There are watches and there are watches. Included in the second category are pieces so technically extravagant, so hyper-engineered that they belong to a very special club. Their prices are stratospheric. Hardly anyone will ever own one. But they are fascinating nonetheless. As always, this year’s SIHH fair in Geneva in January brought out a fresh crop of these, what we might call “über” watches. Here’s a look at five of them.
The classic definition of a grande complication is a watch with a split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar and minute repeater. A. Lange & Söhne went beyond the requirements of this definition with its new, limited-edition (six pieces) Grande Complication: the watch also has grande and petite sonneries. The sonneries sound the time en passant, i.e., automatically, as time passes, versus on demand, as with a repeater. The watch also has, at six o’clock, a chronograph foudroyante seconds hand that enables the wearer to time elapsed intervals to the 1/5-second.
Tracing their roots to the early part of the last century, Cartier mystery clocks combine art and magic, with stylish cases housing hidden mechanisms that drive hands that appear to float in space. At SIHH, Cartier brought this illusion to the wrist with its pièce de résistance for 2013, the Rotonde de Cartier Double Mystery Tourbillon. In this watch, a flying tourbillon appears to float within the dial as it both spins and rotates, an effect at once mesmerizing and baffling. Cartier achieves this magical manifestation by employing a construction used in its original mystery clocks, the key to which is two sapphire disks, one serving as a transparent bridge and the other as the tourbillon cage.
Like the first two Gyrotourbillon watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre, the new Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee has a tourbillon that rotates on two axes thanks to its two carriages. One carriage turns once every 24 seconds and the other once per minute. The point of the two-axis rotation is to improve on the performance of a standard, single-axis tourbillon by keeping the balance moving continuously through a range of positions. The watch’s movement, Caliber 176, has a spherical hairspring, which JLC says greatly improves its precision.