Shattering traditions and clichés. That is how one might sum up Vincent Calabrese’s long career. Born in Naples in 1944, he has worked for the watchmaking industry his whole life, from the age of 13. Having arrived in Switzerland shortly before he became an adult, he swiftly found a position in Le Locle, and subsequently worked for many years in the field watchmaking restoration and repairs.
The idea of creating “special” watches came to him while he was working as a manager-watchmaker of a luxury watch boutique in Crans-Montana in the early 1970s. “My years in sales forcibly impressed me the fact that people mainly buy watches for their appearance.” Upset by this, he decided to develop a model that clients would also buy for its horological substance. Thus was born the principle of the Golden Bridge.
One of Vincent Calabrese’s main ideas was that in a watch, “the case shouldn’t represent the coffin for the movement.” There should be as few links as possible between one and the other. Hence the development of the straight-line movement solely linked to the case at 12 and 6 o’clock, resulting in the DNA of the famous model. “The Golden Bridge is more than a watch, it is a cry of revolt” says the artisan-watchmaker.
After a difficult two-year gestation period, the first prototype emerged in 1977. The contact with Corum founder René Bannwart was established through a common acquaintance, the curator of the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds. René Bannwart was immediately convinced of the potential of this innovation. It did indeed prove to be an immediate success with the public right from the time of its launch, which was a true feat given the difficulties experienced by mechanical watchmaking in the 1980s.
Parallel to the beginning of this collaboration, Vincent Calabrese won first prize for his creation at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. Does the founder of the Horological Academy of Independent Creators, whose members are responsible for a considerable part of watchmaking as it now is, see himself as an inventor? “More as a researcher. My watches apparently reveal everything, and yet the impression of mystery persists – people always wonder how they can actually work. The most complicated thing for me lies in finding simplicity and not the other way round.”
That is partly what makes the Golden Bridge, which has fewer components than models with classical movements, a truly unique watch. “It attracts, but in a gentle, non-aggressive way”, explains the Italian-born creative talent, for whom watchmaking represents the most difficult possible means of communication. Countless techniques are required to create a new model, including making the movement, engraving, gemsetting, designing the case…
Vincent Calabrese, whose passion for watchmaking innovation has remained intact as he approaches his 70th birthday, also accepts the analogy with the artistic process, above all when it consists of mastering different processes with the aim of arousing an emotion. That is indeed exactly what his “first child”, the Golden Bridge, has been consistently achieving for more than 40 years.