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By Wei Koh

PART 0NE: THE BIRTH OF THE EMOTIONAL COMPLICATION PART TW0: EMPIRICAL TIME VERSUS EXPERIENTIAL TIME PART THREE: THE REVOLUTIONARY MASTER BANKER


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CHAPTER TWO: THE ELUSIVE FRANCK MULLER

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Franck Muller Long Island Crazy Hours Color Dreams

he genius is touched by God. He is struck by lightning. He sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity. He reaches out and touches them. But like all geniuses, Franck Muller is elusive. And for months I chased his trail. But Franck was in the wind. Every now and then, he’d come up for air and it would feed back to me. A fortnight ago, Franck was spotted playing chess on the beach with Gary Kasparov like in the Fellini film. Then Franck was reworking the Fibonacci sequence with Bill Gates to derive a mathematical formula for cleaning up the BP oil spill. Last week, Franck was seeking out the Four Noble Truths in an ashram in Kathmandu. But where was he now? Several people have asked me my motivation for chronicling the history of Franck Muller. And to them I’ve tried to explain that, in many ways, it is impossible to have an appreciation of the modern horological world without understanding Franck Muller’s contribution to it. Franck Muller literally made Swiss high watchmaking relevant to a whole new generation. He is our era’s first and most successful watchmaker; he is of such a level of technical inventiveness and commercial acumen that he can rightly be called the new millennium’s AbrahamLouis Breguet. These were the thoughts careening through my brain as I ploughed steadfastly up a Thai mountain. With each pedal stroke of my bike, lactic acid shot through my bio-machinery. So, it was easy to confuse the phone ring with the auditory hallucination that signals the onset of heat

exhaustion. Collapsing by the side of the road, I heard it again. “Franck Muller would like to see you tomorrow,” came the voice. “I am in Thailand,” I wheezed. “No problem, Franck Muller is also in Thailand.” Now I was convinced that I was lying on the cool sheets of a Thai hospital bed beneath the canopy of an oxygen tent as my brain played out fantasies on its own stage. “He’s just at his villa at the Amanpuri and would like you to come tomorrow. From your location, it is a short flight and we’ve already prepared your ticket.” The omnipotence of the Franck Muller machine was staggering. I touched my skin to check that a GPS tracking device hadn’t been injected beneath it. But even as I did, I knew how this would play out. When genius summons you, you go. I closed my eyes to enjoy the momentary respite of the shadecooled concrete beneath my head. BAPTISM

“Welcome to the Amanpuri,” called out the cheery voice of the housekeeper. I staggered up the stairs with my bicycle, looking expectantly for a figure in cool white linen and a Panama hat conjuring up alchemic wonders of gear wheels and spring bars out of thin air. “Where is Franck Muller?” I asked as I surveyed the two empty swimming pools and the equally empty house. “Franck Muller is at the beach, sir,” came the reply. The buggy bounced through the sprawling estate of the private residences at Phuket’s famous Amanpuri, the

temporary homes of the global elite fleeing the icy clutches of Europe for days of bronzed skin and a state of mind best expressed in the pointillist warmth of Henri Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté. Arriving on the beach, I was without a word whisked to a beach chair, provided for with a soft gossamer bathrobe, a beach towel, an ice-cold exotic fruit daiquiri, and a light Bolivar Belicosos. I had everything. Everything, except Franck. “Do you know where I might find Franck Muller?” I asked the small nut-brown man, turning my chair to face the afternoon sun like a human sundial. “There’s Franck Muller!” he exclaimed, waving toward the clear blue sea and the vast gold horizon. For a moment, I thought I’d stumbled upon a disguised Bodhisattva, replying to what he thought was a Zen parable. “Yes,” I replied. “I understand, Franck Muller is everywhere and all things. He is…” “No,” the diminutive man cut me off, “he is swimming in the ocean. There…” He gestured far off the coast to a man floating serenely on his back, his face covered by a massive white Panama hat. “There’s Franck Muller.” I called his name. I waved. I jumped. To no avail. Franck was in the wind. He was floating in the vast blue infinity as he saw angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity, reaching out to touch them. I sealed my digital voice recorder in a Ziploc, placed it under my pink commemorative Giro d’Italia hat, and began the long, slow swim toward my human objective. With each stroke toward


