A watch does more than just tell the time. As a security and status object, it is also the custodian of time and memory. This informs the thinking behind the design for the QRS watch, the latest new product from the French watchmakers MER-AIR-TERRE, who specialise in timepieces for professionals. It all started with a meeting between the founder of the brand, Fabrice Pougez, and Dr Châu Pham-Minh, an emergency medicine specialist who works at Antony hospital, near Paris. “The health crisis had a severe impact on all health professionals,” explains Dr Pham-Minh. “During the first wave of Covid-19, there was a high degree of fear associated with our lack of knowledge about this virus. We didn’t know what damage it could potentially cause, and above all, there were no known treatments at the time. We had to work with great dedication, knowing all the while that it could kill us. Solidarity was the watchword. It was tough. I wanted an object to remind us of this very stressful time. What better object for the job than a watch?”
MER-AIR-TERRE was approached through the intermediary of watch collector Richard Dang, the manager of a Paris restaurant familiar to watchmaking enthusiasts and a long-time friend of Dr Pham-Minh. But in the meantime, he tested positive for Covid-19 and developed a severe form of the virus. His friend Châu saved his life. MER-AIR-TERRE had already designed watches for heroes working 24/7 such as the French SNSM sea rescue teams, and Dr Pham-Minh and Fabrice Pougez hit it off instantly. The plan to design the watch became a reality. “I was moved by the selflessness of medical professionals during the various waves of Covid-19,” explains Fabrice Pougez. “As a watchmaker but also, and above all, as a citizen, I wanted to thank all frontline medical staff by designing a timepiece dedicated to them: the QRS watch. The design and name were developed in close collaboration with Dr Pham-Minh.” What does QRS stand for? These three letters refer to the QRS wave, also known as the “QRS complex”, which defines the depolarisation and contraction of the right and left ventricles of the heart. The Q wave is the first negative wave of the complex and the R wave is the first positive wave. The S wave is the second negative component. In simple terms, the QRS on an electrocardiogram corresponds to the heartbeat. “It is also called the life line,” adds Dr Pham-Minh.
This “life line” is engraved on the case back of the QRS watch along with the date 2020, the year when the pandemic was at its peak and the medical profession was at full stretch. Also inscribed on the back is the Latin motto Primum non nocere which translates as “First, do no harm”. This quote is the first rule of caution taught to medical students and remains etched in doctors’ memories throughout their careers. The QRS watch has a 42.5 mm diameter stainless steel case styled to suit every wrist. The black dial is extremely legible due to its generously-sized luminous indices and hands (Superluminova). The sapphire glass has an anti-glare coating. At 6 o’clock, there is a red caduceus, the universal symbol of medical practitioners, depicted in the traditional manner as a staff topped by two wings, surrounded by intertwined snakes. At 3 o’clock, the letters “ COV” feature alongside date window. “Once a month, owners of the watch will be able to see COV 19 and remember this time,” says Dr Pham-Minh. “We wanted a subtle rather than a literal reference to Covid-19.” Powered by a tried and tested Swiss automatic MT024 movement, the QRS watch bears all the distinctive hallmarks of a MER-AIR-TERRE timepiece: robustness, legibility, accuracy, and ergonomics.
Issued in a limited edition of 300, the QRS watch is supplied with a set of three straps: stainless steel, leather, and rubber. MER-AIR-TERRE will donate 10% of profits on sales to the "Les Clowns de l'Espoir" non-profit associations.
QRS watch, stainless steel case, Swiss automatic movement, stainless steel, leather and rubber straps, 1,650 euros. Available on subscription at www.merairterre.com
About Dr Pham-Minh
Châu Pham-Minh’s life did not hang by a thread, but by a watch. In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, this young 10-year old Vietnamese boy was forced to flee the country with his three brothers and his parents. His father, a doctor, found a barge on the Mekong river, but it broke down after a few hours. Like dozens of other Boat People, they were trapped. “As luck would have it, we managed to find a fishing boat, but we had to pay for our crossing with our personal jewellery,” says Dr Pham-Minh. “My father sold his watch to the captain. We fled to Malaysia and then came to France.” He also became a doctor and has always worked in accident and emergency medicine. “In my fourth year of medical training, I rode in an emergency ambulance and knew that I had found my vocation.” Working in collaboration with MER-AIR-TERRE to design the QRS watch is a tribute to the bravery of all health professionals during Covid-19.
For fifteen years, MER-AIR-TERRE has been the leading French name in the design, manufacture and distribution of watches for professionals. This military pedigree now provides MER-AIR-TERRE with impeccable watchmaking credentials which it can transfer to other fields. As an independent brand, headed by CEO Fabrice Pougez and aimed at everyone with a spirit of adventure, MER-AIR-TERRE brings the same meticulous design ethos to its civilian timepieces. This respect for the conventions and esprit de corps which are intrinsic to the brand DNA is what appeals to Bruce Dickinson, an exceptional pilot and the lead singer with band Iron Maiden, and also many professional rugby players, modern adventurers of the calibre of Philippe Bourseiller, the heroes of national sea rescue units (SNSM), the French America’s Cup team, and the Society for the Protection of Eggs Mayonnaise (ASOM) with whom MER-AIR-TERRE designed the Egg Master watch in 2020 – the first chronograph dedicated to boiling an egg.