A tourbillon is a traditional display of virtuosity, for a watchmaker to display his craft and the pinnacle of his skill. A.L. Breguet was credited as the inventor of the tourbillon. And for more than two and a half centuries, it remained relatively unchanged, and each master made tourbillons to display of his craft. But in recent years, there is an explosion of tourbillons. Almost every watchmaking house has one. Often for hundreds of thousands of dollars. How does one then differentiate? Ask yourself this: what’s more difficult than a tourbillon. An easy answer is, well a double tourbillon. How about a triple tourbillon? Even more complicated! In this review, we explore the Antione Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons. Three tourbillons, yes, count them, 3, each running on its own balance escapement system, and all on a platform which rotates on itself. Fascinating?
By way of introduction, Antoine Preziuso is one of the early “Académie des Horlogers Créateurs Indépendants” (AHCI) masters of the tourbillon. Having had a successful career, he is now joined by his son Florian who is also a watchmaker. Its a family business with his daughter Laura doing the jewellery work and his wife May handling the administration.
A bit of tourbillon history: Musings
The progress march of the tourbillon is an interesting one. It was largely seen as a virtuoso display for a master craftsman until about the quartz revolution. Indeed it was the epitome of complications from the 1850s till about 1970. Watches made during that era which were equipped with a tourbillon escapements are rare. They are more rare than minute repeaters in pocket watches, for example. And when wristwatches became popular, a tourbillon in a wristwatch was almost a guarantee of a high level of craftsmanship.
Post quartz revolution, with the rise of the Swiss in the late 1980s, the tourbillon is made more and more common. In 1993, Jaeger LeCoultre announced a limited edition series of tourbillons in their Reverso series. The limitation number was 500. This was the largest series production of the tourbillon in a single wristwatch model ever. Indeed 500 examples was perhaps more than the total number of tourbillon watches made till then. JLC went on to deliver all 500 within 2 years and went on to announce a further 500 in a later series dubbed Platinum 2 in 2003.
The floodgates of the tourbillon has been opened. Since then, all manufacturers have at least one tourbillon model in their collection. The mass production of the tourbillon then went on high gear in 2001 when Progress Watch Co announced that they will start delivery of two tourbillon ébauche made available on an industrial scale. However, Progress Watch was plagued with divers financial problems, and they finally collapsed. The tourbillon project continued, however, when STT took over the company, and engaged Peter Speake-Marin to complete development of the project. The result was the delivery of the tourbillon ébauche which found its way into watches like Bovet, Harry Winston Rare Timepieces, Gérald Charles, Alain Silberstein and of course, Speake-Marin.
In recent years, the arrival of the reliable Chinese made tourbillons have also heralded the low cost, but fully functional watches. These Chinese watches have not yet begun to assault the high end Swiss made counterparts. Today they lack the design, the finishing capability, and the finese, but perhaps over time, we may see them challenging the status quo.
With this as a backdrop, the technical aura of the virtuosity of tourbillons, while not shattered, is now perhaps marred with these examples. Ask a watchmaker, and most will confide that a chronograph demands more skill to make and fine tune than a tourbillon.
Review: Antoine Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons
With this background, we begin to understand why Antoine chose to produce a watch like with a triple tourbillon and call it Tourbillon of Tourbillons. From the single tourbillon the degree of difficulty challenge was increased with double axis or inclined tourbillons. These were made by Jaeger LeCoultre in their Gyrotourbillon, and most famously by Greubel Forsey in various models. Triple Axis tourbillons have also come about from Thomas Prescher, Harry Winston, Girard Perregaux and most recently Cabestan. Greubel Forsey also upped the game with what they call their Quadruple Tourbillon – essentially two double axis tourbillon coupled via a differential. The concept of a differential coupling two escapement in a wristwatch was first delivered by Philippe Dufour in his Duality. This is a very complicated device, which allows both escapements to keep its own rate, while running off a single wheel train.
Antoine’s Tourbillon of Tourbillons uses a three way differential, coupling three single axis tourbillons to a single wheel train. But it gets even more complicated. The three tourbillons sit on a plate, which itself rotates. The tourbillons each make one revolution every 60 seconds, and the plate makes one revolution every 10 minutes. And it shows. Amazing complexity. The watch is rather busy, but seemingly with a purpose.
The dial, or lack of it, is opened up to show parts of the movement, differential system and the tourbillons. From a visual perspective, the watch, especially the titanium version shown here in the photographs lacks contrast, the rhodiumed white gold hands showing little contrast to the complex filigree of bridges which make up the movement. The watch is also offered in a steel and 18kt Gold version which offers a bit more contrast, but still proved to be a challenge to read the time. Also, we would imagine Antoine would be able to offer customized versions.
The movement back also reveals a similar story. The click mechanism for the double barrels are magnificently designed and executed. And as a further show of tour de force, the left barrel’s click is designed different from the right barrel’s, allowing Antoine to showcase his craft, each being finished beautifully. The handsetting and winding works is also nicely designed and well finished. This component is visible in the photograph below at approximately 11 o’clock.
My first thought when told that this was to be a triple tourbillon was to say, “Humbug!”, but when I finally spent some time examining and discussing the watch with Antoine Preziuso, understanding the philosophy, the complexity, and seeing the finishing for my self, I become more convinced that this is a magnificent piece of horology. I remain a bit skeptical on the aesthetics, especially the low contrast of the hands to the backdrop of the exposed bridges and movement, more on the titanium model as to the steel/gold version. But I come away impressed with the virtuosity of Antoine Preziuso, and the work he has accomplished. Bravo!
For more information please visit Antoine Preziuso.
Antoine Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons
Movement and functions:
|Caliber Antoine Preziuso:||AFP-TTR-3X
Mechanical movment with manual winding
Hours and minutes indicator
Hand made decoration
|Motor organ:||Double serial barrels|
|Regulator organs of transmission:||planetary triple-differential gear|
|Regulator organ of frequency:||3 tourbillons « planetary satellite »|
|Frequency:||3X 21’600Ah (3Hz)|
|Rotating speed of the tourbillon carriage:||1t/min|
|Rotating speed of the revolving plate:||1t/10min.;|
|Power reserve:||min. 48h|
|Case:||Combination of Steel – Gold 18kt and Titanium Gr5|
|Dimension:||45 mm diameter- 14 mm thick|
|details:||Bezels screwed on to the middle via 8 lateral gold pillars and 24 “Power”screws in titanium.|
|Strap:||Crocodile leather front and back|