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PART ONE

CRAZY HOURS

THE BIRTH OF THE EMOTIONAL COMPLICATION

A

Franck Muller Long Island Totally Crazy Color Dreams

Franck Muller, I grew in exhaustion, while Franck remained serene, bobbing on the insouciant current. Then, as I neared him, as if through some form of telekinesis, he sensed my approach and turned to meet me, his face beaming with health, his smile dazzlingly white, his voice booming over the waves. “Welcome, my friend!” He bellowed in his distinctive baritone. That same voice struck me with its native intelligence each time I interviewed him. Immediately, he launched into a conversation about watches: what he felt they represented to human culture, why we are eternally fascinated by these tiny machines with heartbeats. I quickly extracted my voice recorder while trying to tread water with one hand. I

don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but what happens is, you go in a circle. The result was my slow, constant pirouette beside him like some mentally deficient synchronized swimmer. Franck was kindly oblivious to my unconventional aquatic behavior. And in the hour we spent moving inexorably toward shore, I was forever changed by what he told me. I had come to discuss one thing. Before Franck Muller, the term “complication” was used only to describe the way a watch could communicate some empirical measure of time. Although Franck had reintroduced the fascination with traditional complications, he had also given birth to an all-new type of complication that today represents one of the most significant revolutions in

contemporary horology. Franck used his horological skills to create the world’s first emotional complication with a watch whose sole purpose was not to provide an ever more arcane measurement of time, but to transform time itself into an emotional language. With this watch, he disrupted our perception of time, uprooted it, eliminated its plodding finality, and reinvented time as a revelatory experiential medium. He did all this with an extraordinary timepiece called Crazy Hours, whose legacy still resonates as strongly today as when it was first born. This is its story. And as it turned out, in the sea experiencing a baptism of sorts, was the perfect place for me to hear it.

t first glance, the Crazy Hours watch — with its dial an incandescent blaze of seemingly random and scattered numbers, scattered with the same spontaneity as Jackson Pollack’s brushstrokes — seems miles apart from the ordered precision of Muller’s tourbillon watches. Yet there is a salient link between these timepieces in that their primary objective is to provoke human emotion. Franck Muller explains, “In many ways, the Crazy Hours was an extension of a simple philosophy that was born when I created my first tourbillon wristwatch. In 1801, when the tourbillon was first made, it was created as a precision device. It was made to fight gravity when pocket watches are in the vertical position. But today, it has no meaning as a precision device as wristwatches adopt innumerable positions throughout the day. Their raison d’être has become that they are simply beautiful to look at, a wonder of micro-mechanics and watchmaking art.” While Muller was instrumental in the revival of the tourbillon, he is quick to underscore the rationale for a tourbillon in this wristwatch format. He states, “It is essentially an emotional device. This is why I decided to put it on the front of the watch. Later, others realized the emotional value of the tourbillon and followed me.” When asked if, in an age filled with micro-electronic instruments, the primary purpose for all horological complications is their emotional value, Muller is quick to

agree. He states, “Similarly, a minute repeater was born to serve a pragmatic function. In the days before electricity, it was an ordeal to get out of bed, light a candle and read what time it was, so the minute repeater, a watch that literally played time, was created. Today, light is available at the flick of a switch. Time is displayed on electronic clocks that are illuminated at night. So today, a minute repeater has no real pragmatic function. It is simply a beautiful device, and emotional art form. A transcendent instrument that changes time into music!” While Muller had by 2003 become the uncontested “Master of Complications”, ushering in 36 world premieres and patents in a space of only 20 years, he began to think of another purpose for his extraordinary watchmaking skills. He explains, “Tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater — these types of watches are called complications, because they are complicated to make and because they add levels of complication to timepieces. But I began to think of ideas to create complications that corresponded to the needs of modern society.” One watch that emerged from Muller’s desire to express the needs of the contemporary world in his watches was the Master Banker — a response to the realities of travel and business conducted over multiple time zones. But as he thought deeper about it, he began to visualize an all-new type of complication, one whose primacy of purpose had less to do

with calculating minutiae and more with transforming time into an emotional language. Muller explains his rationale, “One thing which I was thinking about was that all the information shown on traditional complications could be read off your computer. As such, I wanted to create a type of watch that offered an experience you could not have with an electronic device. This watch must evoke emotion, it must remind you that watches were living objects and not soulless electronics. In order to do this, I had to examine the fundamental concepts behind civil time.” But Muller’s moment of revelation for his new watch would only come accompanied by an unconventional baptism in water. A WATCH WITH NO RULES

Muller laughs as he recalls the unexpected birth of the Crazy Hours. It all started because of his aversion to the cold. He states, “I don’t like the cold. And so, every New Year, I seek out warm places to celebrate with my family. My second wife and I had a baby born on 21 December 2001. When he was one year old, we decided to bring him on a vacation for the New Year. I discussed destinations with my friend Jean Todt because when traveling with a one-year-old, you are somewhat limited in your options. Time passed quickly and I had to quickly choose a place to go. The thing is, I never go any place alone. I love family and so when I travel, I bring my sister, her husband, her children, my


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HOW THE FRANCK MULLER CRAZY HOURS WORKS While traditional timepieces indicate time in a clockwise manner over the course of a day, the Franck Muller Crazy Hours seems to depict time in random manner. The hour hands leap around the dial from ‘1’ to ‘12’ throughout the day, jumping five places instead of one, while the minute hand functions normally, moving clockwise in a regular manner as the hour passes.

Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Crazy Hours Tourbillon with diamonds

Franck Muller Long Island Crazy Hours Color Dreams

mother, my wife and my new baby. You see, family is primordial. It is the most important thing for me!” Desperate for a warm climate while ushering in a new annum, Muller persisted in seeking his friends’ advice. He recalls, “Jean Todt told me to go to a particular resort named the Royal Palm in Mauritius. He said, ‘It is perfect, you can go directly from Geneva to Mauritius without changing planes so it will be no problem for your baby.’ “At this point, it was November and so I telephoned the resort, but they told me they were completely full and they refused to accommodate me. I told this to Jean Todt who immediately called the director. The director of the Royal Palm then called me and told me, ‘Look, Mr Muller, every year at the Royal Palm, we have the same clientele. I can do nothing because every single room is booked.’”

Muller replied, “Mr Director, look at the wrists of your clients. I am sure they are all wearing Franck Muller watches, so I hope you can allow me to join my clients and friends. He came back saying, ‘OK, let me see what I can do, and if I can make it work, I will call Jean Todt.’” Muller chuckles, remembering, “At this point, it was becoming something of a challenge to me to go to this resort, and the thing about me is, I cannot back down from a challenge. Watchmaking is a series of challenges that you compel yourself to overcome. And so I bring this way of thinking to my life as well. The other thing was that this resort was left over from the French colonial era in Mauritius. It was run by the French for the French. And while I love the French people, sometimes, the French have a very narrow way of thinking. They concern themselves only with the French and simply ignore the rest of the

world. The more I thought about it, the more determined I became to bring my family to the Royal Palm!” After weeks of persistent calling, Muller succeeded. He states, “Finally, the director called me back and wanted to know what rooms I needed. I requested three mega suites, one for my mother, one for my sister and her family and one for my wife and baby. He hemmed and hawed, but eventually gave me the rooms.” With that, Muller assembled his entire family and they set off with every belief that they would embark on what would be a delightful and memorable holiday. Only half of this equation would prove to be true. Muller recalls, “We arrived tired but grateful to be in such a beautiful climate in Mauritius and at such a lovely hotel situated in Grand Baie. My family and I were hungry, so we went to the dining room.


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Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Crazy Hours

Franck Muller Long Island Crazy Hours Tourbillon

Immediately, I recognized many friends. The first person I saw was Marcus Margulies, who was my distributor in London and someone I love. He presented me to many of his friends and I immediately felt at home amid so much warmth and kindness.” Unfortunately, Muller’s reverie would not last long. He exclaims, “Suddenly, I was pulled out of this state of comfort by the hotel director. He explained that the Royal Palm was an icon and that its restaurant was the most prestigious dining establishment and had strict rules. One of these rules is that at dinner, black tie is strictly required for the men. I didn’t know what to do. I had not packed a tuxedo as this was a beach vacation. I went upstairs to my room and I found a black jacket. But I didn’t have a black bow-tie.” Ever the creative genius, Muller soon hatched an audacious plan that hinged around his capacity to pass off total absurdity with total conviction. He says, “As it happened, I looked around and saw that there was a white bathrobe and hanging from it was a cloth belt. So I quickly looped this around my neck, tied it into a bow and went back downstairs. The

