Actually not twenty, but a few more: how can you resist adding as many as possible of these incredible machines! A tourbillon is one of those watch categories that separates the sheep from the goats. It’s not a third-party movement that you can buy from a manufacturer and assemble into your own case. And its so fiendishly small and complex that it calls for a whole set of skills accessible only to brands that have all the operations required for crafting movements in-house. Take a look at the tourbillons below: the entire assembly typically consists of between 50 and 80 parts, weighing a total of little over a gram. Can you guess who made these?
The tourbillon was invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, and at that time it was intended as a method of compensating for the deleterious effects of gravity on a watch’s accuracy. In short, the tourbillon is a system that rotates the axis of the balance wheel to different positions, so that gravity pulls it at different angles. If you have a mechanical watch and take it to a watchmaker, it’s interesting to see him measure its accuracy, for which there is an electronic instrument. My own watch varied from a fairly good +3 seconds a day in one position, but then -9 secs/day in another, and +24 secs/day at a third. And so now I understand why my watch often runs fast: because I take it off and lay it in my bedside drawer for the night. And it’s this that Monsieur Breguet wanted to solve, particularly because at that time, all watches were pocket watches and so held vertically for nearly all the time.
The name “tourbillon” means whirlwind, but it was adopted in the early 19th century from a description of planetary movement, in which the orbital course of a heavenly body is combined with its rotational movement. Today, a tourbillon is more a virtuoso flourish for top watch brands. Breguet’s tourbillon was hidden inside the case: today, most tourbillons are open to view. They are always expensive, with the exception of the first watch in the list.
Here is my selection for 2014, in order of ascending price. Prices are nearly always approximate.
This watch, one of the first cheap tourbillons to appear on the market, sent shock waves through the watch community because for the first time, it made a tourbillon available at a low price, currently €499 from a German e-commerce website. The movement is a Calibre Hangzhou PTS3310 made in China, with a Breguet-type coaxial tourbillon running at 28,000 beats per minute. The website selling the watch gives the impression that Aatos is a Berlin-based company, responsible for designing the watches it makes. The movement is hand-wound, with 40 hours power reserve. The dial is rather unusual, perhaps even chaotic, with a second time zone at 9 o’clock, a day/night indicator at 3 o’clock (though this subdial has the double semicircle profile that would be expected from a moon phase indicator, it is used for the sun), and the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. Hour and minute indications are randomly sprinkled over the dial. The case is in stainless steel, 42 mm in diameter, with a display window on the reverse that reveals parts of the movement. The leather strap is in croc-printed leather. According to reviews, the watch works, but finish is not up to the standard of the high-end watches listed below. Aatos is not a brand that appears with its own website. But it could well represent a watershed, the first time that a complication as exclusive as a tourbillon has been given an accessible price.
Alpina Extreme Tourbillon Regulator Manufacture
This piece, introduced in 2009, has an ultra-modern look, and a curious dial design with the hour hand on a separate “Regulateur” subdial. These are features of the brand’s Extreme collection. The in-house AL-980 movement has some innovative features, such as silicium escapement wheel and lever. The dominant material is black PVD-coated titanium, used for the case and the oscillating weight that can be seen through the sapphire caseback, and black ceramic. The case is large at 49 mm, mounted on a black rubber strap; the movement has a 42-hour power reserve. Price about €41,500 (CHF 49,900). More at http://www.alpina-watches.com/
Speake-Marin Magister Tourbillon
“The tourbillon is one of the things that I love most about watchmaking,” says Peter Speake-Marin. “Not because of the precision it gives to the timekeeping, but because of the animation it gives to the dial. It shows time moving in a way that a minute-repeater or a grande sonnerie, for example, won’t offer. It’s something which, for me, is extremely profound.” Peter’s first-ever watch was a pocket watch with a tourbillon; the Magister Tourbillon has a white-lacquered dial, with a 60-second tourbillon at 6 o’clock with tourbillon bridge in highly-polished Durnico maraging steel, blued steel hands and Roman numerals, and a 42-mm titanium case. The sapphire caseback reveals the platinum micro-rotor, part of the SM3 Calibre movement that provides over 72 hours power reserve. The Magister Tourbillon is part of the J-Class collection. Price about €54,000 before tax. Find out more at http://www.speake-marin.com/
