The evolutionary tree is filled with branches where life has diverged and taken different paths to fill various ecological niches. It’s a simple way to understand the phylogenetic lineage common ancestors and shared traits that evolved before the species split. One can trace the development of unique traits found only in limited groups of animals and traits found in almost all living creatures.
Tracing also helps us understand how some creatures branched off early and have no close relatives, remaining almost exactly the same for millions or billions of years (or having all relatives gone). Since life began nearly 3.5 billion years ago, the majority of life at that time consisted of single-celled organisms. Only a billion years ago, multicellular life was evolving, and since then the variety of living things has exploded.
But the tree of life has a bunch of evolutionary loners, species that are the only member of their branch, a good example being Homo sapiens, aka humans. Genre homo appeared just over two million years ago when it diverged from other members of the taxonomic family Hominids (which today includes orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans). There was a variety of homo species such as Homo erectus, Homo habilis and Homo neanderthalensis, many of which existed at the same time.
Eventually all other species died out and Homo sapiens was the only one left on our solitary branch of evolution. Without the success of Homo sapiens, one might wonder if a monospecific branch isn’t a sign of an evolutionary dead end, but it clearly isn’t.
The same goes for watchmaking inventions that have no close relatives like the detent escapement. It’s kind of alone on its own mechanical evolutionary branch and risked extinction, but it’s still alive and well thanks in part to independent watchmaker Raúl Pagès who just released his new RP1 expansion regulator. A clean and minimal design, the RP1 Trigger Regulator presents the vision of Pagès on the detent escapement and shows that evolution is still possible.
Raul Pagès RP1 Trigger Regulator
The Régulateur à Détente RP1 is a deceptively simple regulator watch with central minutes, offset hours at 12 o’clock and seconds at 6 o’clock. The dial design is very clean but still has a handmade look thanks to four dial screws, printed numerals on all indexes and a minute chapter ring that mimics an internal toothed crown with small slots for each minute. The design is inspired by the Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusierwhose influence is visible.
The minute hour circle is cantilevered between the flange and the dial in a manner similar to Le Corbusier’s architectural designs, giving the dial a visual depth that would not be possible without adding thickness.
The seconds sub-dial adds lightness with its bright color, a cerulean blue inspired by that of Le Corbusier Architectural Polychromy of 1959. Le Corbusier intended it to represent the sea and the sky and used it to visually elevate structures. It definitely appears on the dial of the RP1 Detent Regulator.
Combined with the black of the hour circle and the medium gray of the main dial – a nod to the masonry of Le Corbusier’s architecture – this watch has one foot firmly planted in mid-century modern aesthetics and another in the very contemporary minimalist design. Still, the design is only there to gain a passing glance; it’s the movement that captures a fan’s deep appreciation for the watchmaker.
The Régulateur à Détente RP1 movement is entirely hand-made by Raúl Pagès and offers his vision of the horological masterpiece that is the detent escapement. The highlight of the back of the watch is this escapement, beating at 3Hz and seemingly working as if by magic thanks to a hidden fourth wheel (seconds) placed on the dial side of the main plate. There is no visible connection between the balance wheel and the escapement and the rest of the running gear, which breaks your brain for a minute.
With the precise and very quick release of the detent escapement, the escape wheel doesn’t seem to spin unless you look at the spokes of the wheel and see no fourth wheel spinning slowly and steadily. This combines to highlight the function of the mechanism as performance, which is exactly what you want when designing and building a detent escapement. Since this is a rare but capable escapement, the purpose of using it should go hand in hand with the desire to show it off.
The detent escapement
But Pagès is not a flashy designer who wants to show off in an impetuous way; he takes the path of subtle staging. That’s why the fourth wheel is hidden away and doesn’t cover or distract from the escapement: it’s meant to keep the focus just on the mechanism and make you feel like it’s a little magical . Mechanically, the detent escapement is already an impressive and subtle feat of engineering, and it takes a keen eye to see how it works.
It’s best to talk about the actual mechanism to highlight why it’s so much more precise and better for timekeeping than the Swiss lever escapement, and this execution is a solid example of that.
