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Introducing: The Spanish Watchmaker Bringing Back The Detent Escapement

Sep 29, 2022

Raúl Pagès' third creation features his first in-house movement.

Spanish watchmaker Raúl Pagès cut his teeth working in the restoration workshops for Parmigiani Fleurier and Patek Philippe before setting out to create his own brand in the early 2010s. And last week, we received word of the independent watchmaker's latest release.

Raùl Pagés at his bench

Raúl Pagès

The new Régulateur à détente RP1 is a departure from Pagés' previous work. Unlike the Soberly Onyx before it, the RP1 features the first application of Pagés' new manual-wind movement, an in-house production that introduces a new take on an old-school style of escapement – the pivoted detent. And before you ask, yes, Pagés both designed this escapement system and crafts each example by hand.

To borrow from our very own Watch 101 section, the traditional detent escapement "uses a very thin blade spring with a jewel mounted on it to hold the escape wheel in place; a jewel on the balance trips the spring as it passes, which releases the escape wheel, allowing it to advance. The escape wheel then gives impulse directly to the balance, and is locked again as the blade spring falls back into place."

The detent mechanism with Pages's patented anti-tripping mechanism

The detent mechanism features Pagés' patented anti-tripping mechanism.

The pivoted detent escapement has long been associated with precision timekeeping, dating to the age of marine chronometers and the work of Pierre Le Roy, John Arnold, and Thomas Earnshaw. The detent is, however, dangerously susceptible to shocks, which has generally limited its application in the modern era. In the early 2010s, Urban Jurgensen challenged that notion with the P8 caliber used inside of its ref. 1140C wristwatch. Christophe Claret and Bulgari followed with their own attempts a few years after that, so this is rarefied air that Pagés is operating in.

Pagés' take on the detent escapement introduces a safety roller – what he describes as an "anti-tripping" mechanism – on top of the balance staff that catches the detent in case of a shock, protecting the escapement from impact. 

Pagés crafted the unlocking spring for the detent by hand; it measures just 0.02mm thick. He also went out of his way to position the fourth wheel on the dial-side of the watch in order to best showcase the unique detent escapement without distraction.

A diagram illustrating Pages' pivoted detent mechanism with patented anti-tripping mechanism.

A diagram illustrating Pages' pivoted detent mechanism with patented "anti-tripping" mechanism, both are in red. 

On the other side of the watch, the dial aesthetics offer a more modern take (Pagés cites Le Corbusier as an inspiration here) on another classical element of watchmaking – the regulator display.

The regulator, of course, breaks the measurement of time down to completely separate indicators; hours, minutes, and seconds all have a separate, isolated position on the dial instead of sharing a pinion at the dial's center. On the RP1, the minutes hand remains in the middle, the passing hours are at 12 o'clock and running seconds at six o'clock.

The Raùl Pagés Régulateur à détente RP1 on a grey backdrop.

The generally muted grey dial is enhanced by an inky black flange and a light blue small seconds. The specific shade of blue used on the six o'clock sub-dial was sourced from a color palette produced by Le Corbusier in 1959 called Polychromie Architecturale. The colors are attractive and different, but the show-stealing aspect of the RP1 is its subtle three-dimensionality. Sunken sub-dials, cantilevered minutes, and a seconds dial nearly framed with a diamond-polished barrier brings a lot of extra life to the proceedings.

It's all completed by a stainless steel case with enthusiast-friendly proportions of 38.5mm × 10.2mm.

Raúl Pagès may seem like a fresh face, but he's been in the game for a decade-plus. He set up his workshop in Les Brenets, Switzerland in 2012, making this year the tenth anniversary of his going at things alone. So it didn't feel right to write him up as a One To Watch, our column hitting young watch brands on the rise. But the new RP1 is, in fact, an impressive release worth highlighting, one that establishes a new horological signature for the 40-year-old watchmaker, offering a new take on old-world horology for today's discerning watch collector.

The Régulateur à détente RP1 benefits from Pagés' background in restoration, bringing to life a number of decorative hand-finished touches. The nickel-silver bridges have been extensively frosted with beveled edges; the anglage on each bridge are extensively black-polished, as is the steel cock for the detent shaft. Every tooth on the ratchet and crown wheels has been beveled and polished by hand. The click is fashioned from mirror-polished steel and has been beveled by hand.

A flatlay of the movement inside the Raùl Pagés Régulateur à détente RP1, on a grey background.

We haven't seen an example of the Régulateur à détente RP1 in person yet, but it's clearly an impressive example of horological handcraft. And it will be a hard watch to find in the near future; Pagés says he's only able to produce four to five examples per year. 

There's not much precedent on pricing for watches with in-house detent escapements, and the time and effort involved in the RP1's construction are clearly shown in its final price tag of $85,000, a tall figure for a time-only watch. 

Brand: Raúl Pagès Model: Régulateur à détente RP1 Diameter: 38.5mm Thickness: 10.2mm Case Material: 316L stainless steel Dial Color: Sandblasted, diamond and nickel-plated dial; Black nickel-plated minutes flange; Seconds dial matte lacquered, cerulean blue 59 Indexes: Diamond-polished, circular-grained and rhodium-plated hours flange Lume: N/A Water Resistance: 30 meters Strap/Bracelet: Leather strap

The dial of the Raùl Pagés Régulateur à détente RP1

Pagés says the dial aesthetics are inspired by Le Corbusier. 

Caliber: In-house RP1, with detent escapement Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds Diameter: 33.6mm Thickness: 5.6mm Power Reserve: 47 hours Winding: Manual Frequency: 3Hz Jewels: 17 Additional Details: Pivoted detent escapement with "anti-tripping" system; variable inertia balance with four 18K gold weights; 171 total components

For more on the Raúl Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1, click here.

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