Arnold & Son continues the DSTB – Dial Side True Beat saga, born in 2014, as a celebration of their 250th anniversary. It started in gold, continued in steel and returned to white gold. This year’s Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB was released wearing last year’s blue dial in the steel case from two years ago. We examine the new watch to find out if it offers the same fantastic look and finishes or it comes with something new.
Review: Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB
Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB was released at Baselworld 2014. The DSTB comes from Dial Side True Beat. More precise, the dead-beat second’s complication is fully displayed on the dial. The True Beat, as the brand named it, or seconde morte is a complication first used by George Graham in his regulator clocks. In the modern times, the complication drew attention again in the 50s and 60s, when several brands introduced it in their wristwatches, for example, the Rolex Tru-Beat Ref. 6556 or the Omega Syncrobeat. Contemporary, several brands, including independents also this marvellous complication.
The case, dial and hands
Since its initial release in 2014, the Instrument DSTB did not go through any major transformation. The changes were mainly in the case material and the dial variations. All watches were released in limited series making them highly desirable for collectors. The advantage of this kind of releases is the perpetuation of the model over time, keeping the interest active.
The steel case measures 43.5mm in diameter. The case looks frail comparative with the size but has enough substance not to look vulnerable. Visuals aside, the construction is neither, but sturdy. The finishes are inherited from the noble metal versions. The oblique bezel is nicely polished and makes a visual separation from the case body. The tapered lugs feature a straight chamfering on top and an elegant integration with the back-case side. The shape of the case is conical shaped, which increases the wearer’s comfort. The shape brings further an elegant note. The see-through case back is fixed with six fine screws, which pass more as design features rather than functional solutions. The author considers the back view the most attractive side of the case. Only the visible movement exceeds in beauty and finishes the case.
The flat onion shaped crown has a shallow depth but large enough to match the case. The shape follows the line of the case. It offers an excellent grip. The decorations are easily noticeable. The logo is embossed on the crown body and it looks very well.
The rather large case wears excellent, as expected. The reason is the combination of the thin body and the box crystal. The effect is a game of depths and shapes, granting the entire show to the magnificent dial.
The Dead Beat Seconds
The Dead-beat seconds is a quite old complication described as a one-second step movement of the hand. Other way said the seconds’ hand jumps forward after a second has passed. For those of us living in the quartz era, this is exactly how a quartz movement works. But the reason for this is different than when it is implemented in a mechanical watch. In a quartz watch, the second hand advances in one second steps to conserve energy for better battery consumption. In a mechanical watch, it is a complication, which adds to the ability to read the seconds more precisely.
Known also with other names like jumping second, true beat, the German Ruhende Sekunde or the French Seconde Morte, the complication had during the history different approaches and implementation.
The first design of the dead beat is attributed to Richard Towneley. A watch was commissioned and built by Thomas Tompion, following the Towneley’s design, for the Greenwich Observatory in 1675. The complication started to be largely used by another British watchmaker, George Graham in his high precision regulator clocks.
The dial is a pleasure for the purists, as well for uninitiated in horological art. The presence of the entire true beat mechanism on the dial’s side is highly appealing. Three palladium treated cocks hold firmly the wheels and the anchor shaped lever. The anchor is a humble homage to the maritime chronograph’s origins. The lever movement is as hypnotic as the dead second itself. The seconds are displayed using a large sapphire crystal chapter ring and a slender seconds’ hand terminated with an alluring arrow head. The seconds’ dial overlaps the hours, minutes’ sub-dial in an unobtrusive manner. The indexes and the Roman numeral use the same white font as the background inscription, contributing to the visual balance.
The complication is mounted on the back of the main plate, which is exposed on the dial side. The main plate comes decorated with snailing pattern centred in the middle of time’s dial. Usually used on ratcheting wheels, this finish gives a wonderful strength to the dial’s depth. The game of lights and shadows is further enhanced by the hours and minutes’ sub-dial. This is a domed shaped piece mounted with three well-polished screws. The sub-dials use elegant roman numerals distributed accordingly on the white lacquered surface. To catch the spirit of the entire scene, the watchmakers have chosen stainless steel blued hands. The hands are graciously finished with the same open-worked arrow head present on the seconds’ hand. The dial layout is conducive to precise time reading, the raison d’être for a true beat movement.
The care for the small detail and the impeccably executed finishes make a wonderful impression. At a careful look, the dial has nothing to do with symmetry. The central time column is not centred or opposite with the seconds’ axe, the sub-dials overlap off centric but the entire construction is incredibly balanced and enjoyable. Maybe that it’s the secret behind the fascinating look.
