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Feature: Sartory Billard

If you’ve ever had a wild idea for a watch and wished you could somehow bring it to life, then stop dreaming because Sartory Billard just might be able to make that happen. The result? Some of the most impressive dials you’ve ever seen.


The first thought when you hear “custom watch” is expense. Custom Ferrari, custom Rolls Royce—yeah those are synonyms for, ”Let me take your wallet and make it wish it had never been born.” When something is made just once, all the time, effort and expense that goes into developing it happens… for one sale. Quantities of scale max out at one.

The SB04 by Sartory Billard, however, despite being unique to you—unless you, for some reason, copy someone else’s—is not wallet-shrivellingly expensive. It starts at €3,600, which of course isn’t peanuts, but it’s not going to trouble your bank manager any time soon either. I say “starts at” because this is a custom watch, and that means the upper limit of cost is defined by how crazy you choose to take it.

Sartory Billard include a handy little design guide to better help you understand the options you have, or at the very least the core starting points. Think of it a bit like the playable tutorial at the beginning of the game.

Otherwise jumping in can be a bit overwhelming; to say you can have anything, as anyone who’s tried browsing Omega’s online catalogue will attest to, can bring on the paralysis of choice. So Sartory Billard’s guide attempts to pitch the opportunity more at the level of Red Dead Redemption than Dark Souls.

Before you go crazy choosing your spec, what’s the foundation of the SB04 we’re working with here? It’s a three-hander watch in a not-too-complex 40mm case—of a material and finish of your choosing—furnished in back with the entry-level movement du jour, the La Joux-Perret G100. It’s like the omnipresent Sellita, but a more modern architecture and—I think—better looking.

Case thickness is 11.5mm and you get 30m of water resistance. So not one for a swim so much, but then if you think about all this as the potential frame for a piece of unique art, you probably wouldn’t take a Picasso swimming either. And whether or not this watch ends up on par with a Picasso is really up to you. Sartory Billard kicks things off in the design guide with some styling options on hands and markers, which you can choose from a variety of options—or go without entirely.

Then there’s a selection of dial treatments to pick from like different colour titanium, different stones and a variety of guilloche styles. That’s the tutorial over, and that might be all you want. But actually where the fun really lies with Sartory Billard is in what happens next, because this is a full-on open world game where pretty much anything goes.

There’s an inspiration section on the Sartory Billard site as well that shows off some of the creative thinking that’s gone into previous watches. It’s like a wall of fame for imagination. Or shame depending on which ones you look at. From the simplest ideas to the most complex, it’s a mosaic of colours, shapes and textures, that, despite their difference, create a very unique whole. By keeping the case and hands simple but identifiable, Sartory Billard have made sure you know that it is a Sartory Billard, even when the differences appear vast.

It's both the best and worst thing about the brand. The onus isn’t just on the watchmaker to create a watch you like, it’s on you as well. Of course, Sartory Billard will expertly guide you through the process, but ultimately it’s your watch and it’s down to you to make you happy. It’s certainly not for filthy casuals! Because each watch is created custom, I got to go through this process to create one of the SB04 you see here. I’m not going to tell you which, but in that process we discussed a number of different material possibilities that could make for a cool and unusual dial.

Now this is where the Sartory Billard experience really comes into its own. Yes, it’s turning up the difficulty to Nightmare mode, but the opportunities are limited simply by the criteria of fitment, i.e., can it be cut thin enough and will it be stable? They entertained a number of wild ideas before we settled on one, and just looking at the gallery of inspiration, you can see they aren’t shy to experiment.


It’s a very liberating idea, and not unreasonably priced, either. The specification of the SB04 has been otherwise kept sensible to give customers latitude to experiment without straying into mortgage territory. But what if they want to? What if they want something that is not only a picture frame for their artistic choices, but a piece of art itself? That’s where we go up a notch to the SB05, starting at €9,280.

The principle is much the same, except the foundational execution is a marked step up. The 38.5mm case—again in a material and finish of your choosing—gets a polished concave bezel. The inner dial and sub-dial are separated by brushed rings with a polished lip. The hands—oh my goodness, the hands—they’re some of the best in the industry.

I want you to appreciate these two pointy fellows because they represent an enormous amount of work. Not only does the concave, blade-like design look incredibly satisfying, but the multi-faceted construction—not to mention multi-finish—makes the production failure rate staggeringly high. Many of their brothers have fallen to get these hands to what you see here.

The back is as considered as the front, because the SB05’s hand-wound calibre is, again, a step up. Yes, it’s still a La Joux-Perret, but then La Joux-Perret are the guys who keep Arnold & Son ticking, and those are some of the best watches in the world. In this case it’s the calibre 7380, and as well as being nicely finished, it’s also got an unusual layout with the mainspring barrel separated out from the crown and ratchet wheel. That means there’s more to see, whilst giving the practical benefit of offering a 90hr power reserve whilst keeping the watch at just 8.5mm thick.

And yes, the dial offers just as much room for activities. More, in fact, because there’s the outer, inner and sub-dial sections to play with. The SB04 can also have separate outer and inner sections, too, if you were wondering. Want to combine meteorite with mother-of-pearl? A slice of ruby with a ring of aventurine? The world—and watch—is your oyster.


In any Goldilocks trio of product there always has to be a daddy bear, and in the case of Sartory Billard that’s the SB0—you guessed it—6. Here, prices increase considerably to a quick breath-inducing €88,000. The SB06 is the budget-be-damned opportunity for Sartory Billard to really flex its horological muscles, starting with that hallowed watchmaking rite of passage, the tourbillon.

There are two types of SB06. The first is basically a 41 by 9.5mm SB05 with a tourbillon in it, which, considering the SB05 is an attractive watch, is a combination that deserves to exist. The sub-dial widens to fit the tourbillon, which has a structural solidity to its design that looks weighty and solid, more robust than fragile, which suits the watch.

The other type is where things get interesting, because the hour hand has been geared to a half speed with a second tip opposite the first, one representing the sun and the other the moon. The hours are read in the top half of the dial only, and they’re either read sunny side up or with the helpfully lume-tipped moon. Simple, clever, looks very visually satisfying. And it should be, because this hour hand is even harder to make.

This version of the SB06 also gets a three-dimensional engraving of the moon—there’s a sister watch that gets a golden guilloched sun—and a printed ring of numbers that feel very 50s kitsch, which actually seems to work with the lunar-luxe vibe. But where things really reach orbit is with the movement, the first in-house design from Sartory Billard, the SBTV01.

From the gently curved spring for the click up top all the way down to the arched tourbillon bridge, the structure has a pleasingly “designed” feel to it that can be absent in other watches at this or indeed any price point. You get the sense with the large, transparent sapphire bridge and the cascade of wheels, that this hasn’t just been designed to work for the watch, but for your eyes as well.

A contrasting colour behind the silvery wheels and bridges makes understanding its operation very intuitive, and once again, satisfying. The execution of the 96hr movement comes from the expert hands of Comblemine, with finishing performed by Philippe Narbel’s Manufactor SA. I’d have laid off the sapphire engraving, but that’s the beauty of it. If you order one, Sartory Billard can make it however you like.

There’s little more exciting and terrifying than doing something yourself. And the best way to do something yourself is with the supervision of others. That sounds counterintuitive, but my experience with Sartory Billard has shown me that there are so many more avenues of creative thinking left unexplored in this traditional conservative industry that, with a little guidance and feedback, can be reached by the brave few who dare to be different. It’s not an easy journey for sure. It’s not off the peg. It’s a considered experiment whose outcome is as yet unknown. For some, many even, that’s too much. For the brave few, it’s a brand-new adventure.