2021, The Watch Year in Review: Seven Tantalizing Tourbillons

By almost any standard, the luxury watch world enjoyed a successful year in 2021 despite the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its worldwide economic consequences — with high-profile retailers reopening and expanding, new auction records set, some large-scale industry events (like our own WatchTime New York) returning, and of course, a host of notable timepieces launched. As we wrap up 2021 and look ahead enthusiastically to 2022, we take our annual look back at some of the year’s notable timepieces in various popular categories. Today we showcase tourbillon wristwatches that caught our eye.

Audemars Piguet kicked off its new partnership with Marvel Entertainment with the unveiling of the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, a limited edition of 250 pieces. The watch’s 42-mm white-gold case, made of 18k white gold, feature a hand-engraved motif inspired by the high-tech uniform of its namesake, Marvel’s Black Panther, aka Prince T’Challa of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The character is also fully rendered on the dial as a carved, hand-painted 3D figure in the same white-gold as the case. The hallmark octagonal bezel, with its eight visible hexagonal screws, surrounds an inner bezel in purple, accented with black-PVD-coated white-gold hour markers. The movement is Audemars Piguet’s hand-wound manufacture Caliber 2965, whose flying tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock on the dial side shares the main stage with the figure of the Black Panther. More detail and more photos can be found here.

Bovet Fleurier continued its tradition of producing luxuriously designed and horologically complex timepieces wrist with the release of the Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two Reimagined DLC-SLN. A revamped version of Bovet’s original Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two tourbillon, which launched in 2020, the newer model takes its classical design into a sportier and more contemporary realm and offers six decidedly modern colorways — yellow, blue, salmon (pictured), turquoise, green, and violet — all of which boast a heavy use of Super-LumiNova on the dial, ensuring the largest displays glow brightly in the dark. Inside the 44-mm case, made of DLC-coated titanium, Bovet’s manufacture Caliber stores an astounding 10-day power reserve and is equipped with a dial-side flying tourbillon. Click here for more info and photos.

Bovet Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two Reimagined DLC-SLN

The tourbillon (specifically, its 1801 patent by Abraham-Louis Breguet) turned 220 years old this year, and the maison founded by its inventor celebrated in style with the release of the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Anniversaire 5365, a limited edition of 250 pieces in an elegantly slender 41-mm case in 18k rose gold with fluted edges and welded lugs and screwbars. The engine-turned dial, in silvered 18k gold, is embellished with Clous de Paris in its center and and grain d’orge on its outer edges.T he anniversary timepiece is equipped with a 60-second tourbillon whose rotating cage and blued steel bridge are visible through an aperture in the dial between 4 and 6 o’clock. A sapphire caseback reveals an “Anniversaire 1801–2021” engraving on the movement’s barrel, and “Brevet No 157 Du 7 Messidor An IX” etched on the lower bridge of the tourbillon. More details can be found here.

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Anniversaire
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Anniversaire 5365

The De Bethune DW5 Tourbillon ‘Season 1’ — a limited edition that apparently sold out within minutes of its launch at WatchTime New York last fall — sprang from a partnership between the haute horlogerie watchmaker and rapper Swizz Beatz. Described by De Bethune as a “veritable wrist sculpture” in terms of form, it follows in the avant-garde steps of previous models in its Dream Watch collection; new to this model, however, is its use of sapphire, titanium, and cutting-edge finishing techniques that together yielded an azure-toned spaceship for the wrist that represents what De Bethune calls its “ongoing research into shapes, materials and colors.” The huge nose-cone-shaped case measures a titanic 58-mm by 47-mm but is light on the wrist due to its construction in blued grade 5 titanium, with sapphire blue inserts, hardened mineral glass, and a Cabochon-cut blue sapphire on its crown. De Bethune’s Caliber DB2149 is packed with many of the brand’s famed patented technologies, including a silicon-and-titanium 30-second tourbillon, a four-day power reserve, and an ultra-high frequency of 36,000 vph. For more on the story behind the watch and its full range of features, click here.

De Bethune DW5 Tourbillon “Season 1”

Hublot takes pride in being the first watch manufacturer to make sapphire cases on an industrialized scale and even greater pride in its leading role in creating new color variations in that difficult-to-machine material — most recently, orange. The translucent 45-mm case of the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire is achieved through a process that incorporates titanium and chromium. It attaches to a matching orange, structured rubber strap with a lined relief pattern, equipped with Hublot’s patented One Click interchangeability system. Inside the world’s-first case is a world’s-first movement, Hublot’s Caliber MHUB6035, a skeletonized, self-winding tourbillon movement that amasses its three days of running autonomy by means of a 22k gold micro-rotor placed unconventionally at 12 o’clock on the dial side. Price: $169,000, limited to 50 pieces. Read more about it here.

Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire

With the launch of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon, Jaquet Droz took the emblematic figure-eight design of its Grande Seconde family to a new level of horological complexity. The watch’s 41-mm rose gold case frames a skeletonized movement with a tourbillon poised in the top half and matte black openworked bridges that contrast attractively with the golden hands and markers of the multi-tiered subdials — one made of sapphire for the hours, minutes and seconds, the other in smoky quartz, is nearly invisible and adds to the “floating” look of the tourbillon. The Jaquet Droz Caliber 2625SQ inside, visible through the front and back sapphire crystals, uses a skeletonized rose-gold oscillating weight to wind the movement up to its impressive seven-day power reserve. Discover more details here.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon

Swiss design firm Kross Studio works with established purveyors of pop culture to produce creative, luxurious in-house timepieces aimed at discerning collectors. This year’s standout, created in collaboration with LucasFilm, is the Death Star Tourbillon, with a 45-mm case made of black DLC-coated titanium and an open dial dominated by a central tourbillon resembling the Death Star, the moon-sized space station and galaxy-threatening super-weapon known to Star Wars fans as the stronghold of the evil Galactic Empire. Rotating once per minute on its axis, the tourbillon cage has a green super-laser cannon mounted on it, a miniature version of the planet-destroying device deployed in the original film. Additional, subtle Star Wars iconography is found in the hands, both shaped like Empire starships, and “blue emission” white Super-LumiNova hour markers that resemble the lighting halls in Imperial vessels. You can discover more about the special edition and its ambitious in-house tourbillon movement here.

Kross Studios x Lucasfilm Death Star Tourbillon Limited Edition
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  1. Weitsu Fan

    The Breguet 220 Anniversary Tourbillon 5365 only made 35 rather than 250 pieces, unlike AP’s Black Panther.

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