Hands-On: The Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor

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Romain Gauthier’s watches can be a little intimidating at first. They’re plenty handsome and comfortable, but they’re also highly technical and finished to the highest degree. It’s easy to feel either unworthy of such a horological work, or that you’d be better served by something simpler. But spend a little time with these watches – the new Insight Micro-Rotor in particular – and I guarantee you’ll end up wishing you had one of your own.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor red gold white dial

The Insight is Romain Gauthier’s first micro-rotor watch, seen here in red gold with a white enamel dial.

Romain Gauthier unveiled the Insight at Baselworld just a few weeks ago. It’s the third major pillar in the independent watchmaker’s line-up (the other two being the HM/HMS watches and the Logical One) and the first with a micro-rotor winding system. The watch shows the hours and minutes on a main dial, with a small seconds sub-dial set into it down at six o’clock. And that’s it. The rest of the space is used to display the engineering and finishing that has gone into the watch – and boy does it have a lot to show.

On the face of things, the Insight is a very simple watch. It measures 39.5mm across and 12.9mm at its thickest point (more on that second part in a minute). It is available in either platinum or red gold, each with a white, blue, or black enamel dial. It’s also automatic, wound via a micro-rotor, and it tells you just the hours, minutes, and seconds. But, as we know, simplicity can sometimes hide great complexity, and that’s exactly what’s going on with this watch.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor balance wheel

The balance wheel and balance bridge alone receive more hand-finishing than many high-end watches do in total.

When I first saw this watch in-the-metal at Baselworld, what immediately struct me was the level of depth on the dial side. You’ve got those overlapping enamel dials up at 12 o’clock, which seem to float effortlessly over the mechanics below. The frosted mainplate has a large aperture cut out at nine o’clock, where you’ll find a huge, sweeping bridge holding up the namesake micro-rotor. By giving each component soft brushed or frosted finish and then a sharply beveled edge, each is clearly defined and seems to jump out against the component behind it. The result has an almost graphic quality to it.

One of the things that doesn’t really come across in pictures of this watch is the unusual shape of the front sapphire crystal. Instead of being a simple dome or box shape, it’s curved and also rises as you get closer to 12 o’clock. It doesn’t really alter the optics or impact the legibility of the watch, and it doesn’t really impact the wearability either. While it’s kind of a neat touch, I don’t think it’s something wearers of the watch will notice too much.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor movement platinum

The movement of the platinum model is bright and features frosting throughout.

The caliber is the star of the show here. I’ll get to the aesthetics in a second, but even from a technical perspective alone this is one seriously awesome movement. It’s 32.1mm x 6.8mm and made of 206 components (28 of which are jewels). There are two barrels that run in series, which provides more consistent power to the regulator through the full 80-hour power reserve. For the automatic winding system, Gauthier opted for a 3.86g solid gold micro-rotor, which is more massive than what you’d typically find on a watch of this size. For that reason, it has bridges on both sides to provide additional stability and reliability.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor red gold movement

The red gold models feature a movement with a darker color and straight graining on the bridges and plates.

Luckily, those bridges for the rotor – and the rest of the movement for that matter – are hand-finished to an insane degree. Like, truly insane. We’re talking hand-beveling, hand-polishing, snailing, straight- and circular-graining, and even hand-frosting throughout. Each jewel sits in a countersink that is cut, polished, and beveled by hand too. The complex geometry of each bridge offers ample space and lots of angles, so there’s extra room for more decoration.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor caliber platinum

The bridge architecture creates tons of space for all of the hand-finishing techniques Gauthier applies.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor macro

Up close you can see all of the details, such as the S-shaped notches in the screws and the cut-outs in each of the wheels.

The platinum Insight has a bright palladium-treated movement with frosted plates and bridges on the rear, while the red gold Insight has a darker grey-colored movement with fine horizontal brushing throughout. Personally, I find the finish on the platinum models a little more striking, especially because frosting executed at this level is one of the rarer finishes in modern haute horlogerie.

My absolute favorite thing about this watch though is how well it stands up to scrutiny. Usually, if you look closely enough and critically enough, you can find something wrong with any watch. Sure, with the Insight you could quibble about matters of taste (that’s never avoidable), but try as I might to find something lacking, the closer I look at this watch the more impressed I am. Each screw has a subtle S-shaped groove in the top. Each wheel has circular cut-outs in it to give Gauthier more surface to hand-bevel, and even the edges of the little plaques on the movement are razor sharp. Look up above at the photo of the balance wheel and balance bridge – more time goes into crafting these few components than goes into making most already high-end watches.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor red gold wristshot

It’s a lot of look, but the Insight feels great on the wrist.

If at this point I sound like I’m fanboying a bit, that’s because I am. Watchmaking at this level is, to my mind, something to celebrate. I could grab a strong loupe and happily stare at either side of this watch for hours. That Mr. Gauthier himself is a passionate, humble, and super nice guy only makes me like the watches even more. While, as I mentioned above, the look might not be for everyone (and, even I must admit that I think an Insight would be a little over-the-top for me to wear most days), I highly recommend seeking one of these watches out, even if it’s just for the horological education alone.

romain gauthier insight micro rotor platinum

The platinum Insight with the black enamel dial is my favorite incarnation so far.

For now, there are six total versions of the Insight Micro-Rotor. The case can be either red gold or platinum, and each can be had with a white, blue, or black enamel dial. There will be 10 pieces made in each combination, for a total of 60 pieces across the current editions. The red gold models are priced at 75,000 CHF (approximately $75,200 at time of publishing) and the platinum models are priced at 88,000 CHF (approximately $88,250). More versions of the watch will be coming in the future. 

For more, visit Romain Gauthier online.

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