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In-depth review: Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon

by Peter Chong on November 8, 2019
Overview
Brand

Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon *limited to 25pcs*

Complication / Type of Watch

Flying tourbillon with stop seconds and zero reset system
Minute detent system
Power Reserve indicator

Recommended Retail Price

S$237,400 incl GST.

In-depth review: Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon

We take a in-depth look into the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon and discover the secrets of its workings. As reported in our Live from Time to Move, GO announced an impressive new flying tourbillon in May. We take a close look at the first working prototype.

Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon

The flying tourbillon

The flying tourbillon is a special tourbillon mechanism, first shown by Alfred Helwig at the Glashütte School Of Watchmaking, in 1920. Although, some scholars believe that Robert Benson North was the inventor. North was granted a patent for a flying tourbillon in 1904 on a filing in 1903 for patent no. 6737, “Improvements in Revolving Escapements for Watches and other Portable Timekeepers.” (Source: Who Actually Invented The Flying Tourbillon? by Jack Forster.

The difference between this tourbillon system and the classical tourbillon, normally attributed to A.L. Breguet, is that the flying tourbillon does not have a support bridge on the upper side. The technical term “flying” is used to describe devices which feature only one attachment point. Thus the flying tourbillon and flying barrels do not feature a bridge over the upper part of the mechanism, being only attached at the pivot point below.

GO Senator Chronometer Tourbillon on the still working original flying tourbillon model made by Alfred Helwig.

And so it is with the Senator Chronometer Tourbillon, which showcases the flying tourbillon prominently at 6 o’clock, framed by the elaborately hand engraved setting. It sits below the plate holding the dial proper. This is not the first flying tourbillon being offered by the modern day GO. Shown below are two more from their archives.

Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1 (1996), Senator Chronometer Tourbillon (2019) and Julius Assmann 3 (2002).

The case, dial and hands

The case is 42mm in diameter, 12mm high, and is in the classical Senator shape, as seen on other GO watches. The case is in 950 Platinum and features a polished, beveled bezel with a brushed ring as the case middle. The lugs are soldered and are faceted with polished edges.

The dial side is rather elaborate. The rehaut is deep with vertical (instead of sloping) sides and features a mirror polished finish and reflects light into the dial side. This mirror finishing carries with it another discreet touch revealed in its reflection.

A small detail, but well thought out. On the top side of polished cylinder bearing the dial, is written the words “CHRONOMETER TOURBILLON” in lateral inverted characters, which can then be read normally from the high polished rehaut at 12.

A galvanic blue hour minute sub-dial is placed at the 12 o’clock position, and is raised against the movement plate with visible Glashütte ribbing. The sub-dial is set high, on polished sides which carries the laterally inscribed words “CHRONOMETER TOURBILLON” on the side nearest to the 12 o’clock position. This is writing cannot be seen directly, and is reflected on the mirror polished rehaut to read correctly. A small touch, but very discreet and elegant. Nicely done!

The tourbillon itself rises above the movement plate, seen here higher than the focus plane of the camera which is locked on the dial and the plate. Even at f/11, the depth of field is not sufficient to render the diamond end stone and the tourbillon carriage sharp.

The flying tourbillon itself takes prime position below the hour/minute sub-dial, and rises prominently over the movement plate which is highly decorated with hand engravings and which is pierced to expose part of the stop tourbillon/zero reset mechanism and the power reserve mechanism.

The hands for minute and hour are standard pierced lancet hands. And the galvanic blue sub-dial has a mesmerizing hue, and carries the bar minute markers in applique and a minute railway track on its perimeter.

The movement: Caliber 58-05

The movement fitted on the Chronometer tourbillon is a new caliber designed and made in Glashütte. The Caliber 58-05 is certified by the independent testing institute of the German Calibration Service. The watch conforms to DIN 8319 standard after it passes a rigorous test routine which lasts 15 days. Accuracy and consistency are measured over five different positions at three different temperatures.

The balance spring is silicon, an offers a good protection against magnetic fields and changes in temperature. The balance beats at 21,600 bph with a power reserve of 70 hours.

The stop tourbillon and zero reset system

The interesting part of the tourbillon is that not only is it a flying tourbillon, as we have described above, but it also features a stop tourbillon mechanism, with a zero reset system.

Pulling the crown to the first position triggers a vertical clutch that locks the tourbillon cage. As a consequence of the toubillon cage being stopped, the balance also stops shortly after. On a further pull of the crown and held in position, the second hand advances clockwise to zero. In the process, a rotational damper ensures a smooth and slow, gentle movement of the carriage. The minute hand can then be advanced or retarded in steps of one full index, thanks to the GO-unique detent minute system. This detent and the zero reset system work together to ensure an easy to use and very precise alignment of the seconds hand to the minute hand : the raison d’être of the zero reset stop tourbillon.

At approximately 11:30 in the photograph above is seen the stop tourbillon and zero reset system. The tourbillon itself is framed with a sapphire crystal sub-dial, allowing the mechanism to be observed.

Now the crown can be released and – while the small second remains at zero – the time can be set precisely to the minute while the crown is still at position 1. Pushing in the crown after setting the minute, releases the brake, and allows the tourbillon to restart. Though the first few oscillations will be at a very poor rate, the system is designed to catch up quickly, and is fast enough to get to operating rate such that this small irregularity can be ignored in the overall scheme.

