creating an incredible watch


during the first lockdown in 2020, albert zeller and mark schwarz of swiss design studio VAULT decided to create a new watch with three clear objectives: 1. challenge the status quo, innovate, and explore new directions, 2. create a stealthy watch by day and a showstopper by night, and 3. have a lot of fun in the process. 


the result of this exciting journey was the V2+ RCT, a stealthy ultra-light watch with an engraved movement plate and glowing 3D hour numerals and minute hands. its creation took over 12 months —from inception to completion— during which the designers overcame big challenges, tried out new technologies, made new friends, and had the chance to bring in some light in a time plagued by the global pandemic.

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front view detail

all images courtesy of VAULT 


Dark-Matter Carbon Composite Case


the design team at VAULT decided to create a stealthy ultra-lightweight composite not only to achieve a stealthy look, but also to reduce the overall weight of the watch as much as possible. to complete this case, the firm collaborated with fatcarbon, whose cutting-edge dark-matter carbon composite ideally fitted the project brief. dark-matter composite is made by using recycled carbon fiber strands mixed with a bio epoxy resin, which is 35% plant-based and crafted using renewable energies. 


after the test phase, it was time for VAULT’s partner rené gschwend from RGB X-tech to calibrate his five-axis CNC machine and fire it up. more than 40 hours of CNC milling later, the new case was finally finished. the firm’s previous V2+ models had received two engraving plates installed on the main plate of the movement on which the specific model name was written. to keep the weight as low as possible, the designers needed to find a way to laser engrave the case, which was extremely challenging as not all of the initially contacted specialists were able to engrave the case. to overcome this challenge, the team contacted gabriel dumitru from boegli gravures SA, who was prepared to take up the challenge. the issue with carbon engraving is the varying characteristics of the composite, which make it hard to laser cut it without rugged edges. after some research and calibration of the laser, dumitru managed to engrave the case back in the quality VAULT was looking for, adding the much wanted final touch to the case. to add a nice contrast matching the overall color concept, marcus schnetzer from RC tritec hand-filled the engraving with a special 18k gold color, which is a subtle but nice detail. 

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back view



meaningful engraving and matt titanium finish


‘from the get-go, we were committed to giving the RCT lots of personality,’ albert zeller and mark schwarz share. ‘therefore, we decided to engrave the movement main plate with a heart representing albert’s life motto — do what you do with passion and love.’ in line with the stealthy look that VAULT wanted to achieve, the brass main plate was rhodium plated by marc jenni and sandblasted, giving the engraving a strong contrast.


since both zeller and schwarz love the iconic grade 5 titanium hour disc, they wanted to stick to the design but go for a matt finish and a dark color. the disc, which was designed by designer laurent auberson and laser cut by lastec, would be sent over to berhard zwinz who hand-finished the disc, giving the component a beautiful matt finish. next up, blösch applied a dark DLC coating, which also protects the disc from scratches during the assembly process. 

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front view



glowing 3D hour numerals and minute hand


to improve readability by night the designers wanted to light up the hour numerals and increase the brightness of the minute hand, which became a major task in the project. the complex VAULT sandwich architecture (movement, hour gear transmission, hour-disc) is packaged with very tight margins to ensure that the height of the watch does not exceed 15 mm. therefore, the hour numerals and the discs on which they are mounted needed to be completely redesigned and the production methods reimagined.


to create the hour numerals the watch design firm partered with stefano nassisi from les cadraniers de genève. stefano was the inventor of a system where highly concentrated swiss super-luminova® pigments are molded into a silicone form and then transferred onto the horological component. due to the high concentration of the pigments, the so-called lumicast blocks offer ceramic-like physical properties and a by factors increased luminous performance. to increase the total volume of luminous pigments (which leads to a higher luminous performance) on the hour numerals, the PEEK components were engraved and the lumicast blocks were directly mounted into the engraving. the same concept was used for the sandblasted and 18k gold-plated minute hand that now carries a lumicast block that not only gives the hand a nice 3D effect but also increases the brightness in the dark.

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front and back view of the watch



SUPER LEGGERA ROTOR and salmon skin strap


another major part of the project was the rotor, which is formed to align with the overall appearance and architecture of the watch while reducing weight as far as possible. based on the design brief, laurent auberson penned out a striking new rotor that perfectly suits the overall aesthetics of the watch. marc jenni was tasked with the first step of cutting the brass rolling before shipping it to lastec for the same precision laser cutting treatment that the hour disc had received adding the beautiful honeycomb structure. next up, marc jenni expertly finished the rotor with a mix of sandblasted and brushed surfaces before sending it off for 18k gold plating by GHG. marcus schnetzer from RC tritec gave the new rotor the final touch by hand-filling specific parts of the honeycomb structure with swiss super-luminova.


‘we didn’t go down the obvious route when talking about the strap either,’ the VAULT team mentions. ‘we knew that we were looking for something a bit different, which would fit into the overall concept and at the same time express our desire to make it a status-quo-challenging statement’. therefore, the swiss studio opted for a blend of salmon skin on the top side adorned with an 18k red-gold stitching and accompanied by stonewashed ostrich leg leather on the backside. the materials are not only beautiful and comfortable, but also sustainable.


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back view detail


project info:



name: VAULT V2+ RCT
brand: VAULT 
project team: laurent auberson, mark schwarz, philippe schmid, albert zeller



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom