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BeauBleu Seconde Française Ref. 20.24 Pearl Grey

Haute Horology At Our Reach

I’ve said it before and I will say again, and again, and again: micro/independent brands give the bigger brands a run for their money in terms of ingenuity and attainability. In early March of this year (2024) I had the privilege of being in Geneva during Watches & Wonders, and though I didn’t go see said show, I spent a great amount of time at two auxiliary watch gatherings. One at the Beau Rivage Hotel and the other at Time to Watches. In both places I saw magnificent—sublime even—watches made by hand, showcasing the most delicious of finishes and mechanical prowess. But each time, one would have to spend anywhere between $10,000 to $80,000 USD to acquire such marvel. As much as I love watches, and just as much as I love many other things, spending that much money on unnecessary items is frivolous—I say. 

But yet again, micro/independent brands are here to save us from these magnificent, and again sublime even, timekeeping devices by offering us novel and unique designs, a different way to look at the concept of passing time, and which also happen to be very well made and much more attainable than the aforementioned hyper expensive watches. So today it is my pleasure to be telling you about the newest release from French brand BeauBleu named “Seconde Française” (do I need to translate?) and in particular, the ref. 20.24. Pearl Grey. My love and obsession for gray dial watches started many moons ago and so I was more than happy to borrow this particular model in order to tell you about this fabulous new collection. 


I’d rather go straight telling to you about the design and the biggest star of the show of the Seconde Française—the floating seconds hand—however, we will first go through the specs of this beauty. Because what BeauBleu offers, in addition to novelty in design and a different approach to the idea of timekeeping, are great proportions and superior (to its price tag) quality in the manufacturing and finishing of its creations. So that we can look at something different and be assured to wear a quality watch, which isn’t always a given. So, dimensions wise we find a case measuring 39mm in diameter, 45mm lug-to-lug, 10.2mm thick, and coming in with a 20mm lug width. Since by now you know my wrist size by heart, you can easily tell that this watch wears really well on my French wrist. And I’d add that it is surprisingly light (58g on the full metal bracelet.) 

Inside we find a French made France Ébauche FE caliber that beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 46 hours of power reserve. From what I can tell, France Ébauche works closely with Swiss movement manufacturer Soprod which should indicate that we have a robust movement and one, as you can tell from the photos, that is quite handsome to look at thanks to a see-through sapphire case-back. Moreover, the stainless steel case showcases outstanding finishing where both the mirror-polished surfaces and brushed ones flow seamlessly with one another, from one end of the case to the other. And the fitted mesh bracelet enhances the delicate contours of the case and matches its finish. (The mesh construction is so fine that from afar and in certain angles, the bracelet appears to be fully polished although it isn’t.) 

One key element of the bracelet I’m particularly fond of is the tiny clasp that can be fastened at any length of the bracelet—in other words, it fits any wrists, from my friend Sophie’s tiny 14cm wrist to that of a lumber jack’s. It’s a small detail that makes a whole world of difference. Although the push/pull crown is purposely small and tucked away, it is easy to operate to wind the movement and set the time, and the double domed sapphire crystal, complete with anti-reflective coating, ensures a clear view and worry-free wearing experience. Again, BeauBleu does not only make beautiful, unique, and ultra creative designs, but also very-well made timekeeping devices. 


Alright, now that we’ve got the more than decent spec sheet out-of-the-way, we can focus on the design of the Seconde Française ref. 20.24 Pearl Grey. If you are familiar with the brand BeauBleu then you most likely have heard of it because of the different way its founder and artistic director, Nicolas Ducoudert, decided to display time. Instead of hands that are, generally speaking, long, thin, and shaped like leaves or swords, Nicolas opted to replace these classic accoutrements with perfectly circular hands. The circular shape of the hands works, of course, with the circular dial and rounded case, and one would wonder why no-one has ever thought of this before. But here we are. In spite of the unusual shape of the hands, telling the time is quite easy as the hour “hand” is much smaller than the minute “hand” and both have a large element that points to the hour and minute tracks, respectively. (So that we know what hour and minute it is.) 

