The Armand Nicolet HS2? Here are our thoughts.
There is a lot to say about the Armand Nicolet brand in 2017; it is something that goes far beyond the usual story about the roots and the development of this manufacturing company born in 1875. In the current panorama of those watch-making brands that populate the market there is a pervading sense of conformism that annihilates the real passion of fans and makes many of the existing brands massively identical to each other. This is a concept that I often try to mention, while trying to avoid hurting the sensitivity of my listeners, to make everybody understand that we need to pave the path for innovation, both from the point of view of the product and of the "buying experience". I must also confess that, despite being professionally involved in this field since 2013, I hadn’t grasped this brand’s evolution yet; an opportunity I immediately grabbed through a casual Instagram encounter with Armand Nicolet himself.
I am familiar with this brand, a few years ago I was about to buy one of their watches, but I wasn’t definitely up-to-date with what it is going on today. It is a manufacturing company with Swiss origins, of Italian adoption; a confirmation of the value of Italian entrepreneurs not only when it comes to selling watches, but also when it comes to giving impulse and creativity, something the whole industry is well-aware of. Today, Armand Nicolet is revolving around two main axes that I would summarize as follows; a technical axis that implies crafting excellently finished watches at an unbeatable retail price compared to the quality, often using skilfully restored and update calibers from the past; a pleasure in the eyes of those who truly love watch-making.
The second axis is a commercial one that no other brand has embarked on yet; giving the chance to trade-in a watch and getting a new Armand Nicolet one. It is a very intelligent policy that ensures the removal of something you are no longer in love with from your very own "catalogue" and getting your hands on a new watch that gives Armand Nicolet the opportunity to prove the quality of their products.
If I were to use this policy, I would not hesitate to do so with the Armand Nicolet HS2. It is the watch that, among all of the Armand Nicolet ones, I have clicked the most with and, on paper, it represents my Holy Grail of this brand, even though I do not know all of their watches. Finding a watch with the jumping hours function (HS) within a price range of about 5,000 euro would make you think that you have to give up something, but that is not the case! It is the Armand Nicolet HS2’s general making and structure that makes it superior to other timepieces and should affect its retail price if compared to other watches that cost, at least, double the price; the AISI316L case is perfectly polished, the crown is well-designed, the case-back is perfectly aligned (with a clasp that is vaguely reminiscent of a Super Compressor) and the deployant clasp would deserve the "Red Dot Design Award". You could spend hours looking at how every computer-drawn line is perfect and has the same importance as a line made on the case, the crown and the see-through case-back.
The beautiful Armand Nicolet logo is skillfully embedded on the deployant buckle; a trademark in itself. However, these two elements would not suffice to define the Armand Nicolet HS2, you have to focus on the superb dial with its guilloché motif. Armand Nicolet is famous for their guilloché patterns and this pattern is a recurring motif on the brand’s dials and also the testimony of how much the manufacturing company cares about small details. Two contrasting shades, with the central part represented by a cross between the guillochage and the Côtes de Genéve pattern, create a multi-level dial that gives a sense of movement to the entire watch. At the top you can clearly see the hours indication, vertically followed by the minutes and seconds indications. For those of you, who are "scared" of the digital time display, please keep in mind that it is more immediate than its analogue counterpart; it's just a matter of getting used to it. This solution, guaranteed by the AN0735A caliber, combines the benefits of the digital display with the beauty of the automatic mechanical caliber.
Aesthetically speaking, another very interesting style item lies in the double-step crown that gradually combines the dial and the case-middle (through a thread design). Not only does it give movement to the entire watch but it also makes the Armand Nicolet HS2 look compacter than its 43mm diameter case. The rest can be summarized using the adjective "usability"; it is a very comfortable watch, you just need to be patient at the beginning when you have to adjust the pin of the deployant buckle. You know I am the biggest fan of the pin buckle no matter what, but I have to highlight the fact that this deploying clasp is very well crafted and gives some boost to the touch and feel sensation of the HS2. Once you have worn this timepiece, you will forget you have it wrapped around your wrist. The retail price? 5,100CHF (almost the same if converted into euro). Not a cheap timepiece, but the HS2 is not your standard watch and the jumping hours complication is quite rare; a tribute to a kind of watch-making that no longer exists and a reminder to the real enthusiasts to whom this collection is clearly addressed, not only because of its mechanics but also because of the decoration that fully grabs the ancient guillochage technique with both hands.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®