If you have ever delved into vintage timepieces, especially early military wristwatches, you will probably have come across trench watches. These watches were promoted as being for, as the name states, suitable for military service, and were characterised by features such as large luminous hands and numerals, a seconds function, fixed wire lugs, sometimes a shrapnel cover, and unbreakable crystal.
There is a subset of those trench watches which were notable for having the ’12’ on their dials in red. The reason for this is a matter much debated; personally, I am doubtful about one of the theories that it indicated that it was in some way an ‘officer’s watch’, especially in light of the fact that there were also women’s wristwatches from that period that were similarly adored with red.
The origins of the ‘red 12’ watches doesn’t seem to have any definitive answer as yet, but this design feature has nonetheless managed to still find its way into some contemporary watches. Brands as diverse as Lange and Nomos have released attractive limited edition pieces with a ‘red 12’ on the dial.
Now, it is the turn of Laurent Ferrier, who have released their version of a ‘red 12’, in a Galet Square case. For this U.S. market limited edition, they have created a watch that harks back in both form and appearance to the golden age of red 12 watches a century ago.
The choice of a square case for this is reminiscent of early cushion-cased watches, although the use of white gold is a clear marker of it being more of a luxurious modern piece of wrist wear than its historical design forebears. For those who are unfamiliar with the Galet Square case, this watch measures 41mm x 41mm, and is 11.10mm thick. The white porcelain dial, although obviously something that perhaps not sufficiently robust for trench watches, is also a historical nod, as there are many watches from that period with a red 12 on a porcelain dial. The process involved in creating this Laurent Ferrier dial involved hand-made discs made from a kaolin-based that were fired at 1400°C and coated with a layer of transparent enamel.
Atop the dial are ten anthracite Breguet-style numerals along with the red 12. There are gold circulate dots for the minutes, four diamond-shaped gold markers at at 3, 6, 9 and 12, and smaller diamond-shape gold patterns for the tenths.
The case metal theme continues with the use of white gold ruthenium treated ‘Assegai-shaped’ hands for the hours and minutes, the baton-shaped seconds hand and the small seconds indicator.
Inside is the hand-polished, hand-bevelled, satin-brushed automatic Calibre FBN 229.01 with micro-rotor. It has a three-day power reserve and beats at 21,600VPH. As well as Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges, there is also a circular-grained main plate.
This special edition is a very limited edition of ten pieces, with the limitation number engraved on the bezel at the back of the case. It comes with a brown alligator strap with scarlet Alcanthara lining and a a tan calf strap with scarlet Alcantara lining. The RRP is USD64,000.
[Photos provided by Laurent Ferrier]