Ornatus watches are all about the dial, hand-engraved with intricate motifs that have the timeless perfection of mandalas, recalling the rose windows of medieval churches, and the circular knot motifs that were of such fascination to Leonardo da Vinci. Each Ornatus watch is individually crafted and so the purchaser develops a special relationship with the watch from the very start. Inside is a Swiss-made mechanical movement providing basic time functions. (Below, Ornatus Arabesco).
The dials are in silver that are electroplated with gold or rhodium, or a combination, providing beautiful effects that vary according to lighting and the position of the watch. The black PVD coating used in some versions provides a fascinating contrast to the golden highlights. The ETA movements are also carefully decorated and plated in yellow gold or rhodium, and are visible through sapphire glass casebacks. Cases are 42 mm in diameter in steel, with 50 metres water resistance. The watches are mounted on black Louisiana alligator straps with Ornatus-branded clasps. Each watch is specially made to the customer’s order, and considering that each dial can take up to 150 hours of work to craft, the price range from €1,500 (excluding VAT) to €3,195 is exceptionally low.
We spoke to company founder Viktor Schumacher, who is based in Düsseldorf, Germany. He told us more about the Ornatus style.
How did you become interested in watchmaking?
“My first mechanical watch was given to me by my father when I was six and I was starting at school. It was a Wostok Komandirskie with a Wostok 2414A movement, and although it was a very simple watch, it was a treasure to me and awakened my love for mechanical watches. I was also interested in jewellery, and later a retired master engraver who happened to be our neighbour taught me to understand and love the complex process of engraving jewellery. However it was not until 2005 when I wanted to give my father something special for his milestone birthday that the Ornatus style became reality. Since he always has been a watch enthusiast I wanted to return him that feeling he had given me when he gave me my first watch, and treat him with a special watch. It was the art of hand engraving which led to the creation of the first hand-engraved watch dial, and the desire to treat a beloved person with something unique.”
What are the elements that create the characteristic appearance of an Ornatus watch?
“Ornatus watches are equipped with hand-engraved sterling silver dials whose appearance varies in different lighting conditions, bringing our watches to life. Depending on the time of day and the light, the shades of colours of an Ornatus dial can vary from cool bluish white silver to a warm golden colour, and they complemented by the seductive sparkle of the pattern at the centre.”
Could you tell us why you have adopted the hand-crafted approach to your watches?
“Watches exclusively made by hand for an individual customer is a luxury which only very few manufacturers can afford today. In times of computerized mass production, Ornatus takes a different approach. Our watches are built by hand to the client´s personal taste, requirements and specifications. You can select the parts for your timepiece, such as our hand-engraved dials and movements, or let us manufacture the dial and engravings on the movement especially to your request, thus allowing you to design your own individual watch. The amount of handcraft involved is very high. From the very first sketch, that can be made to the customer’s initial idea, right through to the actual engraving on the dial and movement, can take a gifted engraver many work hours. For this reason it is impossible to produce large numbers. It takes time to create unique pieces, which gives you the certainty that you are wearing something truly exquisite and therefore timeless. The finished watch is delivered in an exclusive travel leather box made by Buben&Zörweg together with a certificate with the watch name and specifications. Every certificate has a unique design based on the engravings of the watch and its colour scheme.”
Why have you selected ETA 6497/6498 movements?
“I have always been fascinated by the ETA 6498. Like all great innovations its construction is straightforward and simple, and therefore it is very reliable, it can be precisely adjusted and it is also easy to maintain. I would say that it is one of the best watch movements ever designed, for its ruggedness and accuracy. In addition, they are less expensive to maintain. While for instance very complicated movements have to be sent back to the manufacturer to get serviced or repaired, our movements can be serviced for small fees by almost every watchmaker anywhere in the world. Another positive factor is that these movements provide enough space to engrave complex patterns and therefore fulfil customer demands. The movement and its beating heart can be viewed through the large sapphire glass caseback, enabling you to make the fascinating journey to the interior of a watch where you meet a gleaming microcosm consisting of many different mechanical components brought to life and embellished with sparkling engravings. The main plate is decorated front and back with classical laborious pearl decor applied by hand, and likewise the pallet fork bridge. The crown wheel is decorated with a double-row guilloché, the ratchet wheel with a three-row original Glashütte sunray guilloché, and both are plated with 24-carat yellow gold. The screws are thermally blued. The movement is regulated with swan-neck fine adjustment and Glycudur balance with screws.”
Do you have any news about new watches for 2015?
In 2015, four new models are going to be introduced. One of them will be an Ornatus watch with a sterling silver marine dial. We will also be launching a unisex version with an automatic movement and 38mm case diameter for smaller wrists.”
How would you describe the essence of Ornatus?
“The name of the brand says it all. My general philosophy for Ornatus is to produce exquisite, hand crafted, ornate timepieces that unite time, art and jewellery and adhere to the finest, traditional techniques of engraving in order to embellish the wearer’s personality.”
Contact details for Ornatus watches: