100 Years Young: Carl Suchy & Söhne
Austria’s given us many things over the years; Motzart, Swarovski, chocolate cake… we have a lot to thank them for. Until recently though watches were not one of them. In fact, since the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire they produced roughly the same number of watches as Lichtenstein. Fortunately, that’s now changed. And not because Lichtenstein has started making watches.
After a century of silence, Austria is now the proud homeland of a proper luxury watch brand (not forgetting other brands such as Habring who are watchmakers first and foremost). To be honest, calling them a revival is a little bit misleading; there are so few examples of their vintage pieces that there’s not much to go on.
It’s a sad state of affairs for the watchmaker to Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria. To be honest, there weren’t many of Austria’s elite that weren’t well-acquainted with their home-grown, quintessential luxury watchmaker. Even Sigmund Freud wore one. Well, I didn’t say they’d all be good. After what they diplomatically call an ‘involuntary creative break’ they haven’t been left a huge amount to work from.
On the other hand, it’s given the modern incarnation of Carl Suchy & Sohne a clean slate to work with. Sure there might be a little chalk dust left but in general, it’s a brave new start for the watchmaker – a start that’s immersed in pure Austrian design.
I could talk about the sleek, minimal case shape, the ultra-thin movements, a host of subtle nuances that lend to the modern interpretation of Austrian design themes that is the Waltz No.1. Even the name bespeaks the 1-2-3 of court dancing. But then there’s the dials.
Guilloche usually means subtle textures, sunburst, clous de Paris, etc. The lines across the dial of the Waltz are far more impactful and make for one hell of an interesting dial. I’m no architect so I’ll take the brand’s word that the lines were inspired by the world of Adolf Loos; what I do know is that they’re spectacular.
Simple as they may be, the half-half mix of horizontal and vertical lines like pencil shading is something I’ve never seen and, having seen it can only wonder why. Add in the phenomenal small seconds counter, a revolving disc rather than a hand that lines up perfectly once every minute and you have a winning formula.
Formula in fact might be the perfect word, seeing as it’s a motif Carl Suchy & Sohne has reinterpreted across even their currently lean range. Even their skeletonised dial uses the same mix of lines, though obviously in an even more modern interpretation. Even Breguet can’t make skeletons classical.
Being the informed lot you are I’m sure you weren’t expecting the Waltz No.1 to actually be made in Austria, but I feel I need to reiterate. With 0 watchmaking infrastructure in Austria, you’d be looking at a damn sight more than a 7,850 Euro entry price for their watches.
While it’s easy to badmouth Switzerland as the overbearing force it is, the country’s also the only choice for a good number of independent brands. It even allowed them to recruit the exceptional Marc Jenni to design and build their watches, a former member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) known for his elegant simplicity and inventive designs.
And hey, if recruiting renowned Swiss talent let’s watchmakers like Carl Suchy & Sohne see the light of day once again that can’t be a bad thing.