unfinished egg at the Fersman Museum is the authentic one. Our story will center on the version by Fabergé Limited.
The egg was to be presented to Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna by her husband, the Tsar Nicholas II. The egg was known as the Tsarevich Constellation Egg as it was designed to feature the constellation of Leo to signify the stars under which Tsarevich Alexei, the only son of Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, and heir apprent to the throne, was born in 1904. Shortly before it could be completed, the Russian Revolution of 1917 began. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the imperial regime fell. The Fabergé family went into exile and the Constellation Egg vanished.
The Constellation Egg resurfaced in 1922, but only in a correspondence between Eugène Fabergé and François Bribaum, Fabergé’s Chief Designer from 1895 to 1918. In this letter Birbaum described the egg as being of blue glass, on a cloud shaped pedestal of opaque rock crystal, as shown in the drawing above.
The next time the Constellation Egg came to the spotlight was in 2000, when a discovery was made in a storeroom of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow. The discovery comprised of a cloud of crystal rock and two empty halves of a blue glass egg engraved with constellation of stars. The clock mechanism which was to be housed in the egg nor the concentric outer ring which would have indicated the time have not been found.
The Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph
The Fabergé trademark have had a difficult history, After the Revolution of 1917, Peter Carl Fabergé fled Russia an lived in exile in Switzerland where he died in 1920. The business was taken over by a ‘Committee of the Employees of the Company K Fabergé. In 1918 The House of Fabergé was nationalised by the Bolsheviks. In early October the stock was confiscated. The House of Fabergé was no more. In 1924 Alexander and Eugéne opened Fabergé et Cie in Paris, where they had a modest success making the types of items that their father retailed years before.
In 1984 Fabergé et Cie lost their rights to use the trademark Fabergé for jewelry in a lawsuit against Fabergé Inc. The trademark has been used by several companies to retail egg-related merchandise using the Fabergé name. Wikipedia has an entry of the intriguing history of House of Fabergé here.
Fast forward to 2007, the Fabergé family once again acquires the rights to the name, and re-unites the Fabergé name with direct descendants of the nineteenth century founder of the House of Fabergé. Sarah and Tatiana Fabergé (great-granddaughters of Peter Carl Fabergé), together with Mr John Andrew (a long-standing friend of the Fabergé family), make up the founding members of the new Fabergé Heritage Council. Under the direction of this council, this new House of Fabergé has been producing jewellery and watches since. For Baselworld 2017, they reveal the latest in their watch collection: The Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph.
The design and development of the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph began in 2014, and work on the revolutionary movement commenced separately in 2008. As a homage to the unfinished Constellation Egg of 2017, the Visionnaire Chronograph carries a laser-engraving of the the egg, visible only to those who know where to find it. (It is engraved by laser to the sapphire case back, and only visible under certain lighting.)
The visual design on the dial is immediately obvious that as a chronograph, the traditional sub-dial counters are absent. All the hands are pivoted at the center. The outer most chapter ring are for time telling, luminous arrow tips which appear to hover over the dial with no central attachment point. The central portion of the dial is the chronograph display with its three co-axial hands.
Fabergé had elected to work with Agenhor’s Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, whose new revolutionary chronograph movement fits the story of an empty egg. This is the fourth complication for Fabergé which is developed by Agenhor. For other watches, the Fabergé website has details.
Two watches are being presented. Both will feature a case accent of titanium. One in rose gold with a classic grey opaline dial, and the other in ceramic case with a black dial. Both carry the new automatic C.6361 by Agenhor. The AgenGraphe’s chronograph works fit the otherwise empty center of a base movement which is designed to form a ring. The concept of the chronograph completing the empty egg of 1917 is not lost, and evokes the rather nice feeling of completeness to a magnificent object.
