Review: Romain Jerome 1969 Heavy Metal Silicium
When astronaut Neil Armstrong climbed out of the lunar module and stepped onto the moon’s surface for the first time, he was immediately instructed to scoop up a handful of moon dust and stuff it into his pocket, just so they'd have something in case the mission was suddenly aborted. Well here's your chance to own some of that dust, and it'll cost you just shy of £4,000—oh, and you get a watch thrown in with it for free.
Romain Jerome hasn't had the best of times bringing its DNA watch collection to market, thanks especially to the controversial Titanic watch that incorporated a piece of the sunken ship in its makeup, and it's easy to see why its outlandish designs haven't found universal favour.
It's a young brand, barely in its mid-teens, and it's hard enough to find a foothold in today's saturated market without trying to do it with such a polarising approach. The concept is simple and intriguing, to immortalise the DNA of famous legends and icons into wristwatches that can be worn and appreciated for many lifetimes.
Whether this has been executed in quite the fashion we would have hoped or even expected is questionable; aside from the aforementioned Titanic watch, there's been a Berlin watch, a Tetris watch and a watch for the Eyjafja … Eyjafjalla … that Icelandic volcano. Still, at least there haven’t been any watches with a piece of David Beckham's hair or a slice of Lady Gaga's meat dress on display at Baselworld so far.
Not everyone wants a steel diver with a black dial, however, and a little bit of trawling through Romain Jerome's back catalogue is sure to dig up some very interesting titbits if you're willing to look for them, such as this, the limited edition Romain Jerome 1969 Heavy Metal Silicium.
Part of a 2014 collection of just 99 pieces, the Romain Jerome 1969 Heavy Metal Silicium is the brand's attempt to produce something a little more down to Earth—well, in some ways. While the flagship piece of the collection featured a slice of meteorite in the dial, that's something we've seen many times before, and so it's the Silicium model that draws intrigue.
It may sound less glamorous, less like an undercover superhero fighting force, but the name you may be more familiar with when it comes to silicium is silicon. As well as being the backbone of the both the computer and plastic surgery industries, silicon is a crystalline metalloid that’s brittle like glass, yet looks like metal, and conducts like it's somewhere between both.
It provides the iridescence in opal, resists heat and magnetism yet conducts electricity, makes up 25% of the Earth’s crust, is the seventh most abundant element in the universe and could even provide the building blocks for life. It also looks rather fetching sliced up into a watch dial.
There were three variants of the Silicium originally available, brown, blue and this silver, and each has a completely unique crystalline pattern filling the 43m steel case. Unlike a lot of other Romain Jerome models, the natural beauty of the dial is left clear and uncluttered so it can be freely enjoyed.
Behind the dial beats a Concepto movement, the company behind some of the crazy tourbillon models that Romain Jerome offers, which is a reasonable middle ground between fully in-house and the default ETA, but it's the other half of the dial-movement sandwich that should really be drawing interest.
Turn the watch over, and completing the extra-terrestrial theme is a small medallion resembling the moon. It's made of a more-corrosion resistant version of silver, is infused with moon dust, and will slowly build a patina unique to its owner as it's worn over time.
Maybe you're sold on the 1969 Heavy Metal Silicium, and maybe you're not, but it's still worth appreciating as something a little bit different that offers a unique take on what watchmaking can mean in the 21st century. Perhaps this last little fact might win you over: following the Apollo 11 mission, a disk inscribed with messages of goodwill from 73 different countries was left behind on the lunar surface. The disk was about the size of this dial, and guess what it was made of: silicon.
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