Burning temples, dry mouth, sweaty hands, racing heart… Love symptoms! That’s what happened to me when I first discovered the Cedric Bellon CB01 sketches on the Watch Angels platform.
Admire this small second hand at twelve! Look at this raw steel watch, with no color but on the hands and main indexs! Look at these surprising screws on the dial! I could not let this watch pass away and immediately pledged on one of the very limited serial of 50 items available during the “Angel” phase of the project.
Who is Cedric Bellon? What is Watch Angels?
I have a confession to make. I’m a bit lazy. So I’ll just give you a very brief overview of Cedric Bellon’s portrait and the presentation of the Watch Angels concept that you will find on the manufacture website. As well as on the blog. Who knows? Maybe you will also fall in love with one of the current projects?
Although he is not (yet!) very much known by the general public, Cedric Bellon is a talented and multi skilled french designer, graduate of Nantes’s School of Design. A few years ago, he founded his own company, Bellon and partners. But above all, he has 15 years of experience and collaboration with great names in watchmaking, like Tag Heuer or the French brand Bell&Ross. His interviews and his Instagram profile reveal that he is a nature lover and particularly sensitive to environment matters and sustainable development. Remember his name. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.
Watch Angels is a very young company, created in 2019, managed by Guido Benedini, former CEO at Alpina. If interested, read his portrait on WorldTempus. Watch Angels business model is based on direct contact with the final customer and disintermediation of the classic distribution network (distributor + retailer). Thus, the cost to market is much lower. And that is VERY good for the final customer who is now able to afford high quality watches fo a very reasonable price.
How does it work? Watch Angels proposes to watch enthusiasts like me to be part of the watch project, from the quite first sketches to the final product. This concept of crowdmanufacturing is, as far as I’m concerned, much more interesting than the simple crowdfunding system where you pay and then wait for the final product. At each step of the project, there is something new to learn or discover.
Watch Angels regularly shares with the community design sketches, manufacturing or assembly videos. From time to time, the backers are also invited to give their opinion on design details or even on strategic decisions. A few weeks ago, I have had the pleasure to attend a visio meeting with Guido Benedini, Cedric Bellon and other members of the community. A privileged moment of discussion.I’m totally fan of this proximity between the designer, the producer, and the final customer which brings a lot of added value to the watch addict that I am.
To know more about the concept, read Watch Angels, the crowdmanufacturing platform.
A sustainable watch
Without any surprise, a mechanical watch is much more environment-friendly than a connected or even a simple quartz watch. It just needs a servicing intervention from time to time, but is born to last, can be repaired and still will be in hundred years. However, as a nature lover and belonging to a new generation of designers particularly sensitive to the impact of their creations on the environment, Cedric Bellon, with the support of the manufacture, pushed the logic as far as possible in the components choice and in the production processes, based on the principle of circularity, which is one of the major levers of sustainable development.
- First, the watch main parts (case, caseback, dial, bezel, and even the strap buckle) are made of a 100% recycled stainless steel, the PuReSteel™produced by the german company Thyssen Krupp. All this components have been machined in-house.
- The hands are made of raw brass, without any particular coating.
- Appart from index and hands Swiss Super-LumiNova®, there is no chemical component on the watch. Priority is given to the raw material.
- The CB01 is animated with a repurposed Dubois Depraz movement. “Repurposed” means that the movement should have been used for an other project. Reusing a movement that already exists and is available on site rather than produce it is a smart way to avoid waste, energy consumption, transport… And it’s less expensive. If interested, I suggest you read the very informative Ariel Adams article about he Dubois Despraz company on A Blog to Watch.
- Watch angels and Cedric Bellon also pointed out that most of the raw materials and components come from Switzerland or bordering countries. Same for the production, thus contributing to limit the carbon footprint of the watch and encouraging the “local” economy.
All these manufacturing choices lead to a durability index of 87% for the CB01. Much higher than the 42% on average for Swiss made mid range watches. Don’t ask me the clear definition of this index (a mix of repairability, reliability/robustness and scalability for what I have been able to understand) and even less how it is calculated… But it sounds good! For more detail, I invite you to read the CB01 Sustainability Report.
Enough bla bla bla… You’re waiting for pictures (and typing is exhausting…)! I hope that what follows will make you regret you missed the pledging phase…
In coherence with the sustainable development approach, Cedric Bellon designed a simple but however very elegant case (diam 40mm, lug to lug 47mm, strap width 20mm).
The bevelled and polished edges bring the touch of refinement without which the watch would only be raw metal. They contrast very nicely with the brushed surfaces next to them. In its whole, the care given to the finishing of this watch, leaves no doubt about the manufacture quality.
Look a the caseback. Again, the polished surfaces contrast with the brushed ones. The sunray brushed surface plays gently with the light. Unusual detail: this caseback in two parts. The screwed clamp ring compresses the central part on the gasket, as shown on the technical drawing in the pictures gallery at the end of this article.
The lugs are laser-engraved. Cedric Bellon logo on the one, Watch Angels logo on the other. The macro pictures highlight the laser dots.
The crown and the bezel locking device
The mirror-polished surface of the crown, engraved with the CB logo, contrasts nicely with the brushed surface of the case. The crown is thick, and very easy to manipulate. Simple, efficient, high level of finition. All what is expected on a toolwatch.
The crown design is a good example of how Watch Angels involves buyers in the creative process. In a vote, we had to choose between two logos. A 4 leaf clover or the CB logo. My preference was for the first one. But most people chose the “CB” logo. At the time, I was a little disappointed. But that’s the game isn’t it? I finally got used to the chosen logo and I like its simplicity.
And you? Which one would you have voted for?