The detent escapement was first developed in 1748 by Pierre Leroy to increase precision and isochronism. The main characteristic of the detent escapement is the direct impulse of the escape wheel on the balance wheel, which eliminates friction and energy loss while providing a very constant force to the balance wheel.
The escape wheel is held in place by a very delicate spring to which a jewel is attached. The balance wheel directly unlocks this mechanism, allowing it to move forward one position and provide thrust to the escape wheel. The design is very precise and consistent, but historically known to be shock sensitive, which is why it found limited use in wristwatches and earlier pocket watches that were not marine chronometers.
In the Pagès escapement, the detent lever extends to the axis of the balance wheel and uses a kind of inverted shepherd’s hook preventing the detent from moving far enough to advance the escape wheel in the event of shock or shock. It only allows the right range of motion during the short window when the pendulum is in the right place. This ensures that there is no accidental triggering of the escape wheel at the wrong time, which could stop the mechanism.
The skill and patience with which a mechanism like this must be made and adjusted is nothing to be surprised at; very few watchmakers have risen to the challenge but have succeeded on their own as well as the Détente Regulator RP1. Thanks to the long experience of Pagès in the restoration of pocket watches and in the creation of automata, the detent escapement falls within the line of sight of its know-how.
And thanks to this experience, Pagès is able to finish the RP1 Detent Regulator at very high levels that border on the masterful. It may have its work cut out for it to catch up to Philippe Dufour’s trim levels, but the styling and manual skills are clearly going in that direction.
If this watch had a traditional Swiss lever escapement and everything else was equal, I would still say this is a prodigious watch that would be perfect for everyday use. It has a beautiful and simple dial, a captivating layout and excellent internal movement execution. When you add the technical complexity of the updated detent escapement, the watch becomes a bargain for what you get.
Its successful detent escapement also shows that the rather restricted innovation still has the ability to evolve and branch off from its predecessors to create something new. All it takes is a fearless watchmaker striving to do something few others have done. Sometimes that’s what makes all the difference between surviving and disappearing into history.
I can’t wait to see what else Pagès might bring to life, and until then, I can’t wait to get my hands on the RP1 Detent Regulator to experience it first hand. While I wait, I’ll do my best to break this one down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.1 The sublimely clean dial combined with the simple yet technical movement is half the wow factor!
- Call of Late Night Lust*91” 892.405m/s2 It’s the definition of a luxurious watch for any wearer: it has the styling, the technical chops and the proportions to be an instant winner!
- MGR*68.8 A new handcrafted independent detent escapement? I will take it every day!
- Feature added * N/A As we’ve seen time and time again, some of the best watches are all about time, and this is a great example of that. So no worries if you skip the I must have this cream and just enjoy the timekeeping!
- Ouch Outline * 10.1 Stump your toe on a 15 pound dumbbell! It’s almost a guarantee that if you have your shoes and socks on and casually walk around your house, one of your toes will be magically attracted to something sharp or heavy. The pain can be drastic, but I would still gladly accept this spell if it meant having the RP1 Trigger Regulator on my wrist!
- Siren Moment * It’s hidden behind that dial! The magic is hidden under the dial but when you find it there is no turning back!
- Impressive total* 772.8 Start by color-coding that stunning cerulean blue on the dial (59), multiply by the thickness of the case (10.2) and finally add the component count of the RP1 movement (171) to discover another impressive level of total. . !
For more information, please visit pageswatches.com/regulateur-a-detente.
Quick Facts Raul RP1 Trigger Regulator Pages
Case: 38.5 x 10.2 mm, stainless steel
Movement: hand-wound in-house caliber RP1, 47-hour power reserve, 18,000 vibrations/hour/2.5 Hz frequency with pivoted detent escapement and anti-triggering system, variable inertia balance wheel
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: CHF 85,000
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Raúl Pagès Soberly Onyx: unexpected records
Turtles and Songbirds: A Brief Historical Perspective on Automata with MB&F, Raul Pagès and Jaquet Droz (with videos)
John-Mikaël Flaux: Moving Time & Magic Machines