Every year, luxury watch brands bring out new and often innovative variations on the still-popular tourbillon watch, and 2016 was no exception. As we approach the end of 2016 and prepare for a new year of watch introductions in 2017, we take a look back at some of the most notable tourbillon timepieces launched at this year’s SIHH and Baselworld. Here are a dozen, from very diverse brands, that commanded our attention.
From the recently revived Angelus brand comes the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante, a watch that contains not only a large, one-minute tourbillon but also a double-column-wheel-controlled flyback chronograph with rattrapante (split-seconds) and a cleverly designed power reserve display. The self-winding movement that integrates all these functions has also been highly skeletonized to reveal as much of its workings as possible, including no less than 15 wheels that are visible from the dial side. The tourbillon cage at 10 o’clock is made entirely from non-magnetic materials and occupies a full quarter of the dial space; the column wheel that activates the split seconds function is on display at 4 o’clock, right below the 30-minute counter, while a second, separate column wheel drives the chronograph from the back side. At 8 o’clock, a power-reserve indicator with visible gears and wheels offers an eye-catching view of the watch’s 45-hour running time: the green sector indicates ideal torque for the mainspring while the red sector cautions the wearer that it’s time to wind the watch.
Skeleton watch specialist Armin Strom launched the first model in its new Tourbillon Skeleton collection, the Armin Strom Tourbillon Skeleton Earth. The watch’s skeletonized, manual-wind movement, Caliber ATC11-S, is on full display beneath the sapphire dial ring with founded appliques for hours and minutes. Its fully openworked mainplate features a black PVD coating that echoes the case material. The movement is equipped with a double going barrel that stores an astounding 10-day power reserve; in addition to witnessing the rotation of the tourbillon, the wearer can see the winding mechanism in motion on the dial side. Click here to read our pre-Baselworld report on the watch.
Bovet added to its ultra-complicated Recital collection a watch that is positively cosmic in its level of complexity: the Bovet Recital 18, aka “The Shooting Star,” which combines a five-day tourbillon with a hemispheric worldwide time function with selectable time zones, a compact 24-cities indicator on rollers, a hemispheric moon-phase display, and timekeeping by means of a jumping hour with retrograde minutes. The movement, hand-wound Caliber 17DM01-HU, is equipped with Bovet’s Dimier escapement.The tourbillon features a triple seconds-hand, unconventionally placed under the tourbillon and inside the crystal, for a clear and original display. A hand-engraved constellation of stars extends across the entire surface of the movement; a moon phase is reproduced on the back, along with two entirely hand-engraved hemispheres evoking the Earth and moon. The carriage and tourbillon bridges are also entirely hand-engraved, despite their delicate nature and the tiny amount of surface area available. The incline that defines the movement between the top of the minutes dial and the tourbillon, and the use of the protruding domed hemispheres, required not only a domed sapphire crystal with a very pronounced curve but also a case middle that follows a pronounced oblique incline along the 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock axis. In all, there are seven domed elements present in the watch’s construction, including the four hemispheres of the movement, the dials, the tourbillon carriage, and the front crystal. For much more on this watch’s staggering array of functions, click here for our full-length article.
The Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon has a passel of features that make it different and, Breguet says, better, than other minute repeaters. Among these are the shape and placement of the gongs, which, instead of wrapping around the movement, are placed above it. The longer, hour gong is shaped like a semicircle; the minutes gong is a kind of round-cornered triangle. Both have rectangular, rather than round, profiles, and the hammers hit them vertically, not horizontally, as in other minute repeaters. These unorthodox elements, Breguet says, contribute to better sound quality for the chimes. The tourbillon is an extra-flat one similar to the one the brand introduced in 2014. For more details on the watch’s multiple features, click here.
The Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astromystérieux, which the brand calls “a groundbreaking and ingenious new interpretation of the tourbillon,” is Cartier’s third “mystery” wristwatch, after the Mysterious Hour and Mysterious Double Tourbillon. In this one, central hour and minutes hands appear to be floating in a 25.7-mm space in the center of the watch, while rotating around the dial. Floating with them are the escapement, balance wheel, gear train and barrel, arranged along a central axis. The “mysterious” part of the watch consists of four stacked sapphire disks, all made in-house: an hour disk, a tourbillon disk, a winding disk and a fixed disk. In conventional tourbillons, the escapement and balance wheel are in a cage, which rotates to counteract the effects of gravity on the movement. Here the rotating disks (like those used in classical “mystery clocks,” in which the hands are linked to the disks rather than directly to the movement) replace the cage. A sapphire disk with a large diameter serves as the lower bridge, together with two upper bridges, one holding the balance wheel and the other the escapement, gear train, and barrel. The watch has a palladium case that is 43.5 mm in diameter and 12 mm thick. The watch is a limited edition of 100 pieces. For more info, read our article on the watch.
Girard-Perregaux celebrates its 225th anniversary this year with several new watches, the star of which is the Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon. The company based the watch on an archival piece, a pocketwatch with a chronometer-rated tourbillon movement with pivoted detent, tourbillon escapement and G-P’s iconic three gold bridges, which won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889. The rose-gold case was constructed to imitate the multi-layered one of the original pocketwatch, which was hinged with front and back case covers, plus a second, hunter-style cover protecting the bridges. The Tourbillon with Three Bridges caliber, on display in this timepiece,is the oldest watch movement still in production, with an overall layout that has remained unchanged since its introduction in 1860. The three bridges include a barrel bridge, gear-train bridge and tourbillon bridge, all made from solid gold. Click here for more info.
