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Paolo Mathai ‘Hemisphere’

The last 12 months has been an exceptionally busy and prolific time for me. I have now had six books published which are, ‘Limited Edition Watches’, ‘Luxury Design for Living’, ‘Modern Masters’, Dark Chocolate, Australia Modern and ‘Independent Watchmakers’. One of these publications is specifically about independent watchmakers and features my ‘Pure Carbon’ timepiece. With a diameter of 67mm (excluding the crown) this creation is the world’s largest Swiss mechanical carbon fibre watch. It is also the first piece to feature 3D carbon hands. As a massive additional bonus, I have also produced a third bespoke unique 1/1 timepiece (called the ‘Hemisphere’) which is also included in the book.

Even though I have put in an enormous amount of effort, these horological pieces would have never materialised without the support of Frank Heydrich, Ben Birkett, Thomas Mond, and Ingomar Gaksch. Certainly working as a team was crucial to the successful outcome of these projects. This collaborative effort also played a significant part in the conceptualization of the ‘Hemisphere’.

For quite a while I had a basic idea for a bold industrial watch. The eureka moment occurred when I saw a brilliant timepiece (on the popular Facebook group Premium Mechanical Microbrands) by the multi-talented Martin Pauli (Angular Momentum) called the ‘Blue, Green & Bronze’. The brutalist 55mm x 30mm solid handcrafted solid bronze case was virtually identical to the one I had envisioned for my piece. Instantly I contacted Martin and he generously manufactured another similar one to the same specifications. This would act as the perfect framework to construct the ‘Hemisphere’ around. Subsequently, I presented my concept to a skilled watchmaker and watch restoration expert Ben Birkett.

What makes collaborating with Ben Birkett really special (and previously Frank Heydrich) is that we visualise the overall aesthetic in a similar way. For example, we both thought that setting tiny globes into the bezel would create an amazing dome-like (hemisphere) effect. Originally black Onyx seemed the natural choice because it worked well for the ‘Pure Carbon’. However, as the project progressed carbon fibre became a more logical solution due to the fact that the hands and crown are constructed from this material. The only problem was finding someone who could manufacture microscopic 4mm spheres from this fabric. Fortunately, talented Austrian craftsman Ingomar Gaksch was up for the challenge.

In the spirit of continuity, we decided to power the watch with a Unitas 6497-1 movement. I am not talking a standard off the shelf mechanism but a wonderful brushed steel minimalistic skeletonized version. This would act as the ideal platform to showcase all the other bespoke components. It is also the largest (easily accessible) and probably the most reliable Swiss-made hand-winding calibre available on the market.

As a complementary finishing touch Ingomar Gaksch made a vibrant green racing style strap with a matching bronze buckle.

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