What the future of watchmaking looks like, according to Swiss label Corum
The latest Heritage Corum Lab 01 watches offer a peek into the watchmaker’s plans in the years to come.
It’s not often that the words heritage and lab are paired together. After all, the former suggests a deep connection to the past, while the latter evokes an image of experimentation and innovation. However, the juxtaposition of these two words neatly encapsulates the intentions behind the latest Heritage Corum Lab 01 watch.
At first glance, the Lab 01 is nothing like any of Corum’s watches in its stable. The vast majority, if not all, of Corum’s watches tend to be either traditional-looking and ornate, like the Golden Bridge, or fun and casual, like the Bubble. The Lab 01, on the other hand, looks almost aggressively futuristic – the result of its asymmetric openworked dial, visible mechanics, barrel-shaped case and sporty rubber detailing.
Eagle-eyed watch connoisseurs will immediately notice that the CO 410 skeletonised calibre housed within the watch is shaped like a barrel, and fits perfectly within the watch’s tonneau case. To have a movement match the exact shape and size of its case is very rare. It indicates that the brand has invested much thought and resources into creating the watch, as a shaped movement can only be paired with the case it was intended for, while conventional round movements can be adapted to a variety of case shapes.
The CO 410 movement was reportedly developed by Le Cercle des Horlogers, a Swiss manufacture that specialises in creating complicated made‑to‑measure movements for various brands. The movement also includes Corum’s signature micro-rotor, visible at 2 o’clock, which has been etched with a contemporary spiral pattern.
The first iterations of the Lab 01 were released at the end of last year, in conjunction with the opening of Corum’s first dedicated boutique in China. The two watches were made out of titanium with a black DLC coating, and had either red or white detailing on the dial. Both were limited to 99 pieces each.
This year, Corum has released a second version made out of Damascus steel, a steel alloy dating as far back as the fourth century CE that can be identified by its distinctive whorled pattern. In theory, steel is repeatedly heated and folded upon itself, then forged under pressure to create an alloy that was extraordinarily durable, flexible, and shatter-resistant. A sword made from the material was supposedly able to hold an exceptionally sharp edge – so sharp it could slice through a strand of hair in mid-air. But while we may call modern versions of the material Damascus steel, the truth is, the original method for forging the material has been lost to history. And although the material has made it into watchmaking before, its use remains relatively rare – for good reason.
So what of Corum’s contemporary Damascus steel? Well, it is certainly not the same as the ancient version, but modern technology has allowed metallurgists to create a close approximate of the material with similar properties. The Damascus steel used on the Lab 01 may not be able to slice through hair, but it certainly has the same beautiful undulating pattern distinctive of the original material. To give it a subtler finish overall, however, Corum has also given the watch a black DLC coating. The use of the ancient material, albeit in a modern guise, in such a futuristic watch could be said to be Corum’s nod to history.
The release of the Heritage Corum Lab 01 watch signals that the brand is beginning to focus on innovation and novelty, rather than just relying on heritage and history to generate interest in its new watches. And this is just the beginning – the Lab 02 and Lab 03 are apparently already in the works. There is certainly nothing wrong with paying tribute to historical pieces – the recent glut of vintage‑inspired pieces is a strong indication of the trend’s longevity, and consumer interest still remains relatively robust. But there is only so far history can take you. The Lab 01 is definitely an interesting development for Corum, and we are looking forward to the Lab 02.