“HERE WE WERE IN A TROPICAL PARAdISE ANd YET, WE WERE CLINgINg TO AS MANY RULES AS WE COULd BECAUSE SOMEHOW IT MAdE US FEEL BETTER, MORE SUPERIOR TO OTHERS” director saw me and looked shocked. He immediately exclaimed, ‘Mr Muller, what kind of bow-tie is that?’ “I replied to him, ‘Pardon me, but do you know Gianni Versace?’ He said, ‘Well, I do not know Monsieur Versace personally, but of course I know OF him.’ “I stated emphatically, ‘Well, Gianni Versace is one of my best friends and this is his bow-tie from next year’s collection, which has not even been shown to the public yet! In three months’ time, it will be shown on the runways of Milan and Paris. It will be the biggest trend of the year, but it is a secret so you must not tell anyone.’ “He replied, ‘Of course, Monsieur Muller,’ winking conspiratorially at me. The director looked immediately appeased and brought us to our table. Inside, I was thinking that my friend Gianni would have particularly appreciated this joke, as he

actually wrote an autobiography called Men Without Ties. You see, he never wore a tie and didn’t like them at all. I thought if he were here with me, he would be laughing. I was thinking how surreal this environment was. Here we were in a tropical paradise and yet, we were clinging to as many rules as we could because somehow it made us feel better, more superior to others.” But Muller pushed aside any negative thoughts in order to spend time with his family. Sadly, these thoughts would soon come flooding back. He remembers, “When we were seated, I asked for some water and the director clicked his tongue disapprovingly. He explained, ‘Monsieur Muller, here at the Royal Palm, we do not serve water, we serve only Perrier.’ “At this point, I was becoming a bit irritated. So I pointed to the wine menu and


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Franck Muller Long Island Crazy Hours Color Dreams with black diamonds OPPOSITE Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Totally Crazy Color Dreams

said, ‘Mr Director, I am sorry I do not drink Perrier, so instead I will order wine.’ As it happens, I love good wine. So without consulting the menu, I said, ‘Instead of Perrier, we will all drink Château Pétrus, so please bring a bottle for each person at the table, one for my mother, one for my sister, one for her husband, etc.’ “The director was shocked but he quickly complied. This continued as a routine each night. I would put on my bathrobe belt as a bow-tie, go to the dining room and order Pétrus and never Perrier.” Muller and his family began to feel the warmth of the Indian Ocean sun on their skin insinuating itself into their

souls and for a while, they were happy. Says Muller, “Finally, it was the day before New Year’s, and very early in the morning, I heard an insistent knock on the door. It was the director. Without saying good morning, he immediately said, ‘Monsieur Muller, we have a problem.’ “I was nervous, I thought that there had been some natural disaster or some kind of storm coming and we needed to evacuate the hotel. Instead, he said, ‘Tonight, it is New Year’s Eve and I want to know what you are going to drink this evening.’ “I was shocked that he had disturbed

me first thing in the morning, and so I replied, ‘But that’s not your problem. Why are you disturbing me with this question? Don’t you think it depends on what I eat tonight?’ “He persisted, so finally I said, ‘OK, I will have the Pétrus this evening.’ “He replied curtly, ‘Aha! It is my problem because you have drank all of the Pétrus in our cellar and there is not a single bottle left for anyone else. I need to know what you want to drink this evening, so I can see if we can accommodate you.’ He seemed irritated, perhaps someone had told him that my bow-tie was not really from Gianni Versace’s collection for the next season.” Muller by this point was truly beginning to chafe at the rules, the vestigial influence of Mauritius’ French colonial past, which seemed determined to darken his mood. It would be that evening that things finally came to a head. He states, “That evening, I arrived again with my black jacket and my bathrobe-belt tie. It was a special evening, so all the women were requested to wear white. My wife, mother and sister were all dressed in white. We were seated around the pool and I looked around and saw all these beautiful French women dressed in gorgeous white dresses completely resplendent in jewels, glistening in their diamonds. Immediately, the director came to me and to appease him, I said, ‘OK, this evening we will drink Cheval Blanc.’ Because it was New Year’s Eve, I had suggested to Marcus and to some of the people we had become friendly with that we combine our tables and have one


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PART TWO

CRAZY HOURS

EMPIRICAL TIME VERSUS EXPERIENTiAL TIME

T Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Crazy Hours with diamonds

big party together. “The director approached and said, ‘This evening is New Year’s Eve. But here at the Royal Palm, we celebrate in a civilized manner. We cannot put together these tables. Everyone must have his correct place at individual tables. This is our protocol.’ “I said, ‘Wait a moment. All of us at this big table are friends. When we are on the beach, we all sit together and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Why is it that for New Year’s Eve, we cannot also be together in this beautiful location? Why must you impose these meaningless rules on us?’ “The director replied, ‘Because that

is the way things are done here and it is my decision.’ “I turned to Marcus Margulies and said, ‘OK, just before midnight, come to my table with two Cohiba cigars. Light one and keep the other one for me. I will give you a spectacular New Year’s surprise.’ “So, at five minutes to midnight, Marcus came over with the cigars. Literally, at the stroke of midnight, I got up from the table. And in front of everyone, I took off my black jacket, I took off my bathrobe-belt bow-tie. As I did this, I thought about the loopholes and hurdles the director had scattered in my path for no reason at all. Then I continued until