Harry Winston unveiled the seventh watch in its Histoire de Tourbillon series, in which the brand explores interesting variations of the tourbillon. The Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 7 actually features two of them in one watch. The right side of the dial is dominated by an unconventional, pyramid-cut off-center time display, beneath which is a power reserve display on a roller. On the left are the two bi-axial tourbillons that move in harmony, with the first tourbillon cage completing its rotation in 45 seconds and housing a 30-degree-tilted balance wheel, and the second cage making a complete rotation every 75 seconds. The two tourbillons are regulated for optimal accuracy by a spherical differential device, which connects them and averages out their rotational speed. The watch has a 50-mm white gold case and, like other Histoire de Tourbillon watches, is a limited edition: only 20 pieces will be made.
Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates the 85th Anniversary of its iconic Reverso model in 2016, launching a plethora of new Reverso watches at SIHH to mark the milestone. By far the most technically masterful is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon, a platinum cased, open-dialed, micromechanical marvel limited to 75 pieces. It is equipped with a new version of JLC’s now-famous bi-axial flying tourbillon device (click here for an in-depth look at how it’s made and how it works) and yet is 30 percent thinner in terms of both width and thickness than previous gyrotourbillon calibers. The rotating gyrotourbillon appears to be floating in midair beneath the dial but is actually controlled by an external driving mechanism. Pared down to their slimmest possible form, the two tourbillon carriages perform an external rotation in one minute and an internal rotation in 12.6 seconds, offering a view of the watch’s hemispherical balance spring and proprietary Gyrolab balance wheel, shaped like Jaeger-LeCoultre’s anchor logo. More details here.
Seiko’s first-ever tourbillon, the Seiko Credor Fugaku Tourbillon Limited Edition, showcases not only horological craftsmanship but the traditional Japanese handicrafts of metal engraving and lacquer finishing. Its elaborately engraved dial recreates a scene from one of Japan’s most famous paintings, “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa,” part of the “Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji” series by the 19th-century artist Katsushika Hokusai. (The watch’s name, Fugaku, is another name for Mt. Fuji in the Japanese language.) Inside the watch is Caliber 6830, a manual-wound movement based on the ultra-thin Caliber 68 family. Including the tourbillon carriage, the whole movement measures just 3.98 mm in thickness, and the diameter is just 25.6 mm. The engraving on the dial depicts the Great Wave in 18k yellow and white gold. The reverse side of the watch features the same wave, combining engraving and lacquer finishing. For more info, and close-up photos, click here for our full report on the watch.
TAG Heuer made news at Baselworld with the launch of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02 T, a COSC-certified chronograph watch equipped with a flying tourbillon that retails for a surprisingly accessible price of $15,950 (15,000 Swiss francs). The watch contains an entirely new movement, based on the company’s CH-80 integrated-chronograph caliber; the movement features automatic winding, a frequency of 4 hz (28,800 vph), an integrated, column-wheel-controlled chronograph function, and a power reserve of more than 65 hours stored in a single mainspring barrel. The flying tourbillon is exceptionally lightweight, with central sections made of titanium and a top section made of carbon, like the tourbillon created for TAG Heuer’s Monaco V4, The watch is also notable for its case, made of grade-5 titanium for maximum lightness and shock resistance and whose modular construction enables a wide range of combinations in the areas of materials, colors, treatments and finishes. More detail can be found here.
The Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is conceived as a sailboat for the wrist. The watch’s dial miniaturizes elements of the deck of a classic racing yacht, including a wood deck, winches, lines and a mainsail boom. It is made of inlaid wood in a color and curved design that resembles the deck of a classic yacht. A blued aluminum minutes hand represents the boom, the horizontal spar used to angle the mainsail on a racing boat. It swings down from the 12 o’clock position, sweeping across a retrograde minutes scale from 3 to 6 o’clock. It is pulled across the scale by strong high-tech fibers that wrap around two “rigging screws” and two pinions designed to resemble – and function as – the winches on the deck of a racing yacht. This mechanism is linked to the flying tourbillon in Caliber UN-630, which is made up of 469 components and has a frequency of 3 Hz and a 48-hour power reserve. The movement is equipped with two barrels — one driving the time and the other powering the complication and the display. Click here for our Baselworld report on the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon.
The Zenith Academy Tourbillon Georges Favre-Jacot, named for the Swiss brand’s founder, is the first Zenith watch to unite both a tourbillon and a fusee-and-chain transmission system in a high-frequency movement based on the classic El Primero. The hand-wound, dial-free El Primero Caliber 4805 is on full display under the sapphire crystal, with its deep anthracite-blackened mainplate and bridges imparting an intriguing dark look. The tourbillon cage, which rotates once per minute, is at 6 o’clock, is coupled with the fusee-and-chain mechanism between 10 o’clock and 10:30, which is secured to the mainplate by polished screws and supported by three blackened bridges. The system is linked to the mainspring barrel so as to ensure constant force. The hour and minute hands, as well as the applied hour markers, are black-faceted. The movement stores a 50-plus-hour power reserve, which is indicated between 4 and 5 o’clock by a red-tipped hand moving between “high” and “low” sectors. The watch, which has a 45-mm black ceramic case, is limited to 150 pieces.