During my trip to Singapore for TEMPUS I had the pleasure to meet another fresh breath of air in innovative and unique style that John and Stephen McGonigle brothers bring to the connoisseurs of the implacable horology from the school of independent watchmaking.
This was my first time having a sincere pleasure to meet and get to know both work and the person that is Mr. John McGonigle. I wouldn’t be really honest if I wouldn’t say straight out that besides being a truly a dedicated artist in the watchmaking field he is one lovable b@stard an obvious well known joke by now (and I do mean this with all the love and due respect). John over the time of Tempus became a person one would flock to unintentionally, not only due to his charming & realistic persona, but due to his infectious knowledge of watchmaking art especially in the way he would go about conveying. Need I say that some of the best talks we had were late night over cigars and beers.
All photography by Kok Choon Tay
Admittedly I only read about McGonigle brothers work in one article before meeting John in TEMPUS and was floored when I actually had a chance to examine and learn more about their sole model – the magnificent Tourbillon. Without a doubt IMVHO not taking into account the non-lubricated MJLC Extreme Lab this has to be by far the most impressive reinterpretations of this impressive classic complication. After talking to John I realized that very often the simplest ideas that would seem just the right solution on paper in practice sometimes don’t achieve the desired result or effect. This is when a studious and artful genius of watchmaker comes to shine like in example of novel application of cut sapphire crystal for displaying the wonderfully suspended Tourbillon cage.
From the lovely photography of my good friend Kok Chooon one can see the artistry applied in creating this stunning dial, M-shaped Tourbillion suspension arches (is the M for McGonigle or in my vain case for Milan LOL), the intricate hand wound mechanical movement development paired with bespoke finishing and lastly the gorgeous and oh so fitting Celtic font that furnish that unmistakable Irish DNA.
The Tourbillion cage “less is more” approach (dispensing with the regulator, removing weight from either side) grants an effort more efficient regardless of not being an easy thing to accomplish it presents a clean yet more aesthetic visceral appearance.
The distinctive captivating dial is machined out of sapphire crystal with 6 o’clock opening framing the tourbillon cage and at the top displaying the wolf teeth gearing of the mainspring barrel. The other two levels of the dial are not instantly recognizable unless carefully examined or being fortunate to have it convey by John. Under the sapphire dial there is barrel bridge (electro plated either in grey ruthenium or chrome black) which is fashioned in the same shape and provides that pleasing contrast for the dial graphics. The last lowest level is German silver ring with holes drilled for hour indexes completing the look of the dial. This all contributes to functional legibility of the piece as well artistic interpretation that draws the light toward the piece de resistance which is the tourbillon cage.
Another unique aspect are the grained and beveled arrow hands which are either polished or blue steel. The slightly oval case (available either in platinum or red gold) purposely fitted with strong and IMO very masculine lugs further complements the whole design of the piece especially when taking into account the purposefully large crown featuring their Celtic logo.
Undoubtedly the knowledge and extensive work that John performed for the stalwarts of the haute horology industry has certainly endowed him with immense mastery in his field, but it is his ingenious approach to attain his personal watch making objective and to spare no cost be it time, effort or capital. I finally understood what time consuming and painstaking endeavor an artist goes through to achieving his masterwork to see the light of day. At around almost 4 months of meticulous workmanship for each of these wonderful pieces the lucky customers will really get a piece of contemporary horology art signed by the McGonigle(s). Actually due to no outside assembly and the limited production there are no conventional numbering with their pieces instead each watch is dated and signed by one of the watchmaker be it John or Stephen. I am looking forward with trepidation and excitement at hearing what is the next piece in stored for us.