THE SCHWARZ ETIENNE ROMA MANUFACTURE SMALL SECOND IS OFFERED WITH VARIOUS DIAL OPTIONS AND, MOST PERTINENTLY, A CHOICE OF HAND-WOUND AND AUTOMATIC MOVEMENTS. ANGUS DAVIES SUCCUMBED TO THE CHARMS OF AN 18-CARAT ROSE GOLD VERSION ENDOWED WITH A MANUAL MOVEMENT, THE CALIBRE MSE 100.00, AND PROVIDES HIS THOUGHTS ON THIS HIGH-END WATCH.
This detailed review of the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second includes images, specification details and pricing.
In the coming weeks, there will be numerous parties with revellers celebrating the festive season. This is a time when many people don their finest clothes, eager to make the best impression. However, there is one potential fashion gaffe waiting to trip up the unsuspecting partygoer, wearing the ‘same outfit’ as someone else . When two stylish ladies attend the same event wearing identical clothes, their mutual embarrassment is palpable. This danger will always lurk in the darkness, waiting to humiliate two unfortunate souls.
To avoid the aforementioned scenario, a bespoke garment could be commissioned. The fashion houses of Paris have always indulged the wants of the wealthy with the creation of haute couture garments. Likewise, in the world of high-end watches, there are some individuals who seek a pièce unique, eager to stand alone, distanced from the masses. Unfortunately, this esoteric world is beyond the means of most people. However, if a horophile ignores the usual suspects, the companies which have enviable brand awareness, and looks at the smaller independent watch firms, they will discover timepieces proffering a high degree of exclusivity.
One independent brand that I have previously discussed on ESCAPEMENT is Schwarz Etienne. The Swiss company is based on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the watchmaking capital of Switzerland. Within the confines of its modern atelier, Schwarz Etienne makes virtually all of the movement components found within its watches. Surprisingly, it even makes its own hairsprings, a black art known to only a few. This Maison is a ‘Manufacture’ in the truest sense. Such is the horological prowess of Schwarz Etienne that it is entrusted by other watch brands to supply various components.
Schwarz Etienne is renowned for producing timepieces featuring stones such as green aventurine and blue opaline. Its special edition watches have encompassed artisanal crafts, for example, hand painted flowers. I remain a huge admirer of these models. However, this high-end watch company also makes more affordable timepieces, ideally suited to daily wear. These timepieces, while remaining exemplars of fine watchmaking, are a tad more reserved, setting aside numerous tones and employing a limited palette of colours. One such watch that assumes a reserved character and employs muted tones is the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second.
The Roma collection is diverse and consists of three models: the ‘Power Reserve’, the ‘GMT’ and the ‘Small Second’. While each reference incorporates different functions, the family likeness is clear to see. Each model is presented in a 42mm case and is equipped with a dial featuring a crimped motif and lancine hands. All three options are elegant and tasteful, however, I am drawn to the comparative simplicity of the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second.
The Small Second is available in steel and 18-carat gold with a choice of automatic and hand-wound movements. Whilst visiting the Manufacture, I spent a few pleasurable moments with an 18-carat rose gold model featuring a manual movement, the calibre MSE 100.00. The model selected determines the colour of the dial and hands.
Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second in stainless steel
A sense of luxury pervades the dial and case of the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second. The lancine hands are made of ‘brass with gold treatment’. The grey hour track has a granular surface which contrasts wonderfully with the central area of the dial. This part of the dial is silver toned and features a series of radiating lines. Black Arabic numerals denote the hours, save for 3, 6 and 9 o’clock where golden batons feature. The brand’s logo supplants the customary ’12’ and, once again, employs golden hues. A chemin de fer encircles the periphery of the dial.
A small seconds display is located at 6 o’clock. The central area of the subdial is embellished with a fan-shaped pattern, while the seconds track is snailed and marked with a combination of Arabic numerals and strokes.