The Seconde Française ref. 20.24 is the first BeauBleu I got to spend some quality time with and I’ve have to say that reading the time is much easier than I had originally thought. Although they aren’t easy to see, both the hour and minute tracks are sculpted in a gentle relief on the dial (the latter has many levels) making them visible and not, just the same,  whenever we don’t care to know exactly what time it is. I will get back to this point later but the goal of Nicolas Ducoudert, and in particular with this new model, was to offer a somewhat relaxed experience of and appreciation for time. If you pay close attention, the “hour disc” has twelve notches but they aren’t aligned as you would expect, meaning that what should be the 12 o’clock marker is either slightly to the right or the left. After a few minutes of wearing the Seconde Française, I got used to reading the time in this fashion. 

So the biggest star of the show (to me at least) is the floating seconds hand which is depicted here in blue, which, from an aesthetic perspective, works very well with the white hour and minute hands as well as the gray dial. You won’t be able to tell from the photos but the magic behind the floating seconds hand is a transparent disc on which was incised the circle for the denoting the seconds. The disc is attached to the pinion although it is impossible to see how it is done with the naked eye. So it does really appear that the seconds disc floats across the dial which is a majestic spectacle to witness. Furthermore, in most lighting conditions, the seconds disc casts a moving shadow on the dial which duplicates twofold the unique experience it is to read the time on this watch. 

The Heart of the Matter

At the heart of the matter is the fact that BeauBleu created something new and different—which can or cannot be your thing—that is rather attainable price-wise. Indeed, the Seconde Française ref. 20.24 retails between $1,614 and $1,720 USD depending on whether you opt for the bracelet or a leather strap. Think what you must about how much a watch “should cost,” you know what I’m about to say: don’t put a price tag on the design. And here, I would add that you should not put a price tag on the engineering that was required to create a floating seconds hand and the manufacturing costs by which you get a well-made and superbly finished timepiece. Granted, more than $1,000 USD is a lot of money to spend on a watch for many, but here I argue it would be wisely spent. 

Let’s take a moment to finally discuss the case. It is sublime and I am comfortable—and confident—using this word for two reasons: it doesn’t look like something else I’ve seen before and it comes with top-notch finishing. Visually it is striking for the fact that it appears to have a multipart construction where the mid section of the case looks like a ledge that keeps everything neatly in place—and the crown tucked away underneath—while the lower section of the case, fully polished, appears below the “ledge.” If you have a good eye, you can see that the “ledge” (sorry, I need to find a better word to describe it) slopes down and up towards its center. Just a tiny detail that shows how much time and effort Nicolas spent designing this model. 

And yet again I must come back to the ledge which is adorned with a superb mirror-like polishing job. (Sorry guys, I really couldn’t find a better way to describe this part of the case.) 

As you can tell, the BeauBleu Seconde Française ref. 20.24 Pearl Gray is a true masterpiece of creativity and construction. And, as mentioned earlier, it can be had for a reasonable price. If this model was handmade in Switzerland and equipped with a rare movement, you could easily have added at least one zero to the price tag. And what I find to be fascinating about this model, therefore, is the fact that many of us can have a unique horological experience and be allowed to delve into Nicolas’ creative mind without having to mortgage our house or decide to eat peas and bread for the rest of our lives. That is important and that is what matters the most here. (I mean, to me of course.)




Now that I’ve handled a BeauBleu in the calm environment that is my home, I can easily understand why so many watch enthusiasts and collectors support the brand and Nicolas’ work. As I read somewhere, creativity breeds constraints, and Nicolas’ limitation here was to find a way to make us read time in a radically different way. And if I did my job well, we can agree that there is a lot to like here, both visually and mechanically. One last detail I would like to mention about this particular reference is the fact that the hour and minute discs are lumed, which is not the case for all variants. Because the Seconde Française also comes in the reference 19.24 that has a  slightly different dial layout. 

If you like what you saw here today and are into micro/independent horology, then I encourage you to take a look at BeauBleu’s website here

Thanks for reading. 


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