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Valbray and Leica: clicking with Chronopassion

And now for a very limited edition, bringing together amazing synergies from two different worlds. Nobody had ever come up with the idea before – and yet it’s so obvious. What’s more, Chronopassion will be the only watch retailer in the world to carry it.

The project between Valbray and Leica has not yet been fully completed, but already it bears all the key hallmarks of our star choices. It’s unexpected, refreshing and fun – the right idea, at the right time, with the right people.

The rule of three

The right idea? That of bringing together two firms, each with a strong personality of its own. On the one hand, Leica – the iconic brand for all those who love beautiful photos. And with it, Valbray – an emerging independent watchmaking brand that produces timepieces with a difference – fitted with a shutter.

The right time? The centenary of Leica. In 2014, the German brand is celebrating this landmark anniversary. It’s the right time for Valbray, too; the company has now firmly established its position and pace in the world of independent watchmaking so beloved of Chronopassion.

The right people? The representatives of Leica, who were bold enough to entrust Valbray with a major project to mark a key date in the firm’s history. Over at Valbray, the right people are Come de Valbray and Olga Corsini, the brand’s founders; together, they’ve developed a timepiece dedicated to Leica.

And making a further connection, there’s a specialist watchmaking PR firm: Delos Communications, who put the duo in touch with Chronopassion. The latter is lending its support to the project and will be the only retailer in the world, along with Leica boutiques, to offer its clients the chance to own one of ten very special watches.

A chronograph for photographers

The result of all this is the EL1 Chrono. The watch embodies Valbray’s characteristics, features a diaphragm similar to that of Leica cameras, and is worn on a strap made from the same leather as that of the German firm’s cases. The seconds hand recalls the design of the film speed button. The red colour on the dial and the font used are also reminiscent of the Leica camera style.

Each watch is numbered, and there will be two versions – black and grey. The timepieces are due out before the summer, with five in each colour. Does that click with you?

Technical specifications

Chronograph based on black and white colors, the EL1 is made of titanium grade 5 with sanded finishes. The initials of its name are chosen as a tribute to Ernst Leitz, one of the founders of Leica brand, Leica is the contraction of Leitz and camera.
The bezel integrates the “Oculus” diaphragm system of Valbray and becomes the undeniable link between the two partner’s houses. This mechanism recalls the pleasure of handling the objective of a traditional camera, and more specifically the “firing” of the shutter.
The manual revolution of the rotating bezel acts on the16 thin blades that gradually reveal the dial in a circular way, being a magic recall of a Leica diaphragm.
In its closed version the EL1 Chrono provides the essential reading of time given by the main hands: hours and minutes. Essential, as the click of the photographer who captures the moment. In its open appearance, the EL1 reveals the chronograph, the ultimate instrument for measuring time.
The highlight of the bezel is adorned with four parts of white engravings. Theirs pace, reminiscent of the four quarters of time, is relayed by fine lateral veins of the crown, who presents the Leica Camera logo.
Red color subtly lying down the dial, the type of the font used and others details of the dial are all stylistic recalls of Leica cameras.
The indication of the date (at 3h), the cursor minutes (at noon) and the hours (at 6h) recall the layout settings. The seconds (at 9h) reproduce the design of the isometry button. Finally, the metallic 4.5 applied at 4 hours and half, evokes the aperture of the first Leica.
On the back of the watch, the automatic Valjoux movement with an open worked rotor is visible through a sapphire glass, darkened in a nod to the black room.
Manufactured in two references, 50 titanium and 50 with a black DLC treatment, for a total edition of 100 numbered watches, each one is equipped with two different straps, evoking the cameras bands: a black in calf negonda and another in calfskin mat brown and raw stitching. They are easily changeable with a specific screwdriver provided with the watch.
Collector timepiece, the EL1 Chrono signs the meeting between watchmaking and photography, around common values ​​such as connection with time, the essentiality of the moment, aesthetics and, of course, the passion.

Who's who

Two years ago, when Valbray came to show Laurent Picciotto their first watches, his initial reaction was very positive: “A lot of us have been waiting for something like this!” he said delightedly. “This”, for the proprietor of Chronopassion, was a shutter system on the watch face, forging a link between watchmaking and photography. With a completely new and ingenious system of tiny strips laid one on top of the other, Valbray has made it possible for the wearer to cover or expose all or part of the dial by turning the bezel. The appeal of this is quite simply that of having two watches in one – two faces for the same timepiece. Be that as it may, true to form, Laurent Picciotto was keen to go still further. “The shutter was a great idea, but more could be done with it,” he explains. “I liked the idea of a cover being used for something other than just covering. Perhaps, I thought, there could be several levels of telling the time on the same dial. I didn’t want the shutter to be merely an accessory. The entire watch needed to be organised around it.” Valbray duly noted the suggestion, but didn’t act on it straightaway. The brand had just been launched, on the back of a huge amount of R&D investment, and at that early stage, Valbray felt it had to convince the market that its approach was sound. But one day at the Basel fair, as Laurent Picciotto was treading the aisles seeking new talent, the Valbray team called him over and invited him backstage to show him the second generation of the product. Picciotto couldn’t help but smile – the watch featured a partially-opening shutter, revealing multiple levels of information! “Valbray had taken on board my modest contribution and – probably without even remembering where it came from – produced a new prototype very much along the lines of what I’d suggested when we first met,” says Laurent Picciotto. In the end, Valbray’s new design was to include three levels of shutters, each with a different type of covering, atop a tried and tested Dubois-Depraz base movement. Laurent Picciotto liked “the fresh approach and the fun side to the watch” – and welcomed the brand to the Chronopassion store. The adventure has only just begun, and has a promising future, just like its team: “calm, attentive and very determined,” in the words of Laurent Picciotto. 
Journalist : Olivier Müller
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