The dial is enriched with a number of different textures which confer a rich appearance while proving notably harmonious. Indeed, there is no hint of dissonance, each element coexists happily. The sharp tips of the hands, the crisp Arabic numerals and the chemin de fer, successfully collaborate to deliver peerless legibility.
The 18-carat gold case measures 42mm in diameter and has a thickness of 12.13mm. Although each facet is highly polished, the case remains unassuming, quietly residing on the wrist in elegant repose.
Close examination of the case reveals its complex design. The bezel has an arcing profile and then forms a gentle step onto the upper surface of the case. This design is replicated to the rear where the caseback joins the underside of the case. Meanwhile, the vertical flank of the lugs are stepped, wonderfully engaging with light and evoking areas of light and shade.
The Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second is presented on a brown alligator strap, featuring an ebullient orange alligator lining. It is paired with a 18-carat rose gold pin buckle.
Schwarz Etienne is synonymous with making movements and, therefore, it is not surprising that the firm has chosen to equip this watch with an exhibition caseback and, in so doing, showcasing its horological expertise.
This particular version of the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second is fitted with a hand-wound movement, the brand’s calibre MSE 100.00. It is unusual for a watch company to offer the same model with a choice of automatic or hand-wound movements. Typically, the cost of doing so would be financially prohibitive. However, Schwarz Etienne has been very ingenious.
Calibre ASE 100.00 featuring a micro-rotor
Calibre MSE 100.00 featuring twin barrels
The Swiss firm has adopted a modular approach to movement making. The calibre MSE 100.00 incorporates two spring barrels, delivering a prodigious power reserve of 96 hours. However, the architecture of the movement allows one spring barrel to be exchanged for a micro-rotor. There is much commonality between the MSE 100.00 and the ASE 100.00 allowing the brand to enjoy economies of scale. This approach to movement design grants Schwarz Etienne much flexibility when releasing new models. Moreover, this flexibility translates into more choice for would-be wearers.
The quality of the movement finishing stands out. The bridges are adorned with Côtes de Genève motif and feature gleaming bevelled edges. This latter detail is most apparent when looking at the individual bridges for the third wheel, fourth wheel and escape wheel which glint beautifully in the merest soupçon of light. The wheels are circular grained and the ratchet wheels are decorated with radial circular finishing.
As stated earlier, Schwarz Etienne make their own hairsprings, an impressive feat for any company irrespective of their size. In this instance the brand has mounted the hairspring on its own balance wheel that incorporates the company’s logo. Eight screws are fitted to the rim of the balance wheel. The frequency of the balance is 21,600 VpH (3Hz).
The Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second is understated and successfully sidesteps gaudy aesthetics and overt demonstrations of affluence. Quite simply, it is elegant and refined.
The dial successfully fuses peerless readability and a graceful mien. The surface of the dial is extraordinary with the juxtaposing of radiating lines and a granular texture. The golden hands express meaning with clear tone. Indeed, there is no risk of ambiguity or confusion.
A reoccurring theme with the Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second is the ubiquitous sense of quality. Everything is beautifully detailed. The case incorporates numerous contours and exquisite detailing which heighten the cost of production but confer a sumptuous appearance.
By developing a modular movement construction, Schwarz Etienne has provided prospective clients with greater choice. However, this choice has not come at the expense of quality. The finishing of the MSE 100.00 is exemplary and stands comparison with many costlier watches.
Schwarz Etienne may be a small company, but it makes impressive watches. There is a phrase, ‘small is beautiful’ and it seems most apt when discussing Schwarz Etienne.
It is a combination of quality and exclusivity that makes this watch ideal for sartorially attired partygoers, eager to avoid looking the same as anyone else.
- Model: Schwarz Etienne Roma Manufacture Small Second
- Reference: WRO15MS27RB21AA
- Case: 18-carat rose gold; diameter 42mm; height 12.13mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 5ATM (50 metres).
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
- Movement: Calibre MSE 100.00; automatic movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); power reserve = 96 hours
- Strap: Brown alligator leather strap with 18-carat rose gold pin buckle
- Price: CHF 23,900 including taxes (RRP as at 5.12.2018)