I was completely naked. “By this time, I was genuinely angry. I thought about how I hate when human beings create rules just to rob others of pleasure. Then I walked over to the pool and jumped in. And as I emerged in the beautiful night air, and as I regarded the beautiful women in white around me, as I looked up at the stars overhead, the sounds of the director protesting faded away. “I thought to myself, I hate rules. But, in many ways, time itself is a rule. It is imposed on man. I want to create a watch that has no rules, but that always finds the right time regardless. And I will call this watch ‘Crazy Hours’.”

o simply call the Crazy Hours a watch is to do it a disservice. It is less of a timepiece in the conventional sense and more of a radical reinvention of the wristwatch. What was once a precision device has now become no less than an art form, a vehicle for emotional expression and a statement of personal philosophy so strong that its influence resonates even to this day, seven years after its creation. In the swimming pool, at the time it was first conceptualized, Franck Muller looked up into the night sky and swore to eschew all that had come before. He vowed to invent a timepiece that would shake the very foundations of horology by reinventing timekeeping — transforming it from a civil code into a pure emotional language. But, to do so, he would have to first delve into the very roots of time as we know it. Muller explains, “Time was an invention of man to organize society so that social discourse and business could take place. Our lives became compartmentalized and divided so society could function. It is for no small reason that Geneva is the epicenter of time. Two hundred years ago, Geneva was one of the most important commercial cities in the world. The Germans, the Spanish, the French and the whole world came to Geneva to exchange merchandise. As such, civil time as we know it was created in Geneva. The traders passed through Geneva and they arranged for meetings. But the problem was that setting up meetings was similar to trying

to establish a meeting in the Middle East. When you arrange a meeting with someone in the Middle East, the concept of time is very loose. When you say, ‘Let’s meet on Tuesday,’ it can mean Tuesday this week or Tuesday next week, or the week after or in a month. “Similarly, the difficulty in Geneva was reconciling these different concepts of time. So Geneva was the first city in the world where a law was imposed that people must give specific times and dates for meetings. The history of precise time was therefore born in Geneva, where a law was passed that said, ‘If someone makes a commercial meeting for a specific date and time, they are obligated to honor it!’ As you imagine, watches became very important for anyone setting foot in Geneva.” As a result, the Swiss became obsessed with precision and chased the elusive goal to make watches more and more accurate. This was entirely natural, because embedded in Swiss culture was an underlying pragmatic need for accuracy. Any frequent traveler who has visited Geneva in the last 200 years can attest to this. Says Muller, “This culture still exists today. This is the reason a train in Geneva that states it will leave at 12:01 will leave precisely on time, not one minute before or after. Switzerland has become the nation of precision.” But Muller’s feeling was that civil time, the 24-hour day, binds man into a certain routine that he cannot escape from. He

explains, “We are all formatted from the time we are born to follow a routine, to follow certain rules. At a certain time we wake, at a certain time we eat breakfast, at a certain time we take our bath, at a certain time we work, at a certain time we go home, we eat dinner, we go to bed.” Ironically, it took a son of a Genevan to revolutionize the concept of time and to slip from its imperial clutches. Says Muller, “After a certain time, this becomes so much a routine that human beings are robbed of their spontaneous nature, of their creativity. You are told you should only make love to your wife in the evening, but according to what rule? Shouldn’t something like this be regulated not by the rules of society but the rules of the heart? We are so programmed in our heads that our lives become a structure that we feel we cannot escape. We become so encoded that we are moving mindlessly from one moment to the next, never reveling in the present to truly enjoy the experience.” Indeed, the only time in our lives when human beings bestow unto themselves the freedom to enjoy life to its fullest, to exist and revel in its full sensual glory, is during the period that has become known in colloquial parlance as the “holiday”. Interestingly, it is uniquely during this period, rooted in ancient pagan ritual periods of thanksgiving and celebration, that the human heart is given its full measure of freedom. For Muller, the mental attitude evinced during the holiday is something that is at the very core of the Crazy Hours.


