Lot 809, Alain Silberstein Marine Tourbillon, “Black Sea”. A rare, unusal and eccentric limited edition PVD-coated titanium tourbillon wristwatch with guarantee and presentation box, numbered 1 of a limited edition of 9 pieces. Estimate HK $70,000-140,000 (No Reserve)
Although an Alain Silberstein watch collaboration is now instantly recognizable, we must go back to when the former interior designer was first bitten by the watchmaking bug, and turned his attention to the wonderful but challenging world of horology in the 1980s. The landscape was considerably different, with many still fearing that the quartz crisis of the ‘70s had rung the death knoll for traditional watchmaking. Watches had become functional items rather than examples of craftsmanship and design. A relatively small number of brands saw much future in mechanical watches, especially given that the industry’s core strength was not in design, but rather in the ability to produce movements at reasonable prices on an industrial level. Indeed, there was a time where Switzerland had been favored due to the low cost of producing watch mechanisms there. A spark occurred when the original Swatch watch (perhaps not the most creative name, being a concatenation of “Swiss Watch”) made its appearance in the mid 80s, and the Swiss watch had found an opening through design and making the watches desirable and collectable through the fashion aspect. This is what inspired Alain Silberstein, and his wife Sylvie, to turn their attention to watchmaking, where he found an avenue to express his Bauhaus sensibilities and establish what would become his trademark aesthetic. The Silbersteins had established themselves in Besançon, which was coincidentally one of the key historic centers for watchmaking in France. Having already opened an interior design agency, they were called upon to work on a watch design project and were so enamored with that world that it became their sole focus. In 1987, Silberstein would present his first three prototypes in Baselworld. Just three years later, their interior design agency would close so that they could concentrate solely on their horological ventures.
Silberstein would be one of those who broke the traditional molds of watchmaking; he didn’t believe in shapes having to be just round or rectangular. Watch hands did not need to be straight, crowns could be triangular, and mechanisms such as the tourbillon should not be solely reserved for precious materials and classical interpretations. In a way, these are concepts that we almost take for granted today, but two decades ago, they were truly revolutionary. Although the Alain Silberstein brand was ultimately overtaken by the incredible growth that the watchmaking industry experienced from the late ‘90s onwards, he has collaborated on watch designs with MB&F, Romain Jerome, and Louis Erard. This has brought a new awareness to his name and signature aesthetic, with growing interest in watches that he crafted under his own brand, as they have undoubtedly had an impact on some of the today’s creative watchmakers and designers.