Glashütte Original Senator Excellence: new movement, new pilot’s watch

The Senator Excellence is one of Glashütte Original‘s new product launches for Baselworld 2016, but it is much more than just three new references including a classic pilot’s watch design. Its new Calibre 36 movement incorporates a lot of research and development, and it will become the foundation of a whole new series of watches. The Senator Excellence is currently available in three versions, two daytime three-hand watches with a classical dial and a case in steel or red gold, and a black-dial piece with steel case similar to a pilot’s watch. Scroll down for the more technical details of the Calibre 36.

Glashutte Original Senator Excellence Automatic steel white dial

The Senator Excellence watch

The new Calibre 36 has been used for the first time in the Senator Excellence, a watch with a case 40 mm in diameter and about 10 mm thick. This is a three-hand watch with classical enamel dial, blued hands, Roman numerals at 12 and 6, and a railroad chapter ring. The tiny Arabic numbers for the seconds/minutes are black in the version with steel case, red in the red gold model. The display caseback reveals the Glashütte Original oscillating weight, the attractive finish of plates and wheels, and traditional blued screws. In particular, the manual winding gear train is differentiated from other wheels by their sunburst finish.

Glashutte Original Senator Excellence Automatic, red gold, caseback

A new pilot’s watch by Glashütte Original

A new pilot’s watch is always good news, and a pilot’s by Glashütte Original is even better. The brand made a lovely version in the past (click here to see a photo of the Senator Navigator Panorama Date), and up until now their only timepiece resembling a pilot’s watch is the Senator Observer. This piece has a black dial and a case in steel. Hands and Arabic numerals are coated in SuperLuminova. It is very close to the classic pilot’s watch, and it is mounted on a dark brown calfskin strap.

Glashutte Original Senator Excellence Automatic pilot's version

Price and availability

The two stainless steel versions cost €8,500 including VAT, and the red gold version costs €15,500 including VAT. The watch will be available in Glashütte Original boutiques from about 20 March 2016 (in multi-brand retailers from 3 to 6 months later). In other words, right after the watch’s presentation at Baselworld. “This is something that we decided to change,” said Yann Gamard during the presentation. “We, like many other brands, had got into the habit of presenting a watch at Baselworld, that would then be availalbe in boutiques only much later. With the Senator Excellence, we present a watch that will be available straight away.” The brand is progressing steadily, as revealed by Gamard. “We now have over 740 employees, with over 600 in Glashütte. We were originally the best-kept watchmaking secret in Germany: now we are the best-kept secret in the world.”

Glashutte Original Senator Excellence Automatic, the three new models

The new Calibre 36

The movement was completely redesigned, starting from Glashütte Original’s existing in-house movements Calibre 39 and Calibre 100 (the company names their movements with numbers picked at random) following the principle “less is more,” or, to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” The new movement has 180 components, which is not record-breaking few (the Alpina AL-710 automatic calibre has 134 parts), but nonetheless Glashütte Original have achieved a considerable increase in performance.

The fundamental features of the Calibre 36 are a power reserve of 100 hours with a single mainspring barrel, the elimination of the detent click system on the barrel, a new regulation system that eliminates the swan-neck precision regulator, and a new bayonet system of fixing the movement inside the case.

Glashutte Original Calibre 36

100 hours power reserve

100 hours power reserve is also not a record, not even for watches with a single mainspring. The Bovet 1822 Flying Tourbillon Ottantasei has a ten-day power reserve, and it’s a tourbillon, a complication notorious for absorbing a lot of energy. But, as Glashütte Original CEO Yann Gamard said during the presentation of the new movement, four days is a good compromise, because you can leave the watch in your drawer for the weekend, and it will still be running when on Monday you put it back on. They achieved 100 hours by means of a new mainspring by Swatch Group company Nivarox, made in a very flexible alloy, making it possible to reduce the diameter of the central mainspring arbor and increase the length of the spring to 68 cm. The gear train was also redesigned to transfer the energy with less friction losses, by virtue of a new tooth design.

Detent click incorporated into the wheels

The detent click is the system that ensures a one-way energy flow from the manual and automatic winding trains to the mainspring. It is vulnerable to wear and tear, and so the Glashütte Original engineers eliminated it from its usual position on the mainspring barrel, and incorporated it into reduction wheels closer to the energy source – the oscillating weight, and the manual winding gear train. The design of those wheels is probably patent-worthy and in any case veiled in secrecy. The winding system has also been improved, with a faster transfer of energy from oscillating weight to mainspring.

Glashutte Original Calibre 36, winding train

Improved stability and precision

The greater energy stored in the mainspring and the new design of the gear teeth help improve the calibre’s precision. As is normal in any watch, precision is greatest on days 1 and 2 of the power reserve, in this case -1/+2 seconds per day deviation. On day 3, precision is -0/+5 secs/day deviation, and on day 4, -5/+10 secs/day. This is a performance far better than Glashütte Original’s previous movements, and it reflects one of the benefits of the new balance spring: isochronism.

New balance regulation system

The balance spring is made in silicon, a metalloid element that is notoriously difficult to work, but that offers important advantages of lightness, resistance to temperature changes, magnetism and corrosion, replicable characteristics and isochronism. Isochronism means that its oscillation rate remains very close to a constant frequency at different stages of winding, therefore different balance amplitudes. The new balance is regulated by means of four weight screws that provide an adjustment range of -20/+90 secs/day, and so the traditional swan-neck precision regulator that was a hallmark of Glashütte Original’s watches is no longer necessary. The component is still there in the watch – because of its iconic status as a visual motif – but it is used to adjust beat regulation, a very refined adjustment that strictly speaking is not really necessary.

Glashutte Original Calibre 36, balance

Bayonet movement fastening

This is a cool system, but one that only a watchmaker will appreciate. The movement is placed into the case and rotated through 50°, rather like a lens on a camera. Then it is fastened with 3 screws. This feature along with the usual shock-absorbing characteristics of the movement enables the watch to conform to DIN 8308 as regards shock resistance.

Adjusted in 6 positions

Most movements have the phrase “adjusted in 5 (five) positions.” Calibre 36 is adjusted in six positions, the additional position being “crown up,” the position that the watch is in with your arm vertically up (the “bored office worker” position, chin resting on hand). This is great, but I wonder why all movements are not adjusted in six positions? The crown-up position seems important to me. Why leave it out? Apparently, five positions is part of Swiss tradition, and so that’s the way it is. Perhaps the Swiss don’t contemplate bored office workers.

Glashutte Original Calibre 36, six positions

 

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