The CB01 is equiped with an original bezel locking device. As you can see on the picture below, it is a simple plate that blocks the bezel when the screwed down crown is tightened. Smart. Advantage of this solution, compared to the classical bezel spring? Watch Angels has been able to produce it on its own, on site, thus avoiding to buy and bring it from outside. Again a way to limit the ecological impact of the watch.
The Dual Time bi-directional bezel is very soft to handle in both directions, thanks to its inner silicon ring.
The watch is 20 ATM waterproof and can therefore be worn in all circumstances. Perfect for globe trotters… However, I think it this bezel locking system would have to be improved, should the watch be used for diving, with a dedicated bezel. Indeed, even when the crown is hard tightened, the bezel is still able to move. If the locking system is far enough reliable for a Dual Time use, it does not secured enough for a diving bezel.
Look at this beauty…
The CB01 dial is made out the same PuReSteel™as the watch case. No painting. No chemical treatment. Only mechanical surfacing treatment, as all the other parts of the watch. Here again, the idea is to produce in house, with he the existing tools. I don’t know wether this type of raw steel dial finition has already been produced before. But as far I’m concerned, its’ my first time, and one of the main reason of my “love at first sight” of this watch.
As you may have noticed on the sketches, the initial design is a vertical brushed finition. The matte sandblasted finition has been an unexpected add-on option, proposed during the crowdfunding period. I chose it as I already own vintage Yema watches with this vertical brushed finition that plays so well with the light (read YEMA Navygraf | The saga that never ends). So I was curious to try something different. My conclusion? This dial is a little less lively, but it brings both a feeling of simplicity and purity that corresponds perfectly to the idea of an eco-responsible watch and a very pleasant touch of refinement.
The above picture makes it easy to distinguish the two layers of the dial. Probably have you already wondered “But what are these crews?!” I did, too. Cedric Bellon gave us the explanation during the first phase of the project. On the one hand it allows to join and fix in a single operation both dial layers on the upper movement plate. No need of dial feet. On the other hand, it’s a reminiscence of the old times, when watchmaking was less industrialized. This detail contributes to make this watch design so different from what we are used to, while remaining classic and familiar. I like it very much. I just regret a little that the screw heads do not flush with the dial surface as well as the drawings suggested.
Here after, a last picture to appreciate the contrast between the different surfaces finitions. Matte sandblasted dial, circular brushed bezel, brushed case with polished edges. The laser engraved text inscriptions are more or less readable according to the light angle.
The lume? I let you appreciate:
Guido Benedini and his team often share on the Watch Angels Community Facebook page pictures and videos of the project milestones. Unfortunately I cant’ share them with you. They are deserved to the Angels community. However here is a photo editing I have done with screen captures of a video shot during the watches assembly phase. As you can see it, the CB01 is assembled “par le haut”, which means the movement is put in the case from the top of the watch. Quite unusual. This is due to the case shape and the compressor caseback. And the bezel is fixed only by the mean of an inner compressing ring. Unusual again. The CB01 offers a lot of nice surprises.
- Insertion of the whole movement + dial and hands in the watch case
- In place!
- Insertion of a security ring before step 4
- Turning the watch around (the security ring protects the hands) and movement fixing with screws
- Back. Insertion of the inner silicon bezel ring
- Bezel inner steel compressing ring
- Bezel positioning
- Bezel fixing with the potence
- Putting the glass gasket
- Putting the sapphire glass
- Glass fixing with the potence.
Have a look on the technical drawing for better understanding of the assembly principles:
Strap and buckle
Here is a kick overview of the straps, proudly marked with the CB logo and the “Sustainable Genuine Leather” mention. They are made with a naturally tanned and tinted leather. The glue is water-based and stitching are linen ones. The CB01 straps are hand made by Marco Lazaroni, whose workshop stands in Mendisio, nearby Watch Angels premises. It is difficult not to succumb to the temptation of the very beautiful leather creations exposed on its website, Vicuspelle.ch…
The strap is equipped with quickset springbars (Thanks!). The two parts of the buckle have been manufactured in the same stainless steel bars as the other watch parts. Great finitions, with contrasted surfaces finition polished and brushed above and below.
Add-on straps were proposed, which allowed me to get a vino limited edition one. I was a little disappointed to receive a strap without a buckle, which is a little paradoxical considering the presence of the quickset spring bar. Also surprising was the spring bar holes diameter on the case, too narrow to be compatible with all the commun spring bars. I have had to sort through my stock to find some in order to fix alternative straps. Two “Quick win” improvement to anticipate for future models I think.
Et voilà. You’re still there ? This probably means you have had fun discovering with me the first watch produced by Watch Angels. As far I’m concerned, the more I wear my CB01, the more I like it.
I warmly thank Cedric Bellon and Guido Benedini for their availability and their answers to my questions. I’ve learnt a lot. With the CB01, the designer and the producer offer us a brilliant exercise in style by pushing as far as possible the manufacturing of a watch as eco responsible as possible, without compromising the high quality of the final product.
I’m not finished with Watch Angels. Soon (or almost…) you will read here the review of my Thomas Funder Måne “Red allow” Titanium, an amazing monolayer and modular moonphase watch, also produced by the manufacture.
Meanwhile, I suggest…
- You read Waltham Field & Marine | Rebirth of the Phoenix. I let you guess why.
- You share this article with your friends, if you liked it (links further down). You will earn my gratitude for ever.
- You have a look on the pictures gallery bellow before leaving. It will put you in a good mood for the whole week.
- You subscribe to my Instagram Jerry_watches thread in order to keep in touch and be informed on any new publications on Clock Me Tender. And, oh, yes, of course, to see more watch pictures.
- And, most important, you take care of you!