Built upon the brand’s DNA of transparency, community, and fair prices, Code41 watches are a watch collector’s dream given form. Ordinarily, following a “wish-list” of design elements and attributes contributes to a ‘many chef’s spoil the soup” situation but when it came to Code41, the crowdsourced input resulted in a collection that is not only appealing but substantially differentiated from many “kickstarter” generation of watches. Day41, the latest Code41 watch to follow the crowd-sourced “design & build” model recalls the openworked aesthetics of its premium predecessor without the price tag. But in order to understand the value proposition of the Day41, it stands to reason that we need to understand the philosophy of the watch models that came before it.
In this age of kickstarter watches, many brands make claims of “disrupting” a billion dollar industry but most if not all, never seem to do anything worthwhile with their clout and connection. The internet has democratised a lot of watch knowledge and where Code41 watches excel is that their early projects focused on the high-end segment of Swiss watchmaking – a rarity in most instances – building their provenance with the early foundations of something they called the X41.
The first X41 pre-orders took place in March 2019, and it was an unbelievable success! 700 watches (500 Creator Editions and 200 Edition 2s) were sold within 30 days for a total of 2,847,915 CHF.
For a watch to be Swiss Made, at least 60% of its value must come from Switzerland. The figure for the X41 project is 90%, easily exceeding this requirement.
The peripheral weight fitted to the X41 movement is a symbol of the genuine technical feats achieved by only a handful of brands. Many big-name brands have already attempted to integrate such a feature, often only to abandon it because the ball bearing was too loud, inefficient and costly to implement. In the case of the X41 movement, after several years of development, these problems have been resolved by the brand’s partner by machining the components of the ball bearing in-house, in order to guarantee perfect dimensions and finishing.
Founded by luxury timepiece designer Claudio D’Amore in 2016, a 10 year veteran at brands like TAG Heuer and Montblanc, he understood that the coins of the realm of haute horlogerie spun on two precepts – provenance, and where lacking, the know-how and reputation gained from creating a manufacture (in-house) or collaborating on the creation of an exclusive calibre. The Code41 X41 with Grande Date (usually featured in the highest echelons of watchmaking) and peripheral weight (a technical feat seen only in a handful of ultra-thin watch models in the industry), had each component machined in Switzerland, exclusively for the Code41 community and decorated according an active forum discussion of member feedback.
What result was impressive, decoration and assembly executed by hand, with aesthetics which were referential to modern sport luxury timepieces but not derivative – a tough challenge even for established watchmakers. The Code41 X41 featured unique design language without being too unfamiliar – a circular bezel upon a cushion midcase with pronounced Code41 (now) signature lugs – it was a visual language that was recognisable yet distinct from an increasingly crowded marketplace of “me too” sportive luxury watches.
The Evolution of Code41 watches
After achieving close to CHF 6 million across two rounds of Kickstarter funding and selling 1150 timepieces the X41 with its Limited edition movement designed, manufactured and assembled entirely in Switzerland, set watch connoisseurs on notice.
After establishing their horological kudos, Code41’s next editions: The Anomaly 01 and Anomaly 02 were a little more approachable. “Total Transparency on Origin” or TTO is a concept on which Code41 watches are built. This means that its 300,000 strong community have knowledge of origin, material and production costs – hence a typical 20,000€ manufacture calibre timepiece like the X41 ended up retailing for 5,500€, a three to four multiplier mark-up accounting for design, manpower and profitability for business continuation and also research & development.
Code41 Anomaly 02
Having established a design language in terms of its undeniably masculine yet exquisitely refined case, the Anomaly 01 looked to Japan, the land of ultra-reliable Japanese Miyota 82S7 movement, a work-horse calibre found in most other entry level micro-brand. It’s no X41 but neither it is priced like one, nevertheless, the same finishing and decorative touches, albeit machine finished now rather than by hand, attempt to replicate the style and countenance of its premium predecessor, executed in a variety of materials ranging from the more commonplace PVD coated steel treatment to the more exciting forged carbon case. Code41’s Anomaly 02 combines the character and technicality of the case with an understated and elegant engine-turned guilloche dial fronting a robust Swiss ETA 2824 automatic calibre.
“In attempting to create a beautiful women’s watch, in the end we’ve quite simply made a beautiful watch, regardless of gender.”
Conceived to fulfil a market demand for a dedicated women’s timepiece, Day41 was emblematic of Code41’s desire to create a beautiful women’s watch and in endowing the concept with the architecture and structure (sans Grande Date) reminiscent of the X41, that is to say – open worked dial with exposed bridges featuring alternating sand-grained and cotes de Geneve finishing, the resulting Day41 was dangerously closed to be a missed opportunity in creating an appealing, gender-neutral timepiece.
Mechanical watches and their inherent need for regular manual intervention like date and time setting should the power reserve run empty or even manual winding via the crown were traditionally thought of antithesis to well-manicured feminine fingers. However, the women of the Code41 community showed that they too are fond of raw, machined, mechanical designs; and the heightened, yet refined creativity of the Code41 Day41 is exemplary of feminine input.
The signature Code41 case returns in its sophisticated elegance, reworked to appropriately smaller 37mm and 40mm proportions as opposed to 42mm on its predecessor X41 and Anomaly series of Code41 watches. That said, its recognisable “Code41” lugs and chambered structure, reinforcing the visual DNA of the brand, still carrying the attention to fine decorative details like glossing to micro-beading emblematic of Code41 watchmaking.
Where Code41’s Day41 excels, comparative to the Anomaly series, is the design codes recalling the skeleton dial of the more premium X41. Instead of a Miyota or ETA2824, Code41 opted for a STP6-15 automatic calibre from Swiss Technology Production. Even in default form, the skeletonised calibre is based on the STP1-11, a clone of the popular ETA 2824-2 with higher technical specifications: namely, a longer mainspring and hence greater 44 hour power reserve and incorporating Hacking Seconds- the seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled for time adjustment position, lending itself to greater precision time setting and Hand Winding, the ability for manual winding.
From the first step of DAY41 to the last, only the votes of the female members CODE41 community were taken into account. This direct, democratic approach to traditional mechanical watchmaking design showcases aesthetic choices which even surprise a veteran watch journalist like myself – masculine skeleton bridges were chosen by the voters as opposed to what I perceived as gentler, more feminine organic forms. Though Chapter 27 revealed some simultaneously surprising and unsurprising information – men do like diamonds on their watches but paired with more subdued colour palettes like PVD black or matte grey finishing while women opted for rose gold models with precious stones.
As a micro-brand, Code41 isn’t exactly disrupting the industry like what other kickstarter watch brands’ bombastic (and unbelievable) claims, however, speaking from a watch connoisseur’s perspective, Code41’s approach to crowd-sourced design is revealing aesthetic choices and consumer preferences that established watchmakers should definitely take note of or risk being disrupted.
All Code41 Day41 pieces sold during the 30 days of pre-sales will be Creator Editions [PRE-ORDER].
Number of first edition pieces available: 1,000 watches for delivery in September/October 2020
Day41 Price and Specs
Movement Automatic STP6-15 movement with 44 hours power reserve
Case 37mm or 40mm stainless steel with 50 metres water resistance
Strap Steel or leather including 3 Eco-friendly straps made from recycled leather, flax, and paper
Price From $900