Movement finishing is top level, with all the essential engineering requirements attended to with detail. The movement also features elaborate decorative finishing, as demanded by the high stature it is called upon. In addition to the highly ornamental garnishing of the hand engravings on the dial side, all the haute horlogerie finnisage elements are completed with great skill. Anglage is beautifully executed, as is black polishing and perlage. All done to as near perfection as handwork allows.

Please note that the watch we photographed and show here is a working prototype, and the final pieces which are delivered to the customer may feature different, possibly even better, finishing. Though in our view, this piece is already rather exceptional.

Competitive Landscape

This is an interesting landscape where the GO Senator Chronometer Tourbillon resides in. The characteristic feature is the stop tourbillon system, and curiously this seems to be a German game. With the flag being bourne by A. Lange & Söhne who pioneered the stop tourbillon mechanism with their Cabaret Tourbillon in 2008, and continued with the Zero Reset mechanism in the 1815 Tourbillon in 2014, and all Lange tourbillons introduced since. The other German occupiers being Moritz Grossmann with their Benu, and the only non-German occupant being the Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon. None feature a detent minute hand which moves in one minute steps to allow precision in time setting. But all feature stop tourbillon mechanism, and other than the Grossmann, also a zero reset system.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon is the first to offer both stop tourbillon and zero reset. The mechanism used to stop the tourbillon is designed in the form of a two fingered prong which, when engaged extends to touch either the tourbillon cage or the balance wheel.

When engaged, it stops the carriage. The zero reset mechanism is similar to that of the chronograph, where a spring loaded lever snaps on to a heart shaped mechanism, and causes the tourbillon carriage to jump to zero.

Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon uses a different approach. The Parallax tourbillon carriage carries a cage stop-finger which extends beyond the under carriage. In normal operations, it is unimpeded as the tourbillon makes its revolutions. But a function selector The watch can be put the watch in time setting mode, allowing the crown to adjust the hands directly. In this position, a mechanism extends a lever which will move into the path of the cage stop-finger.

When the tourbillon (and the seconds hand) reaches zero, the lever blocks the carriage and stops the tourbillon and the movement. This feature enables precise time setting. Putting the function selector back to the winding position will re-start both the tourbillon cage and the seconds’ hand by moving the lever away from the stop pin.

Moritz Grossmann Benu Tourbillon‘s approach is again different. It does not offer a zero reset, and instead of a double pronged brass finger to either make contact with the tourbillon cage or the balance wheel, as implemented in the Lange tourbillons. However, on he Benu The mechanism utilizes a brush made of human hair to make contact with the balance wheel.

So here we have four different takes on how to stop a tourbillon. All of them work, but the claim is that the Grönefeld, Grossmann and GO methods offer a gentler approach than Lange’s implementation. This is in line with our observation. With the Lange method, the balance stops and starts almost instantly, while it gently comes to a halt in the others. The Grönefeld is superb for its simplicity, and the Grossmann for the out of the box thinking. But the GO method, being the latest is perhaps the most elegant. The clutch brake is technically superior and it too is rather more gentle, with the damper playing a big part in keeping the shock to the system at a minimum.

Concluding thoughts

As we draw to a close on this rather long review, the Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon left a very good impression on us. We spent two days in Glashütte, playing and enjoying the watch, and found its charms to be engaging.

At a diameter of 42mm and a height of 12mm, the Senator Chronometer Tourbillon sits rather nicely on my wrist, and feels very comfortable.

The watch is magnificently and brilliantly conceived, executed and finished. All the important points in a haute horlogerie watch are addressed with aplomb. Sometimes to the extent that it does come across that perhaps GO is trying too hard to impress. But no matter, impress it did.

It looks beautiful. It looks expensive, which may or may not be a good thing, but it is indeed quite expensive. The workmanship is unquestioned. And on the wrist, it commands a wrist presence that few watches manage – an imposing tower of technical virtuosity, tempered with an elegance.

Glashütte Original Senator Chronometer Tourbillon Specifications

REF. 1-58-05-01-03-30 platinum fold fastener standard, 18 mm
REF. 1-58-05-01-03-50 platinum short fold fastener, 18 mm

Case: Ø 42 mm
Height: 12.0 mm
Material: platinum Pt 950
Strap: 21/18 mm
Waterproof up to: 5 bar
Glass: sapphire crystal,
both sides anti-reflective
Bottom: sapphire crystal
Dial: Ø display 35.8 mm,
galvanic blue with appliques
Hands: white gold, skeletonized, small second on tourbillon cage made of
blued steel
Limited Edition: 25 pieces

Movement: Calibre 58-05

Dimensions: Ø 36.6 mm, height 8.48 mm
Balance: screw balance with 8 regulation screws gold 14 ct
Oscillating frequency: 21,600 vph, equivalent to 3 Hz
Power reserve: 70 hours
Balance spring: silicon
Shock protection: Incabloc
Jewels: 85 jewel bearings
Additional details:
Manual winding, Flying Tourbillon with second hand, hour/minute (decentral), second stop of tourbillon cage with innovative minute detent, Power reserve, exquisitely finished movement, polished steel parts, polished/blued screws, three-quarter plate with stripe finish, bevelled edges, adjustment of rate by adjustment screws.

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