The wrist presence is mesmerising. It’s hard not to be absorbed in the game of wonder. The author itself finds this complication fascinating. Due to wrong human perception, the dead-beat seconds seems to beat irregularly, depending on the wearer’s state of mind.
The movement: A&S6003
Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB uses the same movement as the predecessors, the A&S6003. The high levels of details achieved is something that we expect from the British originated maison. An overwhelming contrast is obtained from the mirror-polished blued screws and the rubies. An omnipresent Côtes de Genève rayonnantes (sun rayed Geneva waves) finish gives a soothing appearance to the palladium plated components. Further finishes are hand-chamfered and polished edges, a fine perlage thoroughly executed and blue PVD plate.
The A&S6003 has a charming rotor weight extensively decorated. The component is guilloché-decorated, NAC grey treated and adorned with the Arnold & Son name and logo in white printing.
This great movement offers a power reserve of 50 hours, which is nice for a 4Hz balance wheel powered watch. The Instrument DSTB’s movement is large – 38mm, but this is an advantage for this larger case. A clean and even-tempered design is highly desirable and Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB fulfils this effortlessly.
Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB has a retail price of SG$43,600, GST included. Considering the complication type and excellently executed finishes, this watch is situated somewhat at mid point in pricing.
The dead second, dead beat, true beat, jumping seconds, seconde mort are just names for a loved complication. Rather than presenting just one or two pieces, we feel that this interesting visual complication deserves further deepening. We will make some recommendations from our archive. Habring2 has a collection of jumping seconds watches based on the calibre ETA/Valjoux 7750. De Bethune also uses this complication in their DB25 Dead Beat Tourbillon Regulator, Jaquet Droz in Grande Seconde Deadbeat, F.P. Journe uses it in the amazing Tourbillon Remontoir d’Egalite. Angelus watches choose this dead beat second in their comeback U10 Tourbillon Lumiere. A. Lange & Söhne has another beautiful approach with overlapping sub-dials in the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds. Jaeger-LeCoultre released in 2015 and affordable and elegant classic watch, the Geophysic True Second. The Horological Brothers have a similar design with the Grönefeld One Hertz. An intriguing piece can be found at DeWitt, the Twenty-8 features an architectural design which is not focused around the dead beat central seconds.
These were only a few examples since the list is long and includes names like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Leroy, Andreas Strehler, IWC, Panerai and so on.
Arnold & Son does not make any rebate from quality, keeping their game at the highest level even with this more affordable steel piece. The Instrument DSTB is a superb implementation of a gorgeous by itself complication. Seconde morte might be a traditional complication for Arnold & Son, but the DSTB is a modern interpretation. Highly desirable, a real eye catcher with an excellent wrist look and feel, this piece will make you forget about the passing time. As an haute horlogerie timepiece, the DSTB will keep your eyes busy with exquisite finishes.
This kind of a yearly release helps the perpetuation of the model over the time. Keeping the interest active with different subtle variations and offering a chance to a larger range of wishes might be a successful path for Arnold & Son.
Specification and Price
The Ref. 1ATAS.U01A.C121S has a retail price of CHF27,900 (VAT excl.), or SG$43,600 (with GST incl.).
Calibre: Calibre A&S6003CO116
Type: mechanical self-winding movement
Dimensions: Ø 38mm
Power reserve: 45 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: hours, minutes, true beat seconds
Material: stainless steel
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: 43.5mm diameter
Crystal: cambered sapphire with anti-reflective coating on both sides
Crown: stainless steel
Caseback: see-through sapphire
Water resistance: 30m
Material: hand-stitched black or brown alligator leather
Buckle: stainless steel pin buckle
This complication was initially used for an easier comprehension of time passing and measurement. This made possible an easier and precise set of other watches being used as reference time. It was used also as basic chronometer.
On the other hand, a quartz watch can never achieve this level of finishes.
The quartz ‘s one second jump was adopted as a battery saving option. Meanwhile, usage if Micro-Motors permits a smoother operation. Seiko use,for instance, 250ms steps. I consider rather a direction of quartz watches forward mechanical and not vice versa.
I’ve never understood this complication. One of the most compelling functions of a mechanical movement for me has always been the semi-smooth sweep of a central seconds hand. Forty-five large for a watch that acts like a quartz just doesn’t compute for me, as beautiful as the piece is.