By Ryan Walsh
Breaking new product that also has a valuable human-asset side is not always easy. But Fonderie 47 now releases its 18-karat gold version of a very important watch. It was about five years ago, that a young company called Fonderie 47 created a watch unlike any other timepiece on the market. Like several other recently launched watch brands, Fonderie 47 has a number in its name. In this instance, though that 47 stands for something quite substantial. In fact the 47 stands for is the titan of a weapon, the AK47.
Essentially, Fonderie takes AK47s from African warzones, and melts them down into watch pieces with the goal of an Africa free of fear from assault weapons. With so much turmoil in Africa, 30,000 AK47s have been melted down, to date, rather than circulating around and getting into bad hands.
From one if the most notorious weapons in the world to date, the AK47 was first developed in 1949, and has been used by approximately 110 different nations. By melting the metal down and using it in timepieces, Fonderie47 has transformed the AK47 from an instrument that may have made the difference between life or death, or capture or freedom in an individual’s life, or even to a nation to an instrument that is elegant, classy, and beautiful. Funds from the sale of the Fonderie 47 watches are used for the removal and destruction of assault weapons from Africa.
The brand’s first watch, called Inversion Principle, was so intriguing and well received that it was even chosen in 2013 by the Foundation of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève as one of the top 70 Horological creations of the year… not bad for a first timepiece if you ask me. Designed by Adrian Glessing, and built by David Candaux/Du Val De Bois, the Inversion Principle watch – now in its second edition – offered in 18-karat gold and with a few subtle nuances — is a Central Three-Minute Flying Tourbillon with instantaneous jumping hours, quick-set pusher, 240-degree retrograde minutes, and lateral and back power reserve. WHEW! Not only is it a mouthful, but also it is a technically superior work of art.
Keeping true to idea of why and how the timepieces were conceived, some mechanisms and features slightly resemble certain characteristics of an AK47. A central 3-minute flying tourbillion sets dead center of the face, seeking and receiving all of the attention, somewhat akin to a rifle’s site. Orbiting on high above the movement, the central 3-minute flying tourbillon dominates the three-dimensional dial. Three separate seconds’ handsequally spaced 120° apart around the tourbillon cage. Only one second-hand is visible at any time, however, and the other two are hidden under the gold rifle-sight inspired frame set into the sapphire crystal.
Another less obvious connection between the timepiece and the AK47 lies in the fact that, like the mechanics of a semi or fully automatic weapon that snap sharply and precisely into place, the instantaneous jumping hour at 12:00 jumps precisely as the hour passes, and the large 240-degree retrograde seconds hand flies to zero sharply on cue.
The long 6-day power reserve has both a lateral indication via a sapphire window set into the left side of the case band and a second indication visible through the display back – offering multiple small indicators similar to the ejection port of the assault rifle. The case back is finished with a dark metal plate created of the transformed steel from the AK 47 and shaped in the form of the brand’s symbol. As the AK47 is known for its ruggedness, the Inversion Principle has a 6 day power reserve, and is water resistant to 100 feet.
If you are a gun enthusiast (everything in proper perspective) like me, you may wonder what else resembles an AK47, and question why the details aren’t spot on. However, for the founder of Fonderie, the concept was not to make a watch the shape of an AK47, but rather to have subtle details and hints dropped throughout. In fact, when Fonderie 47 founder Peter Thum first approached watchmaker/movement designer David Candaux, with his ambitious request to create an original and distinctive complicated high-end watch using the best of traditional Swiss watchmaking techniques and yet incorporating aspects of the AK47 rifle, he was not sure of what the result would be. In fact, Candaux’s movement offers discreet similarities. By turning to Geneva-based watch designer Adrian Glessing for the case and dial, a new level of subdued similarities appeared, including the gun-sight inspired bezel cross piece.
Thum, pursuer of a cleaner, safer world, insists that revenues from each watch sold will go toward paying for the destruction of 1,000 assault weapons in Arica. Thum is the man behind the launch of the 2003 Ethos Water – a product created to fund clean water projects in Africa and around the world. While visiting safe water projects in Africa, Thum became aware of the problems caused by widespread availability of assault rifles and decided to launch luxury jewelry and watch brand. Fonderie 47 was born.
This second version of the Inversion Principle is created in a limited edition of just 20 pieces: 10 in 18k white gold, and 10 in 18k rose gold – retailing for $195,000 each.