The name of the Perrelet Turbillon reflects its construction, with a turbine-type double rotor, that winds the movement, carved in transparent sapphire spinning above the black dial, and a tourbillon. The Calibre P-371 can be viewed through the transparent caseback. Seconds are shown on the tourbillon carriage at top centre. The piece has a 46-mm case, and it is available in three versions, black DLC-coated steel and natural steel, all-black, or black DLC-coated steel and pink gold. Each version is made in a limited edition of 20 pieces. Rubber strap. Prices from about €62,000, see more at www.perrelet.com
Hublot Classic Fusion Tourbillon Vitrail
Hublot are tourbillon specialists, and their watches often feature a sort of tongue-in-cheek irony with links to steampunk culture. In this piece, the Classic Fusion Tourbillon Vitrail, the decorative motif is inspired by stained glass windows, with 15 separate pieces of high-tech low-expansion glass. The first four models in this series are in red and blue, with other colours possibly arriving later. Each model (red or blue, titanium or ceramic case, bezel and crown) is made in a limited edition of 20 watches. The HUB6017 in-house movement has a five-day power reserve. Price about €74,000 + VAT. See more at www.hublot.com
Arnold & Son Royal TEC1 Tourbillon Chronograph
Arnold & Son presented the Royal TEC1 Tourbillon Chronograph at Baselworld 2014, with tourbillon at the top of the dial, and a chronograph display with central second hand, and a 50-minute counter on the subdial at 6 o’clock. The automatic movement, A&S8305, provides 55 hours power reserve, and it is visible through a sapphire caseback in the 45 mm case. It is available in three versions: red gold with anthracite dial, palladium with silver-white dial, and red gold with blue enamel guilloche dial. Price from about €79,400. Info from http://www.arnoldandson.com/home.aspx
Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier
Cartier is one of the few brands that makes tourbillon watches for women, but this piece is decidedly masculine at 46 mm diameter, 12.9 mm thick, and a beautiful, very three-dimensional dial design. The tourbillon has a cage with the C-emblem, whose point indicates the seconds. The manually-wound calibre 9452 MC movement provides 50 hours power reserve. The movement is stamped Poinçon de Genève. Numbered edition in pink gold, with a cabochon sapphire in the crown. Price €93,000.
Blancpain Villeret Tourbillon
Blancpain’s Tourbillon presented at Baselworld in 2014 has the tourbillon at the top of the dial, part of a movement that is exceptional for its 12-day power reserve, remarkable when considering the energy requirements of a tourbillon, and the single barrel in this Calibre 242 movement. It also has a silicon balance-spring and pallet fork to reduce the effects of magnetic fields. The automatic movement is very slim at 6.1 mm, and as much as possible of the tourbillon is open to view because there is no upper bridge to the tourbillon carriage – it’s a so-called flying tourbillon. The dial has the brand’s characteristic grand feu enamel with beautifully-executed Roman numerals. The watch, reference 66240-3431-55B, has a 42 mm case, and a sapphire caseback. The view of the movement through the caseback is interesting, with an open-worked oscillating weight that puts more of the movement in view. It is available in a limited-edition platinum version, at about €115,600, and a red gold version, about €99,000. Its complete name is the Blancpain Villeret Tourbillon Volant Une Minute 12 Jours.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo
2014 is an important year for Bulgari, as it is celebrating its 130th anniversary, and the many fine watches presented at Baselworld included the record-breaking Octo Finissimo, the thinnest tourbillon watch in the world, at just 5 mm thick overall. Bulgari was founded in Rome and it is very proud of its Italian heritage, which can be seen in this piece that combines a square outer profile, a circular bezel and an octagonal dial. Many design features were chosen to reduce thickness: hour indices are not applied, but painted; in the movement, for many pivots, ball bearings are used instead of jewels; regulation is performed on the balance wheel and not on the spring ; there are just two bridges, one for the tourbillon, one for the minute wheel. The barrel is guided by three ball bearings, and the horizontal space saved enabled a longer spring leaf to be used, increasing power reserve to 55 hours. The tourbillon cage itself is just 1.95 mm thick, and this in fact determines the thickness of the entire movement. The 40-mm case is in platinum, with a black leather strap. The overall piece is sleek, very flat, with the one-minute tourbillon providing the dominant note of visual interest. The price of the watch is about €108,000.
Chopard L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined
The “Fairmined” in the name refers to the fact that this is the first watch in the world made from ethically-sourced gold, for which the mining process is certified as sustainable, and the miners themselves receive fair payment. The “L.U.C.” stands for Louis-Ulysse Chopard, who set up his first watchmaking workshop in 1860. The watch itself is attractive with its 43-mm rose gold case, and a dial that, in addition to the tourbillon, has a power reserve indicator at the top, marked nine days, for a total of 216 hours. This exceptional power reserve of the L.U.C. 02.13-L1 movement is attained by means of four series-coupled barrels. The front of the watch looks good, with the dark grey of the dial contrasting with the case and the tourbillon details; the back is stunning, with the polished gold framing a sapphire window revealing the Cotes de Genève finish of the bridges and details of the wheels underneath. Both on dial and back, there is a small logo, FQ, standing for Fleurier Quality, a certification for watches that are entirely manufactured in Switzerland. The strap is in alligator leather, also certified (CITES, on the protection of endangered species). This is a limited edition, 25 pieces. The reference of this piece is 161929-5006. Price about €116,000.
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5377
Breguet is part of the Swatch group and so has access to the group’s research on anti-magnetic watch construction based on the use of non-ferromagnetic materials in the movement. In the Breguet Extra-Plat Automatique 5377, there is a silicon balance spring, and an escapement in silicon and non-magnetic steel. The construction of the calibre 581DR movement is such that even with the tourbillon, which absorbs far more energy than a normal balance, and a tourbillon that runs at the unusually high frequency of 4 Hertz, the Extra-Plat Automatique 5377 has a power reserve of 90 hours. This is achieved in part by the use of a barrel mounted on roller bearings. The Extra-Plat Automatique 5377 is the world’s thinnest automatic tourbillon, with a movement 3 mm thick and a case 7 mm thick. To help reduce thickness, Breguet developed a peripheral rotor in platinum. The 5377 had already been presented at the 2013 Baselworld show, and the 2014 version is new for the case material, platinum. The watch has a case 42 mm in diameter, and a dial with four different types of hand-worked finish: clou de Paris on the hour and minutes chapter ring, engine-turned strait chevrons on the power reserve indicator at 8 o’clock, and yet other finishes around the edges of the various dial segments. A blue sapphire is set into the tourbillon bridge, coordinating with the blued open-tipped Breguet hands. The layout of the dial is brilliantly off-centred, and the whole arrangement is so well-balanced that you don’t really notice the asymmetry. The caseband has the trademark Breguet fluting. As usual for Breguet watches, the case and movement of each piece is individually numbered. The same piece is also available in rose gold. Price is about €131,400 for the platinum version, €119,400 for the version in rose gold.
F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain
This, a new version of a watch that F.P. Journe first launched in 1999, features François-Paul’s distinctive dial design, with the tourbillon given the same importance as the hour and minute dial, with power reserve indicator at the top and small seconds below. The Calibre 1403 watch movement also has two other features, the Remontoir, a constant force device that improves precision by regulating the force applied to the regulator from the mainspring at all stages of unwinding; and the dead-beat seconds feature, which means that the watch, unusually for a mechanical watch, ticks second by second instead of the usual constant sweep. To be precise, the second hand remains motionless for the duration of the second, and only at the end of the second does it move. François-Paul says, “What is fascinating about the principle of the constant force device is that each watchmaker who has set out to build one has his own personal interpretation: only the basic idea remains the same.” The movement is hand-wound, with a power reserve of 42 hours; like all F.P. Journe movements, it is entirely made in pink gold. The watch is in a 40 mm case, 9.9 mm thick, in red gold or platinum, with dial in red or white gold. Price about €134,000. Further information from http://www.fpjourne.com/
Panerai Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Ceramica
This tourbillon watch by Panerai has the classic Panerai looks, with large 48-mm cushion-shaped black ceramic case, a natural untreated leather strap (it is supplied with a second black leather strap and a screwdriver for strap changing), and the crown protector. The “Scienziato” in the name, scientist, refers to Galileo Galilei, who lived in Florence, birthplace of Panerai, and realized the importance of the pendulum’s capability of maintaining a constant period whatever its swing, which would later be fundamental in clock-making. The skeletonized movement reveals the details, with the two visible barrels (there are in fact three barrels, giving it a massive 6-day power reserve) just right of centre, the second time zone subdial at 3 o’clock, continuous seconds at 9 o’clock, and the tourbillon at 10 o’clock. The tourbillon makes two rotations per minute on an axis at right angles to that of the balance; this movement is mirrored by a small beige SuperLuminova-covered disc rotating twice per minute within the continuous seconds subdial. The P.2005/S movement provides a 6-day power reserve, 144 hours. The watch has a 100-metre water resistance rating. Reference PAM00528, price about €136,600 ($171,000).
Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon
You could say that this is a watch that boldly goes where no man has gone before. Like Starship Enterprise. Watch designer and maker Vianney Halter was inspired by science fiction in this piece, which has the tourbillon at the centre, rotating on three axes, with revolution times 40 seconds, 6 minutes and 30 minutes. This beautiful mechanism is placed on a dark background, surrounded by a dial with two curved blued metal hands for hours and minutes. Apart from the sci-fi, Deep Space 9 space station thing, I think that this piece is intelligent because it does the logical thing: it puts the tourbillon right at centre stage, it’s the star of the show. The VH 113 movement has a power reserve of 55 hours. The watch is 46 mm in diameter, and it has a domed watchglass, making it a total of 20 mm thick. Price about €150,000. Further info from http://www.vianney-halter.com/
Deep Space Nine image above courtesy http://www.wallpaperup.com/
A.Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon
This watch was presented at SIHH in January 2014, and it is striking for its extreme simplicity, Arabic numerals and railway-track minute scale. The dial has a 13-mm aperture at the bottom for the tourbillon, which carries a blued second hand. The watch has a feature that would seem logical, but which in fact is rare for tourbillon watches: a zero-reset function. When you pull out the crown, the tourbillon balance stops immediately, and the seconds hand jumps to zero. Now you can synchronize the watch with a time signal by pushing in the crown to start it again. The mechanism needed to achieve this can be seen through the tourbillon window, with a mobile V-shaped spring that blocks the balance wheel. The watch is 39.5 mm in diameter, with a pink gold or platinum case. It is powered by the Lange calibre L102.1 movement, manually wound, with 72 hours power reserve. The pink gold edition is reference 730.032; the platinum edition is limited to 100, reference 730.025. Price for the pink gold version is about €131,700, for the platinum version about €161,300.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Sphérotourbillon
Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of those brands whose contemporary tourbillons could fill at least a top ten on their own, and the new watches that they have introduced over the last two years are an incredible display of engineering brilliance and artistic invention. The Duomètre Sphérotourbillon is a watch incorporating Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Dual Wing concept, in which there are two barrels, each driving a separate movement, in this case one for the main gear train and one for the tourbillon. The Sphérotourbillon has a second axis of movement to improve precision, but above all it is beautiful to see in operation, mounted on a bridge in sapphire glass so that it seems to be orbiting in empty space. This watch, like the A. Lange & Söhne piece above, can be set to the second: a button at 2’o’clock resets the seconds subdial at 6 o’clock to zero. The subdial at the top of the watch shows the time in another time zone on a 24-hour scale. The two indicator hands above and below the hour and minute subdial show the power reserves for the two barrels. The white gold case is 44 mm in diameter, with a hand-engraved white gold dial, and subdials in grand feu enamel. A limited edition of 3 pieces, price has not been communicated but without doubt upward of €160,000. More at http://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/
MB&F HM6 Space Pirate
This watch with its space-station-like looks has a flying tourbillon in the centre dome, with another four domes in the corners. An interesting touch is the retractable shield for the tourbillon dome: paper-thin leaves of titanium flick up to protect the tourbillon from UV radiation that gradually oxidizes the lubricant oils in the escapement. This sort of mechanical nictitating membrane is activated by a crown on the left side of the case. On the front two domes, semi-spherical indicators show hours and minutes respectively rotate vertically. This required some careful engineering, because the axis of rotation is at 90° to the movement plane. The other two domes contain two spherical turbines. They are driven by the rotation of the automatic winding rotor (visible through the sapphire caseback), so that every time the rotor swings around, the turbines start to spin. The MB&F designers even thought up a function for this crazy feature: “as air friction increases exponentially, proportional to the square of the velocity, if the winding rotor starts rotating too quickly as a result of excessive wrist movement, air friction on the turbines increases and helps counteract excessive speed, reducing wear.”
The case is machined from solid blocks of Grade 5 titanium, strong and light. It is of course large, 49.5 mm wide, 52.3 mm from front to back, and 20.4 mm thick. Even though all those bulges look uncomfortable, the pivoted lugs and form-fitting spheres ensure that HM6 sits easily on the wrist. Parts of the movement can be seen through the sapphire caseback underneath the watch, revealing the iridescent green platinum winding rotor, in the brand’s characteristic battle axe shape. The movement has a power reserve of 72 hours.
The HM6 Space pirate is a limited edition of 50, in lightweight titanium alloy. Only 100 HM6 movements will be made (so presumably they are planning another version in a different case material). The watch has a calfskin strap with titanium buckle. The watch costs CHF 215,000, about €178,890. Read more, and see more photos, here.
Louis Moinet Vertalor
Louis Moinet is a brand named after a watchmaker who was born in 1768, and went on to work with Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris. The brand’s watches are marked 1806, the date that corresponds to Moinet’s invention of the chronograph, but in actual fact Louis Moinet is now an independent brand founded by Jean-Marie Schaller in 2004. The Vertalor is made in two limited editions, 28 in pink gold, 28 in grey gold, with a tourbillon at 6 o’clock, with a second hand whose tip is star-shaped, a reference to a piece by Louis Moinet made in 1825. At the top of the dial, the barrel can be seen, with a skeletonized cover; the dial itself is finished with Côtes du Jura machining. The manually-wound movement has a 72-hour power reserve. The 47-mm case, like many Louis Moinet watches, is complex, made from 59 parts, including a sapphire caseback. About €180,000.
Omega De Ville Tourbillon
The Omega De Ville Tourbillon, reference 5126.96.36.199.64, is the 2014 version of Omega’s tourbillon, which is unusual in that the tourbillon is placed right at the centre, with a gold second hand fixed directly to the seconds hand. Hour and minute hands are fixed to sapphire crystal discs, giving them a floating appearance and ensuring that they don’t obscure the view of the tourbillon. The movement bridges below are dark PVD-treated, highlighting the gold wheels visible in the movement. The oscillating weight is in platinum, but it can’t be seen through the caseback which is in gold. The automatic Omega Co-Axial calibre 2635 movement provides 45 hours power reserve. The 38.7 mm case in red gold is set with 24 baguette diamonds. Limited edition of eight, in a leather presentation case that is also a watch winder. Price approximately €200,000.
Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe
Switzerland is a small country that jealously safeguards its ancient traditions, whether these be cheese-making, battling cows, chocolate, banking or watches. At Villeret near Neuchatel, there is a small watch manufacturer that was once named Minerva, and is now part of Montblanc. Here, the curious and very successful alchemy between Hamburg-based brand Montblanc and Swiss watch tradition produces some of the most beautiful timepieces in the world, entirely crafted by hand. Even the springs are made in-house on ancient machinery that gradually transforms steel wire into the hair-thin ribbons that are then curled into the delicate spiral balance springs. In terms of watches, Montblanc has a sort of double identity, with the young and sporty TimeWalker watches and the more classical Star pieces – the most accessibly-priced watches in their range – made principally in Le Locle, and super-high-end watches made at Villeret under the watchful eye of master watchmaker Demetrio Cabiddu (whose surname belies his Sardinian origins).
The Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe does a lot of things differently. First, the arrangement of the dial. The tourbillon at the top, and at the centre, two central-sweep hands, a large minute hand, and a slender chronograph seconds hand, so slender that when at rest it almost seems like part of the overall structure and doesn’t hinder vision of the tourbillon. At the bottom centre, a dial with two hour hands, one silvered and skeletonized like the minute hand, for the local time. The other hand shows the hours in a second time zone. At 9 o’clock, continuous seconds. At 3 o’clock, chronograph minutes, with two hands that show alternately from 0 to 15 minutes and from 15 to 30 minutes. At 4.30pm, another indicator for the time in the second time zone, divided into day/night sectors. The pusher at 8 o’clock advances the second time-zone indications by one-hour increments.
The Exotourbillon is a patented arrangement in which the rotating cage is smaller than the balance, which oscillates outside the cage and above it. The designers wanted to make a large balance wheel, but in a normal tourbillon, the cage would have to be even larger, requiring more space and more energy. In addition, as the balance is separated from the cage, it is not affected by the cage’s inertia. All this translates into better precision, 30% less energy use, and of course a large, attractive balance wheel.
The chronograph is of the column-wheel type, with a monopusher on the crown that sequentially operates the start, stop and reset functions. The balance-spring oscillation rate of 2.5 Hertz (18,000 semi-oscillations per hour) makes it possible to measure times to the nearest 1/5 of a second, as can be seen from the divisions right at the edge of the dial.
The Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe, launched in January 2013, is a limited edition of eight watches in white gold, eight in red gold, and one in platinum. The watch has a sapphire caseback protected by a hinged cover. Each watch is engraved “Fait main à Villeret”, made by hand in Villeret, and inside the hinged cover is the signature “Demetrio Cabiddu Maître Horloger.” The Montblanc star logo appears on the crown. The reference numbers are 109150 and 109151; the movement is the MB M 16.60. The case is 47 mm in diameter and 16.67 mm thick. Price about €212,000.
IWC Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon
IWC work by families, presenting a new collection every year, and so their latest tourbillon is Reference 5900, the Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon that is part of the Ingenieur collection presented in 2013. It is much more than just a tourbillon: it has a constant-force mechanism for improved precision over the entire 96 hours power reserve, a double moon display (as it appears in the northern and southern hemisphere) with a very realistic depiction of the moon with its craters, and a countdown display showing the days before the next full moon. The watch reflects the collaboration between Mercedes AMG Petronas and IWC, and so the black alligator strap has a sporty, rubber-type look, the dial is dark and technical, and the sapphire caseback reveals the movement finished like an engine. The dial gives pride of place to the tourbillon on the left, with moon display at top right and power reserve at top left. The movement is the in-house Caliber 94800, which includes an unusual constant force mechanism to even out the torque provided by the double barrels. Initially, the flow of energy from mainspring to balance wheel is disconnected, with the energy stored temporarily in the balance spring once a second, so that the tourbillon advances in one-second jumps. This continues for about 48 hours. After this stage, when the balance spring torque has dropped to a predefined value, the movement switches to normal mode, and the second hand on the tourbillon starts advancing at its normal 1/5 second sweep instead of the one-second jumps. Price about €232,500 (US$290,000). More at http://www.iwc.com/
