There are independents and then there is Svend Andersen. Although born in Denmark, he was destined to become a watchmaking pioneer in Switzerland. After joining Gubelin, and spending nine years at Patek Philippe, he decided to start his own workshop…in 1979. Quite a daring move, since the Swiss watch industry wasn’t exactly in good shape in those days, and some even publicly asked the question if there was a future for mechanical watchmaking. For Andersen this was however never a question. He simply focused on what he does best; creating marvelous watches like the worlds smallest calendar watch, the thinnest worldtime watch and the most animated, erotic automaton watch. His conviction that mechanical watchmaking would survive became a reality, yet to secure its existence for the future, Andersen realized that it needed more then making watches in a industrial way. It needed old fashioned craftsmanship, the ability to still manually craft gears and cases, and of course the ability to employ artistic watchmaking. Together with Vincent Calabrese he founded the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, known to must under its abbreviation AHCI, just to achieve that!
Of course this also gave Andersen himself the obligation to live by this credo, something he was without a doubt happy to oblige to. That is why he created watches like the Grande Jour et Nuit, a poetic complication that unites day and night in the motion of a single hand. Originally Andersen has created this complication in 1998 for Cartier, who used it in a very limited edition of their Pasha collection, however, he also retained the right to use this complication in watches crafted by his own hands. As normal as this sounds, this is actually quite unique. In most cases independent watchmakers are sworn to secrecy by the brands they work for, to never reveal that they actually created the complication in their newest watch. Of course creating a watch under their own name, featuring the exact same complication is out of the question.
Cartier has however very little to fear from Andersen. Not only have the original 125 Pasha Jour et Nuit models have long been sold out, Andersen himself has created even less than that under his own name. The limitation to this was not found in a lack of demand, but rather in a lack of time on Andersen’s part, as well as the fact that the Frederic Piguet 15″ movement that Andersen uses to power the Grand Jour et Nuit has always been in short supply. However, it was the only right choice to match such a beautiful complication with such a breathtaking movement. The shape of the bridges, the wonderful Geneva stripping, it all takes you to a place of yesteryear when watchmaking was almost exclusively a manual labor and a labor of love.
As beautiful as the movement is, it is of course the dial that will get the majority of the attention. It is crafted from 0.4mm thick Aventurine, a form of quartz stone with a nice play of light. Despite this highly exclusive dial material, Andersen has made sure that the time can be read with easy. The printing of the hours stands out, as does the color of the hands. Also the sub-dial, which indicates the minutes, is easy to read. Although a completely non-traditional way of displaying time, it is just as functional. Perhaps even more so since the Jour et Nuit indeed will let you know if it is day or night. And that practical approach towards artistic watchmaking is perhaps Andersen’s most recognizable calling card!
Special thanks to Christian Bissener of Watch Collector , official Andersen dealer, for the images of the Andersen Jour et Nuit
Eclectic taste in Haute Horlogerie, passion for diamond set watches, loves the classics