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“TO ME, IN MOdERN CULTURE, WE ARE OFTEN TOO MUCH ROOTEd IN THE PAST OR OBSESSEd BY THE FUTURE”

Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Crazy Hours Tourbillon

He states, “Why call it Crazy Hours? Because the Crazy Hours watch had to be a statement that you can do what you want, whenever you want. It had to be a watch that told people that life is precious and that you must enjoy each fleeting moment. It was a declaration that you should exist in the present and not constantly be thinking about the past or the future. It had to be a rupture from the structure of empirical time, an escape from the mindless regularity that we as human beings have become enslaved to. This idea came to me at that moment in the swimming pool in Mauritius, where I had come with my family to be on vacation, where we thought we could do what we wanted. But instead, we were met only with rules and more rules. The Crazy Hours is an escape from rules.” And while at first glance, it might be easy to dismiss this philosophy as

promiscuously sensualist, the very concept of the Crazy Hours has strong spiritual undertones. Muller states, “I’ve always liked the Buddhist parable of the monk who falls down a cliff. Beneath him, he sees a starving tiger waiting to eat him. Above him, he sees a snake slithering down to bite him, then suddenly, just in front of him, he sees a perfect strawberry. Slowly and with great deliberation, he reaches out and plucks this strawberry and tastes how delicious it is. To me, in modern culture, we are often too much rooted in the past or obsessed by the future. Unfortunately, the traditional format for a watch only encourages this. On the dial, you see all the time in front of you and all the time behind you. And so, you become obsessed with the past and the future, and never appreciate the moment you are in. For me, it was very important that the Crazy Hours be a watch

in which the past and the future are not visible. As such, you have no choice but to be in the here and now, and to appreciate the present — this is something people have forgotten how to do!” THE WORLd’S FIRST EMOTIONAL COMPLICATION

Imagine a watch where the dial adheres to no laws of order of either God or man. The cold, rational intellectualism of the 12-hour dial is dispensed with, and in its place, a whirl of randomly strewed digits each claiming their precious real estate with a free-wheeling assertion of self. At the 12 o’clock position, the number eight — the Chinese symbol for luck — stakes its claim with heady optimism. The Crazy Hours dial, as the name implies, bears no logic, it defies rationality; it could, if expanded onto canvas, be found in the Pop repertoire of


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“TO COMBINE THE CRAZY HOURS INdICATION WITH THE TOURBILLON, TO ME, IS TO dOUBLE THE VISUAL PLEASURE OF THE TIMEPIECE”

Robert Rauschenberg or Jasper Johns, a vivid joyous defiance of the cold, emotionless oppression of civil time. Says Muller, “In the Crazy Hours, there appears to be no sense as to what hours come next, and so, you are compelled to focus on the moment you are in. In this way, this watch was the world’s first emotional complication in that it uses a mechanical complication to delight and engage its owners.” But when asked what use a watch that cannot tell time has, Muller replies, “Ah, but you see, human beings are logical and they will always find their way. Similarly, with the Crazy Hours, the hour hand on the watch will always jump to the right time. With the Crazy Hours, I have found a way to deconstruct and restructure time.” The Crazy Hours complication finds its roots in a watch Muller created in 1986, the world’s first free-oscillation tourbillon wristwatch. What was unique about this timepiece was that it featured not just a precision device intended to combat the erosive force of gravity, but also a jump-hour indication. There are two types of jump-hour watches: watches that feature an aperture in which the hour is displayed, and watches with traditional hands that, instead of a sweeping, leap from one hour index to the next, jumping precisely at the stroke of each new hour. The Crazy Hours is similarly a jump-hour watch using a traditional hour hand. The distinction is that instead of leaping one index at the stroke of each hour, it leaps forward five places. As such, an examination of the seeming disarray on the Crazy Hours dial sheds light on the fact that the numeric jumble is actually spaced

such that each subsequent number is not one but five spaces in progression around the dial. Upon the release of the Crazy Hours in 2003, the watch-collecting world was universally stunned. The advent of the Crazy Hours, a watch whose sole purpose was the abstraction, deconstruction and reconfiguration of time with the intent to shock and delight otherwise emotionally disengaged owners, has been associated with the first Impressionist paintings that divorced themselves from replications of reality, focusing instead on the sublimation and expression of emotion as their primary objective. The Crazy Hours is the first work of watchmaking Impressionism. Today, many brands have laid claim to the ground of emotional complications. But each of these brands owes its very existence to Franck Muller and the revelation he experienced beneath the stars of Mauritius, the determination it created in him to fabricate a timepiece that would break our enslavement to time and unearth a purer form of existence, sensuality and appreciation for life. TOTALLY CRAZY

Adding the practical advantage of a date indicator, the Totally Crazy watch adds another startling pinwheel of fiery dial-side animation with a date indicator that echoes the seemingly random order of the legendary Crazy Hours dial. This time, the secret lies in the date hand leaping seven indices to always find the next number in the progression through the month. Nothing offers more entertainment than the sudden and simultaneous jump of the hour and date hand precisely at the stroke of midnight.

