As we hinted in our list from last Sunday’s top tier tourbillons, we will be recommending five more this week with a somewhat more friendly budget.
Five more tourbillons from our list – this time, a bit more wallet friendly
First off…why five instead of our usual six? Well, search as we might, we could not find another to add to the list. True, in the list, we have U50 listed as part of the U51 entry and can potentially count as two watches, but decided to call it one. Thus only five in this list.
Be aware that though this is an entry level list, tourbillon watches are rather expensive to start off with. Our opening paragraphs on Historical Notes from the article last week explored why this might be. And other than the various offerings which come from China, they are relatively more expensive than the regular wrist watch. The limit we set for this list is SGD 50k, which is substantial for a wristwatch, but barely sufficient for us to find 6 from our archives which fit this budget.
We have ruled out the various tourbillons from China for the moment, including offerings from Seagull and Beijing Watch Co which appear to lead the manufacture stakes. This include variants which use the same basic tourbillons from these Chinese ébauche manufacturers. And the principal reason is that we have limited exposure to them, and thus would be incomplete and not fair in our evaluation. However, for now, suffice to say that our current feel is that these watches have yet some way to come in terms of fit, finish, reliability and accuracy before we can consider them. Perhaps leave that for a different discussion on a separate day.
The origins of the affordable tourbillon began perhaps when Progress Watch Co was registererd in 1999 and declared this intent. By 2001 the company had gained considerable industry attention for producing a large volume of affordable tourbillon movements. Cal. 6361 was a tourbillon that leveraged many ETA 2892A2 components, a situation which caused some issues with ETA. Internal difficulties and liquidity problems hinder the further production and the company declared bankruptcy later that year. Progress was purchased by a Dutch group in 2003 and renamed Swiss Time Technology (STT). They continued development of the tourbillon renamed Cal. 13.21, with a longer power reserve and other modifications. In 2006, the company was bought by Pascal Raffy to become Dimier 1738 and was then integrated into his manufacture for Bovet Fleurier. They engaged Peter Speake to continue development of the movement and the result was an ébauche which finally had the reliability, robustness and finesse required for haute horlogerie watches. This movement was eventually used by many independents, including Bovet, Harry Winston Rare Timepieces, Gérald Charles, Alain Silberstein and Speake-Marin.
As usual, in no particular order, here they are.
The Angelus U51 Tourbillon Diver retails for CHF 32,800.
The diver tourbillon is an oddity designed to bring the nerd out of us watch collectors. And yes, it does resonate with us. Strongly! The concept of an iron fist in a velvet glove comes to mind – the tourbillon, perhaps a fragile and somewhat finicky contraption in a watch which is built to be robust, and where one relies on for one’s own safety. The juxtaposition is intriguing. The movement is a creation of Sebastian Chaulmontet, who then worked in La Joux Perret, a part of a group belonging to the same owners as Arnold & Son and Angelus. All three companies are part of the Citizen Group.
The U51 is a study in contrasts. The strong and robust but yet complex and delicate. We have not only a tourbillon, but one which flying by design. The lack of an upper bridge might be seen as even more fragile. Up the ante even more with the case designed for saturation diving, with an automatic helium escape valve. All the contrarian values of tool watch design seem to be at odds. But yet it works. The Angelus U51 is quite an attractive watch. The use of colour for the dial ring brings a level of liveliness. The wave like bezel carries a character, amplified by the skeleton dial which allow a good look into the movement. And that tourbillon. Quite a magnificent beast. Plus, least of all, the pricing is very reasonable for a tourbillon watch.
Also worth noting is that a different but similar watch from the same stable is the Angelus Diver Tourbillon U50. The U50 sports the A300 movement, which is the base for the A310 used in the U51. It matches the U51 almost exactly, with a black ADLC titanium case. The colour scheme is monotone grey on the entire watch and has a very similar retail of CHF 30,750.
The Arnold & Son Chronometer No.36 Tourbillon in stainless steel, Ref.1ETAS.G01A.C112S – CHF 34,900.
The Arnold Chronometer No.36 comes from the same manufacture as the Angelus. But it offers a different aesthetic in a different package. The watch is perhaps more classical in its outlook, with a beautiful open worked design. The multiple bridges are visible from the dial side showcasing the entire movement. The open worked dial may look complicated, the design is clean and elegant with a great sense of symmetry. We understand that the movement may share components with the Angelus, as both are owned under the Citizen umbrella and manufactured by La Joux Perret.
