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BaselWorld 2014: Belles of the Fair: Blancpain Villeret Carrousel Moonphase and the 12 Jour Tourbillon

by Peter Chong on May 10, 2014

Tourbillon or Carrousel? Which is which? While tourbillons are becoming more common, carrousels are becoming less common.

 

Perhaps the only brand still actively producing carrousel watches is Blancpain. Of course, they also make tourbillon wristwatches, and in a show of virtuosity, they even made a watch with both a tourbillon and a carrousel. This watch uses a differential to average the effects of both the tourbillon and the carrousel. Quite an amazing timepiece. That watch was released mid 2013. But the subject of this article is only the new Carrousel Moonphase, though we will draw some comparison with the also new for 2014 Blancpain Tourbillon with 12 Day Power Reserve.

 

The Blancpain Villeret Carrousel Moonphase, with grand feu enamel dial.

The Blancpain Villeret Carrousel Moonphase, with grand feu enamel dial.

 

But first what is the difference? The video at the top of this article is produced by Blancpain to answer this question. But the principle difference is that the tourbillon has its carriage driven directly in the power path of the movement train. The pinion of the fifth wheel of the tourbillon engages with the stationary fourth wheel, and sits in a carriage, together with the escapement. The carriage is driven by the third wheel. In a carrousel, also known as karussel (after Bahne Bonniksen) is originally intended to be a more robust and less expensive method to achieve the gravity equalizing effects of the tourbillon. The power train is split such that one part of it drives the carriage only, and the other, via two or more additional wheels, supplies power directly to the escapement. In a tourbillon, if the carriage is stopped, the entire movement comes to a standstill. In a carrousel, if the carriage is stopped, power still flows to the escapement, but at a different rate than usual, and the watch continues to run, though at a degraded timekeeping ability.

 

The carrousel in detail.

The carrousel in detail.

 

In comparison, the tourbillon in detail from the Villeret 12 Day Tourbillon.

In comparison, the tourbillon in detail from the Villeret 12 Day Tourbillon.

 

The new Villeret Carrousel is quite beautifully designed and made. Featuring a white enamel, grand feu dial, the watch has an imposing presence, with the case measuring some 42mm in diameter and 12.74mm thick.

 

The Blancpain caliber 225L, carrousel with moonphase

The Blancpain caliber 225L, carrousel with moonphase

 

The movement, caliber 225L has a power reserve of 120 hours, and made with 281 components. The method to adjust the moonphase is rather ingenious, and does away of having to poke at the case side with tooth picks. A small lever is incorporated into each of the lower lugs, and are used to correct the moonphase.

 

Detail of the lug, showing one of the moonphase corrector pushers.

Detail of the lug, showing one of the moonphase corrector pushers.

 

In contrast, Blancpain’s new Villeret 12 Day Tourbillon is powered by the caliber 242 which made with 288 components.

 

The Blancpain Villeret 12 Day Tourbillon

The Blancpain Villeret 12 Day Tourbillon

 

The movement finishing detailing is quite exceptional, with hand-guilloché pattern which is rather beautiful and unusual. The traditional finnasage points are all well addressed beautifully.

 

Blancpain caliber 242 flying tourbillon automatic with 12 day power reserve on a single barrel. Note the magnificent finishing details like the hand-guilloché on the plates.

Blancpain caliber 242 flying tourbillon automatic with 12 day power reserve on a single barrel.
Note the magnificent finishing details like the hand-guilloché on the plates.

 

As is traditional of a tourbillon, the finising of the c.242 is more elaborate and a higher virtuoso level than is applied to the movement of the c.252L carrousel,

 

hand-guilloché in detail, visible through the openworked automatic winding rotor.

hand-guilloché in detail, visible through the openworked automatic winding rotor.

 

Some critics claim Blancpain is just using the marketing tactic that the carrousel is now highly unusual to create a false unique selling proposition. They proposition that the tourbillon is more traditional as a high complication, and the carrousel, the pariah of the family, We disagree. We think both are legitimate claims to a high complication.  With Blancpain, the carrousel now deserves to bask in its own glory as a high complication by its own right.  So Bravo Blancpain! What do you think?

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