I have a fairly large soft spot in my watch collecting heart for a type of timepiece that’s often derided in enthusiast circles: high end, luxury sports watches that are actually more like leisure watches. The rainbow Daytona, I think, is the undisputed king of this category. It’s a pure flex, and an ostentatious signifier of extreme wealth, built on the platform of perhaps the most important sports watch of the last several decades (some might even call it a tool watch). It’s also, more than just about any Rolex I can think of, an immediate and obvious display of the high level of craft the brand is capable of. Make fun of it all you want, but there’s real skill in putting the thing together, which is harder to say about most of the stainless steel sports models with waitlists stretching into years.
The new Continuum from Romain Gauthier fits neatly into this category as well, and I find myself coming back to it frequently in the few weeks since its existence was announced. At first glance, it has the shape and feel of a sports watch. Honestly, from the dial side, a fairly unremarkable sports watch, and yet another entry into the Hall of Integrated Bracelet Alternatives, although, yes, of course, this watch is fitted to a rubber strap. The dial is grey, has a traditional 12, 3, 6, 9 layout, with an off center subsidiary seconds register and thin red lines radiating from it for a bit of contrast and visual interest. It’s all a little asymmetrical, but only a little.
It’s when you take a look at the watch’s movement through the exhibition caseback that everything kind of clicks together, and you’re reminded that this is indeed a Romain Gauthier creation. It’s a somewhat unusual entry in Gauthier’s catalog, as his most iconic creation, the Logical One, is very obviously a Logical One from the dial side, with its fusée-and-chain mechanism on full display. If you know your high end haute horlogerie, a Romain Gauthier watch is fairly easy to spot, at least on the internet. They’re considerably more rare in real life.
So the fact that this quite provocative watchmaker has made a watch without his most obvious signature on full display has a certain appeal in and of itself. It makes the Continuum a bit of a sleeper right out of the gate. But even though this Gauthier lacks a fusée-and-chain, it still appears to be finished to his same high standards. At least when it comes to press photos, this is one of the best looking movements I’ve seen all year, with elaborate titanium bridges and contrasting finishes.
This isn’t the type of traditional movement finishing practiced by the old guard Swiss brands and living legends like Roger W. Smith and Philippe Dufour, but a contemporary twist on very old techniques. For example, the angled edges of the bridges are sandblasted rather than polished, and the surfaces of each bridge running across the caliber have been given a dimpled finish that’s more industrial than what you’d normally find from Gauthier’s contemporaries and competitors, but no less effective aesthetically. The entire movement has been designed from the ground up for this watch, and a priority has clearly been placed on its visual impact. In that sense, it’s right in line with other Gauthier watches, which are never short on visual drama.
A closer look at the case reveals a design that’s more complex than you might at first give it credit for. Both the case and bezel are made of grade 5 titanium, and the bezel has polished facets that are machined into the side of it, at an angle. This creates a contrast in finishing that’s not readily obvious from the top down, but should make quite an impression when viewed from the side. Again, this would appear to be the tendency of a sleeper watch, something that is significantly more than meets the eye, and rewarding for those who might go searching for the little design Easter eggs that are left along the way.
On a recent podcast, I compared the look of this watch to Oakley sunglasses, and I stand by that. While the case is circular, the impression of the lugs that turn sharply inward on themselves combined with the integration and quick taper of the rubber strap leaves one feeling like they’re looking at an oval, which is the defining characteristic of the once ubiquitous 90s era shades. (A side note here: Oakley sunglasses, though certainly not something at all appealing to me personally, have a devoted following and trade in much the same way on the secondary market that watches do, with collectible models commanding eye watering sums, as if we needed more proof that there’s a market for everything). The Continuum is sleek and aerodynamic, and we imagine the titanium case material makes it feel light and comfortable on the wrist. In short, it would be a great true sports watch if you needed it to be, but the $40,000 price tag, limited production run, and horological art seen through the caseback put this watch in the same bucket as A. Lange & Söhne’s Odysseus, Vacheron Constantin’s recent Everest releases, and just about any precious metal or gem set “sports” Rolex you can think of.
I like this type of watch, and the Continuum in particular, quite a bit, even though logically I fully recognize that there’s something a little (ok, a lot) ostentatious going on here, and this type of thing isn’t normally my bag at all, not even a little bit. To me, it’s the equivalent of the Lambo poster on the wall of a childhood bedroom: a completely ridiculous thing that isn’t even aspirational so much as it is exotic, strange, and ultimately unknowable. It’s the type of watch I love in theory, even if it there isn’t anything remotely practical about it. Romain Gauthier