Striving to Achieve a Perfect Balance
By Elizabeth Doerr Writer, Forbes.com; Co-Founder and Editor in Chief, QuillandPad.com
Engineers are more than just builders of machines. They are the masters of entropy, striving to achieve a perfect balance inside complex systems. The veritable demiurges in this particular professional segment are undoubtedly the watchmakers, whose ultimate goal is the paradox of adding complexity without losing energy.
With just days to spare until Our Minutes begins live coverage of novelties and wonders premiering at the watch industry’s largest tradeshow, Baselworld, we take a look back at some of the most complicated mechanical watches of the last year.
Beg to Differ
Le Brassus-based Blancpain really came on in the complicated category at Baselworld this year introducing not only the Le Brassus Carrousel Répétition Minutes, but above all the Le Brassus Tourbillon Carrousel, a 44.6-millimeter pink gold timepiece that displays not only the time, date and power reserve (on the back), but also includes both a flying tourbillon (at 6 o’clock) and the stunning carrousel from the 2008 Carrousel Volante Une Minute at 12 o’clock. The manually wound movement laid bare on the dial side and framed by a white grand feu enamel dial ring utilizes a differential gear system to transmit the average rate of both escapement styles outfitted with silicon balance springs to the time display. While both the tourbillon and the carrousel essentially serve the same purpose, this timepiece most fascinatingly underscores their differences.
Breguet’s entire range of introductions at Baselworld 2013 was beautifully complicated, including the Classique Tourbillon Ultra-Plat, the Classique La Musicale and the Reine de Naples Jour-Nuit. The Breguet Classique Chronométrie Ref 7727, however, extends the boundaries of classic horology to encompass more-than-modern components such as magnetic pivots. This patented invention harnesses the power of magnetism to prevent shocks to the watch (such as dropping it) from influencing accuracy. The 41-millimeter rose or white gold timepiece also contains numerous elements characteristic of the traditional tourbillon expert, such as a hand-guilloché dial boasting no less than six patterns, classically blued hands and screws, and a beautifully fluted bezel. Hand-wound Caliber 574DR also beats at 10 Hz and boasts double balance springs, a silicon pallet lever and escape wheel, which do not fear magnetic fields.
A Frenchman, an Englishman and a …
If there was ever a brand specialized in “complicated,” this La Chaux-de-Fonds-based brand founded by an Englishman and a Frenchman is it. The Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon Secret introduced at the 2013 SIHH is just one example. It contains four tourbillons and is based on the duo’s second fundamental invention. Timekeeping accuracy is configured in two individual tourbillon pairs that are linked by a differential, meaning that any timing errors are averaged out between them. Of Caliber GF03j’s total of 519 components, 261 are found in the four tourbillon cages visible only through the sapphire crystal case back. Naturally, the 43.5-millimeter platinum or pink gold case also contains a “secret”—a special message shared between the owner and the brand’s founders, Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel, as well as the hidden mechanical whirlwinds.
The Christophe Claret Kantharos includes a constant force system, a rare mechanical element that provides far more accuracy over the length of a watch’s winding period than a conventional system. This is a recurring theme this year among complicated watchmakers, and this Le Locle-based maker adds it to a unique chronograph that reveals its highly accurate escapement in a window at 6 o’clock. This watch also displays its chronograph times in an unusual way on an architecturally layered dial. Automatic Caliber MBA13 additionally emits a chime on a cathedral gong when the single pusher is pressed to start, stop or reset the chronograph; the hammer is visible in a little window at 10 o’clock. Named for a famous racehorse, the 45-millimeter timepiece is available in five different metal combinations. Each piece is numbered.
Hommage à Constant
The Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement shows what the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based brand has been working on since 2006. A constant force escapement is usually achieved with the help of an intermediate spring called the remontoir. But Girard-Perregaux’s development has instead led to the watch’s very visible 14-micron-thick silicon escapement blade, which boasts a new shape and engineering structure as well as forming a fascinating visual point of reference. The timepiece’s name – a nod to founder Constant Girard and a play on the term “constant force” – poetically kicks off the Haute Horlogerie Constant Escapement collection. This piece is housed in a 48-millimeter white gold case reminiscent of the brand’s iconic Three Golden Bridges. The dial shows the time and a linear power reserve. The manually wound caliber MVT-009100-0007 appears to be absolutely three-dimensional and contemporary nestled within a plate crafted in black PVD-coated brass.
This article and all accompanying images originally appeared in Tourneau’s The Watch Book: 2013/2014.