Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 ‘Meteorite’
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Gyrotourbillon series of watches are some of the most ingenious, most spectacular timepieces the world has ever known. Already on its fifth rendition – the most recent one being this year’s Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel – the collection stars the multi-axis tourbillon, with each one becoming more sophisticated than the last. Arguably one of the most breathtaking iterations of the Gyrotourbillon was the Gyrotourbillon 3, which was first introduced way back in 2013. This year, after presenting the Gyrotourbillon 5, Jaeger-LeCoultre have outdone themselves by announcing a new variation of the Gyrotourbillon 3. We didn’t think it was possible to surpass the original masterpiece, but the ‘wathcmaker’s watchmaker’ has somehow managed to do so. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 ‘Meteorite’.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Gyrotourbillon 3 remains unchanged in design compared to the seminal piece. Measuring a substantial 43.5 mm x 15.8 mm, it still features a polished bezel, stepped lugs, and a satin finished case band. The pusher at the 2 o’clock position starts, stops, and resets the chronograph function. The only thing that is different now is that it is rendered in pink gold, rather than platinum.
While the case has plenty of nuance to it, it is the dial where the watch truly shines. This new version of the Gyrotourbillon 3 harnesses the skills of the manufacture’s Métiers Rares artisans to take the piece to a whole new level. The most striking part about the dial is the aventurine, which glitters subtly like a night sky filled with distant stars. The aventurescent mineral takes the form of the hour and minute track, as well as the centre medallion of the the chronograph sub-dial. Also on the chronograph sub-dial is a seconds track made of white grand feu enamel. The combination between the striking blue aventurine and pure white enamel is stunning and gorgeous.
The new Gyrotourbillon 3 model also showcases the rarely seen craft of meteorite inlaying. Found in Namibia, the Gibeon meteorite chosen for this watch is an iron-nickel alloy with an octahedrite crystal structure, formed by the cooling of the asteroid fragment in outer space over the course of billions of years before it crashed to Earth in prehistoric times. The abstract geometric patterns of the intersecting crystal structures shimmer gently when the material catches the light, their irregular arrangement making every slice of meteorite subtly different from all others. Jaeger-LeCoultre have chosen to inlay the meteorite on the German silver bridges of the watch (more on this below). A disc shaped slice of the meteorite also adorns the centre of the time display.
Between the enameling, the meteorite inlaying, and the judicious use of aventurine, Jaeger-LeCoultre would have had in their hands, a highly artistic timepiece heroing the rare crafts of watchmaking. But let’s not forget that the Gyrotourbillon 3 is also a technical tour de force equipped with a chronograph with instantaneously jumping digital minutes; an engraved, stylised day-night display, and of course a multi-axis tourbillon. Put everything together and you have a horological behemoth that is complete from both technical and artistic perspectives.
We personally feel that the manufacturer has got the aesthetics right. Unlike the cool, sharp look of the original Gyrotourbillon 3 in platinum, this latest variant has warmer, earthier tones thanks to complementary effect between the pink gold and the meteorite. The restrained use of aventurine and white enamel gives tang and zest to an otherwise subdued colour palette of the dial. There’s also something highly poetic about the combination of meteorite and aventurine; it evokes the image of an asteroid or meteoroid in space.
Speaking of meteorite, it is on the back of the Calibre 176 that it truly takes centre stage. A lively yet subtle mixture of colour and texture – blued screws, ruby jewels, the shiny aspect of the hand-chamfered and hand-polished jewel countersinks, bridges and plates, and the matte finish of the brushed borders of the German silver plates – offsets the abstract geometric patterns of the meteorite, which adorns all of the plates and bridges. A skill mastered by very few craftsmen in the world, meteorite inlaying requires a rare degree of precision and dexterity. First, the artisan must hollow out the surface of the German silver plate or bridge, to a depth that exactly matches the thickness of the meteorite fragment, leaving only a fine fillet of German silver at the borders. Once the new surface has been polished, the meteorite must be laid so that its edges fit seamlessly within the complex, curving borders and its surface lies exactly flush with them, to form a completely flat and unified plane. It is work of the utmost refinement and precision, measured in fractions of a millimetre.
Such exacting work complements the remarkable precision of the Gyrotourbillon mechanism. Exceedingly rare and complex, this multi-axis tourbillon comprises two cages, set at two different angles, turning opposite directions, at different speeds, with a blued spherical balance spring beating like a heart in their centre. In the absence of a tourbillon bridge, the cantilevered all-aluminium cages of the tourbillon appear to be suspended in space.
The hand-wound Calibre 176 has a power reserve just shy of 2 days. Given that the movement drives two power hungry mechanisms (the multi-axis tourbillon and the chronograph), the slightly below average power reserve is justifiable.
The Competitive Landscape
Timepieces like the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 ‘Meteorite’ are a rarefied bunch even within the realm of haute horlogerie. Thus, it is impossible to find anything that is identical to it. The ‘Meteorite’ iteration of the Gyrotourbillon 3 is produced in a quantity that it is even more limited than the original; only eight will be made ever. The price for such a masterpiece is understandably exorbitant: an eye-watering SGD765,000.
While the Gyrotourbillon 3 is virtually one-of-a-kind (or any Gyrotourbillon watch for that matter), there are select few timepieces that are as extraordinary as it is, and even resemble it. Take for example, the Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon. Much like the Gyrotourbillon 3, the Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon is big, contemporary, and boasts a multi-axis tourbillon at 6 o’clock on the dial. The watch also features a minute repeater function, with the hammers fitted at the 12 o’clock position. With an openworked dial, and a box-type sapphire crystal, nothing is left to the imagination. The Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon is a thoroughly spectacular timepiece and is priced at CHF425,000 or about SGD585,000.
Taking just a tiny step down from the two Girard-Perregaux and Jaeger-LeCoultre juggernauts is the Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 9. It too has a multi-axis tourbillon at 6 o’clock but virtually only tells the time. That said, it does so using retrograde displays – the hours on the upper left quadrant, the minutes on the upper right quadrant. The price of the watch is only available on application, but expect it to be firmly rooted well into 6-digits in Swiss Francs. Only 20 pieces will ever be made: 10 in rose gold, 10 in white gold.
In haute horology, nothing gets the juices of the watch geek flowing more than hearing the word “Gyrotourbillon”. The Gyrotourbillon 3 is one of modern watchmaking’s greatest creations. How fitting that it comes from the Grande Maison of the Vallée de Joux. The ‘Meteorite’ rendition of the watch elevates it in an aesthetic sense – a feat that we are sure wasn’t easy granted that the original itself is beautiful. Jaeger-LeCoultre have been on fire with their releases of late, and we can only hope, as watch enthusiasts, that the streak continues into the new decade.