Why the AgenGraphe is a ground breaking technical revolution in chronograph design
The AgenGraphe is an interesting new design. As mentioned, the chronograph is developed by Agenhor. Our friends at Quill and Pad carried a technical discussion of the AgenGraphe. As mentioned in Ian Skellern’s article, Agenhor does not make watches, but only develops and manufactures the movements. He alluded that Jean-Marc has two customers who will be using the chronograph. The first is Fabergé. And the other will be announced later in the year.
Key technical innovations on the AgenGraphe are:
- Centrally mounted concentric counters. The result is a dramatically simple dial side. Gone are the sub-counters. All totalisers are concentrically mounted from the center, and all the hands are pivoted in the center. Another chronograph with the similar characteristic is the De Bethune MaxiChrono. But the similarity ends in the concept of concentrically mounted hands/totalisers. The movement design to achieve this is completely different. The MaxiChrono uses a complicated series of 3 column wheels to coordinate the chronograph, while the AgenGraphe uses only one column wheel and a system of snail cams to execute the concept. On an even simpler level, the Sinn EZM 1 features only a minute totaliser hand which is centrally mounted, a small modification they make on the base Lemania 5100 movement.
- Novel lateral friction clutch known as the AgenClutch. Traditional horizontal clutch systems of chronographs feature a system where two sets of wheels mash against each other when the chronograph is activated. This often results in the chronograph hands jumping, some noticeably obvious while others are rather small and inconspicuous. The AgenGraph uses a lateral friction clutch, which engages smoothly by friction. The clutch comprise of two tooth-free wheels engaging with each other. The power is transferred from one wheel to the other while coupled by friction. The teeth of the wheels still mash with each other to provide a secure lock, but this happens in when both wheels are already mated by friction coupling and moving at the same speed. The result is a smooth activation of the chronograph hands with no jumping. In case of a shock, the system uses a spring, which Agenhor calls a Double Tulip Spring due to its shape, which allows the two wheels to move to move apart, but stay engaged as the toothed wheels are engaged.
- Multi-function snail cams with low torque spiral springs for the reset to zero. The classical chronograph reset mechanism is based on a hammer striking a heart cam to reset the chronograph hand. In the C.6361, the system is replaced by a set of multi-functional snail cams and low torque springs to do the same. Aesthetically, this is also interesting, as the chronograph hands only move in one direction. The reset causes the hand to continue its motion till it reaches zero, unlike traditional systems where the hand reverses direction on the first half and continues to jump to zero on the second half. Functionally, this reduces mechanical stress to the movement. Another benefit of the system is the reset is non-violent.
- Automatic rotor under the dial, and with no bearings. The automatic rotor comprises of just two metal plates sliding over each other with only a thin film of oil in between. The result is the automatic winding is very quiet.
We look forward to our time with Fabergé during Baselworld 2017 to photograph and to understand more about the watch. And will be bringing you exclusive technical details of the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph in a full hands-on review later.
Specifications of the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph
Movement specs: 34.4mm, 67 jewels, 477 components, 60 hour power reserve. 21,600 bph.
Decorations: Mainplate is circular grained. Bridges: Côtes de Genève, hand polished chamfers
Functions: Hours, minutes, chronograph with 24 hours, 60 mins, 60 second counters, centrally mounted.
Case: 18 k rose gold and titanium, or black DLC treated ceramic and dark grey DLC treated titanium case. 43mm diameter, with domed sapphire crystal and case back with single-sided anti-reflective treatment.
Crown and pushers: 18k rose gold with rubber crown and 18k rose gold pushers OR Dark grey DLC treated titanium and rubber crown with Dark grey DLC treated titanium pushers.
Dial: Bezel: opaline dial OR black dial with TCI luminescent coating 15 minute indicators. Sapphire with grey metallic treatment on external part and applied numerals with hour indicators. Opaline OR Black opaline decoration applied to the rotor. Chronograph section: opaline OR black opaline with grey OR silvered printed indicators.
Hands: Hours and minutes in brass. Chronograph hands in gilded aluminium with red print.
Strap: Alligator strap with 18k rose gold and titanium Fabergé folding clasp.
Delivery: November 2017
Also published on Medium.