From A Single Watchmaker to Watchland.
Franck Muller is often considered an underrated brand when it comes to serious watchmaking. However, a little dig beneath the surface of these maximalist designed watches reveals the Manufacture’s serious technical watchmaking know-hows. Embracing its upcoming 30th anniversary, Franck Muller have garnered some truly impressive accolades that deserves some attention. Therefore, we are turning the spotlight on Franck Muller and exploring what the Manufacture has to offer.
The Man Behind the Brand
To understand what Franck Muller as a brand stands for today, one must first look back at the eponymous founder himself. Franck Muller was a gifted watchmaker, to say the least. After his four years of training at the Geneva School of Watch Making, it did not take long for him to demonstrate a talent for restoration works, with clients that include auction houses and collectors from all over the world.
After a few years of doing this, it was only natural that he wanted to start creating watches under his name. As this was around the time of the quartz crisis and when the world was starting to go in the direction of cheaper, mass-produced watches, Franck Muller decided to take a stand and instead, champion for intricate mechanical watches as unique timepieces. In 1983, months of dedication and research paid off when he presented his very first collection of wristwatches.
After the success of this first collection, Franck Muller decided to flex his watchmaking talent and a mere three years later in 1986, he presented his first world premiere – a tourbillon with jumping hours. This was quickly followed by a Tourbillon with Minute Repeater in 1987, and an inverted Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar with Minute Repeater in 1989. These were all world firsts and cemented the name Franck Muller as a watchmaker who constantly pushes the boundaries of mechanical watchmaking.
The Evolution of The Spirit
In 1992, the Franck Muller brand and manufacture were established, taking the inventive philosophy of its founder and evolving it into something bigger. Since then, the brand continues to push the limits of watchmaking, constantly imagining unorthodox ways to present known concepts.
One such instance is the invention of the Crazy Hours timepiece in 2003. The concept for this piece was to take the traditional watch and mess up its numeral sequence so that it does not function in order within its clockwise configuration. The time, however, can still be told perfectly, thanks to a clever jumping hours mechanism. The Crazy Hours was an immediate success and to this day, it is one of the signatures of the Franck Muller brand.
In 2004, they unveiled the world’s first tri-axial tourbillon in the world with the Revolution 3. This takes the traditional concept of the tourbillon which rotates on a single axis to counter the effects of gravity and supercharges it to now rotate on three axes, further compounding the effect. Not only was it immensely complex in terms of mechanics, but this tri-axial tourbillon is also a joy to behold on the wrist.
In 2007, after five years of research and development, Franck Muller debuted the Aeternitas Mega. This watch was hailed as the most complicated watch in the world offering 36 complications and 1,483 components. The name Aeternitas was borrowed from the Latin word which translates to eternity, referencing the spectacular eternal calendar that follows a 1000-year cycle renewable to infinity.
To this day, Franck Muller is still preserving its ethos of exploration and invention, as just a few months ago, they unveiled yet another world premiere in the form of the Grand Central Tourbillon, the very first central tourbillon in a Tonneau case. This watch took the tourbillon, a complication dear to the heart of Franck Muller, and placed it right in the middle of the case, engineering a new system to allow the hour and minute hands to still radiate out from the central area of the watch.
The Infrastructure for Success
The brand manages to create all this not only because of the talented watchmakers within the group, but also through its ability to manufacture all components needed to create these fantastic innovations. They are one of the very few brands that manufacture 100 per cent of its cases and dials as well.
When they first established the brand in 1992, they did so in the same area where Franck Muller started his watchmaking journey in 1983. They found a mansion in Genthod – a neighbouring countryside of Geneva that was built in 1905, and after a few months of restoration, the Manufacture christened it as their new headquarters.
In year 2000 in response to the growing success of the brand, they commissioned two additional buildings in the same style to accommodate the growth. In 2019, two more massive buildings totalling 16,000 sqm were added to host watch component manufacturing operations. This massive site has since been dubbed Watchland.
Much like an amusement park for watch enthusiasts, Watchland is open to the public by appointment, allowing visitors from all over the world to come and learn more about the art of watchmaking.
The success of Franck Muller comes from its unorthodox imagining of watchmaking, both in terms of design and complications. Thus, it would only make sense that they present their novelties in an unusual way too. Before the pandemic, most brands would present the novelties of the year to the entire world via exhibitions like SIHH or Baselworld. For Franck Muller, their novelties are unveiled through its watch fair, WPHH – World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie, where distinguished guests are invited to Watchland.