Roger Dubuis Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon
The “Hommage” in the name was originally a tribute to Geneva’s historic watchmakers, and it dates back to the launch of the collection in 1995, also the year of the company’s foundation. Today, it is a tribute to the brand’s founder Roger Dubuis himself. As he says, “Having founded the Manufacture Roger Dubuis in 1995, I decided I wanted to create a watch to thank my teachers, friends and all those who had helped me learn and perfect my art. The result was aptly named Hommage. What touches me about the new Hommage collection is that it is created by a new generation, while maintaining the same initial spirit of gratitude to our forebears.” The watch features the new RD100 movement created by designer Gregory Bruttin and his team, with 452 components and a 50-hour power reserve. The two tourbillons are linked to a differential that averages out any difference in regulation. The dial’s appearance is dominated by the two tourbillons, and by the sunburst hand-carved guilloché with the applied numerals, which create a very three-dimensional dial. The watch is Poinçon de Genève-certified, and it bears the signature of Roger Dubuis on the sapphire caseback. The piece is available in four versions, white gold, pink gold, pink gold diamond set, and a limited 88-piece pink gold version with movement also in pink gold. Price unavailable.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle 14-day tourbillon openworked
This piece is remarkable for its construction, or deconstruction, with the movement open to view, and its power reserve of fourteen days, 336 hours. The latter is achieved by means of four barrels in the upper part of the watch. The designers gave the watch an extraordinarily three-dimensional effect by skeletonizing bridges and other components that would normally block the view, so that in several places you can see right through the platinum case. The grey ring just inside the bezel carries the minutes track and the hour markers. Small seconds are shown by the tourbillon carriage, and there is a power reserve at the top. 42 mm in diameter, 12.22 mm thick, price about €288,000.
Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon
This piece is a true tour-de-force, with a high-speed tourbillon on three axes. It was highlighted at Baselworld 2014, a strictly limited edition with just 10 pieces, partly because at about €400,000, the number of collectors in the world willing to pay that sort of price is itself limited. The tourbillon mechanism was originally invented to improve precision, and a triple-axis tourbillon in theory is an additional refinement, but in this piece, just as in all tourbillon watches today, it’s more about the theatrical element than the accuracy. The dial has a small subdial for time indications, a power reserve indicator, and the incredible tourbillon under a dome in the sapphire crystal. This tourbillon has a central 60-minute cage, inside another 30-second cage, itself inside the third 2-minute cage. Each rotates at a different speed, for an entrancing display of mechanical virtuosity. Not surprisingly, there is another window in the case side providing an extra viewpoint, and admitting light, as well as the sapphire caseback. Incredibly, just this tourbillon apparatus has 140 parts, and weighs in total 1.24 grams. The manually-wound calibre GP09300-0001 movement has 52 hours power reserve. The case is 48 mm in diameter, and the watch reference is 99815-52-251-BA6A. Girard-Perregaux make many other tourbillon watches: just take a look at their website.
Greubel Forsey GF-03 Quadruple Tourbillon Asymmetrical
The Greubel Forsey collection has many tourbillons; this is perhaps one of the most extreme in terms of movement complication, with not one but four tourbillons whose regulation is averaged to improve timekeeping precision. Curiously the dial is calmer than most Greubel Forsey pieces that are usually packed with subdials. Here they have contrasted the tourbillon windows with some flat area on the dial, and the power reserve indicator and small seconds are combined into one semi-subdial at the right. There are two tourbillon windows, and not four, because each is a double tourbillon, with an outer and inner tourbillon, rotating on different axes. The outer tourbillon completes one rotation in four minutes, and the inner tourbillon rotates in one minute. The tourbillons are linked to a spherical differential, visible through the transparent caseback, to the gear train. What is the effect of all this on precision? Greubel Forsey assure that each piece attains a precision of -1/+2 seconds per day. This can be compared to the COSC standard of -4/+6 seconds per day. Not surprisingly, the two double tourbillons are given the greatest visibility as possible, and the dial is open from top to bottom. The case is available in red gold with anthracite dial, or platinum case with silvered-gold dial. Price reported at about €452,000, contact http://www.greubelforsey.com/ for further information.
Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 5
With the Opus and Histoire de Tourbillon series of watches, Harry Winston created many remarkable pieces, all in strictly limited editions, often made working with independent watchmakers. The Histoire de Tourbillon series began in 2009, and this piece was presented at Baselworld 2014 but just in the form of drawings. The show was the first occasion in which Harry Winston appeared in the light of its acquisition by Swatch Group, made possible by the $448 million that the Group received from Tiffany after the two companies’ agreement to develop Tiffany-branded watches foundered and went to arbitration. It is likely that as part of Swatch Group, Harry Winston’s watch-making strategy will change, possibly moving away from the super-exclusive limited editions such as Opus and Histoire de Tourbillon, and in 2013, when Harry Winston presented Histoire de Tourbillon 4, it was announced as the fourth in a series of five.
So Histoire de Tourbillon 5 is probably the last piece in the series. Like number 4, it features a tri-axial tourbillon, similar to the Girard-Perregaux model above, under an astrodome-like bulge in the sapphire glass. The declared objective in number 5 was to reveal as much as possible of the movement, which is open-worked and arranged on different levels, with gear train below, then skeletonized bridges, then the tourbillon framed by the dome. Hour and minutes are shown separately on the two subdials. This is the first piece in the series to be made in rose gold, which contrasts with the movement in black PVD-coated metal. The watch, reference HCOMTT47RR001, is 47 mm in diameter and 21 mm high. The twin barrels provide a 50-hour power reserve. A limited edition of 20 pieces. Who knows when we will see it. Who knows how much it will cost: Histoire de Tourbillon 4 cost about €480,000.
Patek Philippe 5216
You get the feeling that Patek Philippe are really on another level, justifying the brand’s hauteur, and reinforced by their incredible auction-room success. A watch such as this becomes a rarity as soon as it reaches the market. This grand complication, Patek Philippe 5216, displays the characteristic Patek understatement, with the tourbillon visible only through the caseback, along with other details of the Calibre R TO 27 PS QR mechanically-wound movement. Not showing the tourbillon is part of watchmaking tradition: when Breguet invented the tourbillon, it was purely to improve precision, and everything was hidden within the case. In addition, the ultraviolet component of daylight can gradually degrade the lubricant oil in the tourbillon mechanism if it is left exposed to the light, requiring more regular maintenance. The watch bears the Patek Philippe seal, and for its tourbillon watches the brand sets itself the benchmark of -2/+1 seconds precision per day, exceptional for a wristwatch. The dial side is dedicated to clarity, with a red-tipped retrograde date hand, date and month in two windows, and the year within the leap-year cycle shown below 12 o’clock. At 6 o’clock, moon phase and continuous seconds, in a subdial marked “Tourbillon.” The moon phase is of such accuracy that an error of one day would be reached only after 122 years. The slider on the left-hand side of the watch activates the minute repeater chiming on two gongs. The case is 39.5 mm in diameter. Available in platinum (5216P-001) and rose gold (5216R-001). The approximate price of the pink gold version is €580,600. More details at www.patek.com
Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue
Ulysse Nardin’s emblem is an anchor, and in this piece, you feel as if you’re looking down into the deep blue sea, with a blue sapphire bridge, below which there is a transparent mainplate. On top of this is the flying tourbillon. There are also two hefty hammers that you can see on each side: the watch has a Grande Sonnerie Westminster Carillon, a repeater that sounds the hours, quarter hours and minutes on demand, with four gongs ringing the famous Westminster chime. The blue-tinged bridge reveals the two barrels, one of which powers the repeater mechanism and can be wound either by activating the repeater slide on the case side or by rotating the crown counterclockwise, while the other powers the movement, with a 50-hour power reserve. At the very top of the dial is a date window. A slider on the caseback can be used to silence the chime. Case diameter 46 mm, reference 9700-125, a limited edition of 20 pieces in white gold. Price about €685,000.