The watch is beautifully finished on both sides – the dial side, especially the tourbillon carriage and the skeletonised cock holding the tourbillon is particularly well finished. And overall the finnisage is absolutely at a very high level of haute horlogerie.
This is a watch which will always be a conversation starter and a reason of envy. At its price, the Arnold 36 is well situated on the market. A top favourite in the Deployant offices.
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon was retailed at CHF 28,000 / SGD 50,000 in a steel case with a grand feu enamel dial.
Next, a much more classical aesthetic of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon. This offers the combination of a grand feu enamel dial with a cutout for the flying tourbillon. Ulysse Nardin chose to encase this in a marine style watch, with pays tribute to marine chronometers which the brand is famous for. The movement is COSC certified and carries the brand’s proprietary silicon technology in the escapement.
Finishing on the movement is neat and attractive. The bridges are decorated with circular Côtes de Genève on the top surface and finished with hand-bevelling and polishing on the edges. Wheels are also grained while every screw on the movement is evenly blued. The anchor-shaped central winding rotor of the calibre UN-128 is adorned with two decorative anchors on either side and blue inlay in between.
The watch was also available in a Blue Grand Feu Guilloche dial at the same price. But perusing the UN current catalog, we could not find either references. In the current list, UN offers the Torpelleur Tourbillon. 42mm gold case, limited edition of 175 pieces for SGD 70k. And perhaps if available in a steel case, may also qualify for this list.
The TAG Heuer Carrera 02T retailed for CHF 15,000 at launch. The price currently listed for slightly more, and the TAG Heuer catalog shows the latest models listed at CHF 18,500 / SGD 26,350. Several other versions are also available at the similarly attractive pricing, for example, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph (CHF 26,150 / SGD 37,750) and also in Titanium (CHF 20,500 / SGD 26,900).
The watch features a skeletonised dial which allow the entire movement to be visible. Though, as noted, the prices has risen somewhat since launch, it still currently holds the title as the most affordable Swiss-made Tourbillon Chronograph available. It created a storm in the industry when it was launched. This sporty chronograph might be not cheap for a chronometer, but for a tourbillon, it is a game changer. Add the chronograph, and it becomes the value leader by a wide margin.
The watch is packed in a 45mm diameter titanium case cover with sapphire crystal and a decent 100m water resistance. The dial is black, skeletonized with an interesting flying 1-minute tourbillon cage. TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02 Tourbillon lacks the usual magnificent finishes available for this type of watch in its effort to keep costs down. But as a sports watch, the look is appropriate. And a very beautiful package indeed.
Now sold out, the Horage Tourbillon 1 had an order price of only CHF 7,480 before taxes on the Horage website until September 1, 2021. COSC certification is offered at an additional CHF 300. This is perhaps the most value for money Swiss made tourbillon ever.
A bit of back history, the Horage Tourbillon 1 was offered from March 2020 as a subscription piece. The movement is initially to be manufactured by La Joux-Perret in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. However, things did not work out, and Horage, decided to develop their own in-house movements to take on the task themselves. This resulted in the K-TOU movement used in the production Tourbillon 1.
The overall aesthetic of the Horage is an interesting one, offering yet another look to the others in this list. The dial side is made up of a square grid lattice which is integrated into the movement. This design is inspired by the Horage logo which is made of up of small square dots, and the lattice features some squares which are closed but others which are open to show the movement within. A different take to the skeleton dial.
Movement finishing is judged to be adequate, with some bright sparks (like the nicely executed anglage being one). We also particularly like the innovation to allow the tourbillon to be clearly visible, with the unusual drive system. The movement is not heavily decorated in haute horlogerie style, and keeps within the boundaries mandated by its modest pricing. We understand Horage is unable to offer the watch at this price anymore, and thus have taken it off their catalog.
Jaeger-LeCoultre used to have a Master Control Tourbillon in Stainless Steel which retailed for SGD 50k, but we understand this model is ended its cycle. And the replacement watch – the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon is priced at SGD 110k, so drops out of contention in this list.
What do you think about the list? Are there obvious examples which you think we should have included? Let us know and discuss in the comments.