CRAZY HOURS TOURBILLON

The Crazy Hours Tourbillon combines two of Franck Muller’s iconic achievements, the dial-side tourbillon and the Crazy Hours complication. As with many of his timepieces, the Crazy Hours Tourbillon was inspired by a friend; in this instance, Tay Liam Wee, the group executive chairman of Sincere Watch and the head of Franck Muller’s distribution in Asia. Says Muller, “Liam Wee is very innovative and it was his idea to create a watch with the ultimate dial-side animation. To combine the Crazy Hours indication with the tourbillon, to me, is to double the visual pleasure of the timepiece. On the one hand, you have the total folly, the seeming wildness of the Crazy Hours indicator, and on the other hand, you have the world’s most famous precision device.” But the two complications work together beautifully, both combining their technicity and bravado to create what to many connoisseurs is THE ultimate Franck Muller timepiece. Adding a beautiful touch of whimsy, the “8” index has been divided into two in a King Solomon-like act of horological prowess, with half of the index placed on the dial and the other half integrated into the flying tourbillon’s cage. This “8” serves both as an index and a seconds indicator, completing a full rotation once every minute. Regardless of which Crazy Hours complication you choose, every watch from this series is intrinsically linked to Franck Muller’s ultimate act of horological rebellion. To gaze at the dial of any of these timepieces, be it the Crazy Hours, Totally Crazy, or Crazy Hours Tourbillon, is to be reminded of the fact that time itself is the most precious commodity in life.

Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Totally Crazy


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PART THREE

THE REVOLUTIONARY MASTER BANKER

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s his brand continued to grow, one of Franck’s greatest challenges was to use his watchmaking ability to suit the needs of the contemporary consumer. The greatest reality for the modern businessman relates to constant travel. The majority of us spend our days on a perennial transglobal trek from one head office to the next. The miasmic haze of being lost amid differing time zones can at times become overwhelming, and in this context, it is the watch that becomes a veritable Prometheus, bringing light to darkness, and order to chaos. It was precisely with the objective of illuminating the world of the constant traveler that Franck created one of his most legendary timepieces, the Master Banker. Amazingly, this watch was actually created in tandem with an actual banker friend. Franck recalls, “One of my close friends is Paul Tange, the son of Kenzo Tange, the father of contemporary Japanese architecture and one of the key proponents of structuralism. At Institut Le Rosey, the oldest

private boarding school in Switzerland, he befriended an Iranian boy who became a huge banker in London. I got to know them both as they spent a lot of time in Geneva. One day, we got together for lunch and this banker mentioned that he was curious about Watchland, so I brought him on a tour. As we walked through the grounds, he told me, ‘Franck, I want to buy a watch from you, but the watch I want has not yet been invented.’ This intrigued me immediately. He first explained his idea in 1995, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I introduced the watch. Why? Because the way I work is to put ideas in my head and then work on solving their problems in a natural way. It’s how I’ve always worked. I love to talk to people of all the different nationalities to learn about their cultures and their perceptions of time, and in this way, I am always receiving inspiration. Of course, afterwards, you must figure out technically how to resolve the problems. What he told me was this. ‘The world has changed forever. I spend almost no time in my actual office. One day

I am in London, the next day in New York, the next day in Tokyo. What is important to me is speed, how quickly I can reach a new destination, how quickly I can react to the opening of the stock market there. When I wake up and I look at my watch, I want to immediately know when the market opens. Because in the time it takes me to figure out the time, I could have made or lost a fortune. So what I really need is a watch that is actually three watches, to simultaneously tell the time of three different cities where I am doing business. But I want to have all three time indications controlled by a single movement, and I want complete hour and minute indicators for each time zone… I may need to speak to my wife, who may be in Los Angeles; at the same time, I need to make a business call to Paris; yet I must also keep track of my meetings where I am. In addition, this watch must be incredibly simple to use.’” Understanding that this was a vital opportunity to bridge the gap between traditional watchmaking and the needs of a rapidly modernizing culture, Franck leapt at the challenge. He recalls, “I said to him, ‘Look, what you are asking for is extremely complicated, because it is as if you are placing three clutches in a single movement. It is as if you are putting three clutches into a single car motor. I can make just one watch like this for you, but it will cost a fortune. If I can make several watches with this invention, it will be very affordable because I can amortize the cost of research and development over an entire series.’ He agreed.

The Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Master Banker is one of Franck Muller's most iconic achievements


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Franck Muller’s Cintrée Curvex Master Banker

The dial of the Master Banker has two small subdials with the second and third time zones displayed in hours and minutes. When you pull the crown to the first position and you turn it clockwise, it sets the subdial on the left (the second time zone); when you turn it in the opposite direction, it sets the subdial on the right (the third time zone). When you pull the crown to the next position, it changes the central hands (for local or reference time). Each of the three time zones can be manipulated independently via the crown alone without changing the others.

So, I began thinking about this and there were many possibilities as to how to achieve this goal. But I began to reject many of my ideas because the mechanisms were too complicated. One of the major goals of true watchmaking is to achieve your aim with total integrity, but by using the minimum number of parts available. For example, if you can reduce the parts you need to make something like this triple time-zone complication from 200 parts to 20 parts, you are 10 times less likely to have anything go wrong. That is an enormous margin of safety that you owe to the consumer who has placed his faith in your timepiece. If you look at the most famous clocks or watches, as I had the opportunity to do when restoring pieces for Patek Philippe’s museum and others, you realize that the best watchmakers always have this at the forefront of their minds. The goal is to achieve the best result with the least parts possible.” Amazingly, inspiration came to Franck in the most unlikely of places. He was overseeing the addition of two buildings at Watchland when, suddenly, he stopped in his tracks, in front of a daunting piece of heavy machinery. He states, “I was looking at a Caterpillar tractor, and the basic underpinnings of its mechanics gave me the idea of how to solve the puzzle of the Master Banker. What is incredible about this solution is that if you were to take 100 watchmaking engineers and put them in an office together, such is the simplicity of the mechanism I arrived at that they would never find it; or even if they found it, the first 99 would all come up with far too complicated solutions.” Franck knew that as complicated as the watch was, he had to create something easy to use. It was at this moment that the concept of operating all three timezone displays, as well as the date, with a single crown came to him. Franck adds, “Later, we augmented the watch to have day and night indicators for the second and third time zones as well. What was great was that the watch seemed complicated, but it was fantastically simple to use. If a client becomes frustrated with utilizing his watch, he will stop using it. Everyone could comprehend it. With this model, we began to sell 5,000 more watches per year — more than what we had created before.”


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“WHAT WAS gREAT WAS THAT THE WATCH SEEMEd COMPLICATEd, BUT IT WAS FANTASTICALLY SIMPLE TO USE. EVERYONE COULd COMPREHENd IT. WITH THIS MOdEL, WE BEgAN TO SELL 5,000 MORE WATCHES PER YEAR — MORE THAN WHAT WE HAd CREATEd BEFORE”

THE LEgACY OF FRANCK MULLER

Now, 18 years after the creation of his brand and more than a quarter-century of groundbreaking innovations, the legacy of Franck Muller still resonates as clearly as it did the day Franck first dreamt of striking out on his own. He demonstrated to the world that even in a time when mechanical timekeeping may have been anachronistic, on an emotional level, it was more relevant than ever. To achieve this, Muller understood that he had to usher in an allnew vision for high watchmaking. He knew that he had to make traditional complications relevant by binding them on a cellular level with daring, innovative aesthetics. Muller also knew that he would have to single-handedly invent

an all-new language for mechanical watchmaking, one where the primacy of intent was to connect with customers on an emotional level. To achieve this, he had to uncover the hidden truth in how human beings perceive time. He then invented all-new complications to represent these emotional truths. While de’ Dondi’s work was to uncover the laws of science that govern our universe, Franck Muller’s seminal work would be to unveil the hidden truths that rule the human heart and mind. In this, he has been groundbreaking, and in this, he has demonstrated his visionary capacity. H

The Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Master Banker Tourbillon is a combination of two of Franck Muller’s iconic achievements, the world’s first wristwatch tourbillon and the triple time-zone complication


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The original Master Banker featured vertical subdials for the second and third time zones; in the CintrÊe Curvex Master Banker Lunar, these have been shifted to the three and nine o’clock positions to accommodate a date and moonphase subdial, as well as day and night indicators for the second and third time zones


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