Opus 3: Triumph in Failure
Cool Stuff, Deep Thoughts, MB&F, Uncategorized

Opus 3: Triumph in Failure

Last week, Harry Winston celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Opus series.  Created under the leadership of Maximilian Büsser, who later went on to create MB&F, I believe the Opus project was the undertaking most singlehandedly responsible for the state of Contemporary Horology today.
Ironically, perhaps the most important piece was the project’s biggest failure: Opus 3.  Created with Vianney Halter, one of the truly fascinating and innovative pioneers in the industry, Opus 3 won the award for “Technical Innovation and Complication” at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.  There was just one problem: the watch did not work well enough to be put into production.  It was unable to store enough energy to reliably power the instantaneously jumping discs.

And that is where the Opus 3 story really began.  Since 2003, it has been worked on by many of the top names in the industry.  Finally, it has been completed by the team at Renaud and Papi including Frédéric Garinaud (Opus 8).  I saw a working, production piece at Baselworld this year and was told at the time that two pieces had been delivered to customers.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this piece and its effect on the industry.  Why is this watch, which 7 years later looks very tame compared to what has come since, so important?

I believe the answer is that the piece represents all of what we love about mechanical watches.  One of the primary draws of these micro-machines is how difficult they are to create.  The idea is that they push the limits of human (and machining) capabilities.  You never know how close to the edge of impossible you are unless occasionally you cross the line.  Opus 3 represents a challenge that for years could not be solved.

Then, through Harry Winston’s determination to see the project through to completion, we have a triumph of ingenuity over the impossible.  After nearly a decade of work by the best and brightest in the industry and millions of dollars spent when there was often no end in sight, the final product is a relatively unassuming watch that simply gives the date and the time.  That is Contemporary Horology at its best.

And so, in the end, Opus 3 is much more than a watch.  It is a representation of the best that humanity has to offer – creativity, determination, persistance, and success.  It is a breathe of fresh air in an industry that can often leave us jaded.  It is the stuff that movies are made of.

Note: I would very much like to purchase an Opus 3 for my personal collection.  If you can help find an available piece, please contact me.

  • ei8htohms

    It’s a weird thought (that the Opus 3 is the best that humanity has to offer) but it does have some appeal. 🙂

    • Ah yes, perhaps my wording was slightly off. I mean not that the Opus 3 isthe best humanity has to offer, but that it is a REPRESENTATION of the
      virtues of humanity.

      Nice to see you in the comments, John.

  • Dr Bernard Cheong

    “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, did manage to put it together again.”I once told Max, in 2005, that maybe the Opus 3 could be released as a 6 hr power reserve watch. The Cinderella watch, it would have been ideal for a dinner date.

    I waited 7 years, answered over 100 emails or more, as Harry Winston’s then moderator on thePurists website, became close friends with Vianney before he could speak english, and of course….I BELIEVED in the due course of engineering, and in the newer CAD programmes, that later, even maybe as late as 2013, the Opus 3 CAN be made.
    But at what cost?
    Well..it was made at great cost I would presume.
    However, I agree, that it will remain one of FEW milestones in watchmaking that would mark engineering, imagination, CAD and traditional work, but MOST of all…with the Antiqua and the Opus 3, both incidentally made by or concieved by Vianney…as very iconic AHCI works.
    I would estimate that, and I already have offers of people wishing to purchase one at a “certain price”….I will NOT be selling mine.
    The price is set at about $130,000usd officially for RG…I think….and that is a tribute to Harry Winston’s honesty and integrity…but flippers are already demanding $300,000usd for RG and $450,000 for Pt…negotiable.

    • Thanks for your comment, Bernard. I know Max, and I would assume HW, are very appreciative of your contributions and enthusiasm.
      As to pricing, I think it will be a piece that unquestionably retains its value, but I don’t expect the huge premiums to be fetched for long. It is a very weird watch and very small by 2010 standards. I don’t think it will have the mass appeal of something like the Opus 5. I am enjoying my quest to find one for purchase, but not interested in buying a flipped piece.

  • […] as soon as I am allowed to let you all know how I do.  Although if you see me post about my new Opus 3, you can assume I did […]