When it comes to the finish of watches, the movement is probably one of the things that most of us look out for. It is probably the singular and most obvious tell-tale sign on how much effort is placed in crafting the particular timepiece.
The one pertinent issue is that the movement is always displayed at the back of the watch. This simply means that one is generally not able to enjoy the level of finishing of their beloved timepiece, unless it is not worn on the wrist. But then again, for a typical owner, the watch is worn on the wrist most of the time.
This was one of the question that had crossed the mind of Glashutte Original back more than a decade ago. How can the manufacturer produce a timepiece that showcases the beauty of the movement and its finishing, and simultaneously tell the time too? That led us to the birth of the PanoInverse.
Glashutte Original PanoInverse
The PanoInverse is one of Glashutte Original’s flagship collection, with its launch in 2008. The concept was simple, but ingenious. Glashutte Original attempts to reverse the placement of the movement, with the engraved balance wheel located on the front of the watch. The engineers had also tweaked the gearing chain, and allow the dial to sit vis-à-vis with the balance wheel. Viola, and the PanoInverse is born.
Ever since its inception, the PanoInverse has seen the creation of multiple derivations: with different materials used, complications, as well as the choice of a self-winding (PanoMaticInverse) or manual-winding movement. The piece that we are focusing on today is its base model, in Stainless Steel. Cue the 42mm PanoInverse.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The PanoInverse may sound like a curious watch on paper, but everything seems to fall in place when one sees the watch in person. The main highlight of the watch, needless to say, is the balance wheel at the 4:30 position of the timepiece. Admittedly, the idea of reversing a movement may sound unusual, but in reality, the watch looks perfectly fine. It is possibly due to the fact that it sort of resembles timepiece with either the carousel or tourbillion, where the cage is placed on the dial side of the watch. It is not too foreign for many collectors, to say the least.
What makes the PanoInverse stand out, against the likes of a tourbillion and carousel, is its engraved balance cock. The watch is held by two engraved balance bridge, and flanked by a duplex swan-neck fine adjustment as well. The engraved balance cock is finished rather nicely, and it is certainly a visual treat. It is also interesting to note that there are multiple layers carved out to accommodate the components, and the step-up levels provide some depth on the face of the watch as well.
Moving on, we have another notable component of a German watch: three-quarter plate. The three-quarter plate on the PanoInverse is made galvanic anthracite, and it is completed with the Glashütte Ribbing. The bridge houses an off-centre dial, as well as the power reserve indicator (for this particular model). The off-centre dial is fitted with a contrasting black ring for legibility. The indices and hands are applied with SuperLuminova, although it is tiny in contrast to the size of the watch. Also present on the three-quarter bridge are the rubies and screws, in which the former is fitted with gold chatons on selected jewels.
There is a rather industrial feel to it, possibly due to the fact that the face of the watch is predominantly made from metal. However, the variety of finishing – which also includes anglage, perlage, and mirror polish – gives it an artisanal feel as well.
Finally, the watch is cased in a reasonable 42mm round case. It is available in a variety of metal options, with the review piece being cased in stainless steel. The case is finished in both brushed and mirror polish, which lends a nice touch to the timepiece. It fits nicely on the wrist, and its thin stepped bezel makes the watch seem much larger than it appears to be. The overall design is subtle, and therefore it allows most of the attention to be focused on both the movement and its finishing.
The Movement: Calibre 66-06
Powering the PanoInverse is Glashutte Original’s Calibre 66-06. As its nomenclature suggests, the modified movement is based on the venerable Calibre 66. The self-winding movement has a power reserve of around 42 hours, and it is fitted with a power reserve indicator at the front of the watch.
The finishing, as we have mentioned, is rather excellent. It features all the forms of finishing techniques that we expect from a timepiece of this calibre, at a reasonable price point of below S$20,000.
The watch is available in a variety of options as well, as we have highlighted earlier. This includes an automatic version (in the form of the PanoMaticInverse – in steel or red gold), as well as a PanoMaticInverse with Panorama Date (big date complication). For us, the base model will suffice – although the automatic variant or big date complication might come in handy for some. We highly recommend collectors to go for the manual-winding version as well – the ritual of winding up the watch and seeing the balance wheel come to life is a therapeutic experience to enjoy.
The base PanoInverse retails at S$16,700. It is paired beautifully with a grey Louisiana Alligator nubuck leather strap, and fastened with with a folding clasp. The PanoInverse is priced rather competitively for a timepiece that offers so much in return.
There aren’t too many similar watches that are available on the market currently that offers something that is similar to what Glashütte Original is producing. We have identified a few pieces that share the similar concept, but they are of a different price point for that matter.
The first piece that comes to mind is perhaps Breguet’s La Tradition. There are two variants available: one with no additional complications, and the other with both a tourbillon and fusée chain system. The former is a fairer comparison, although it is only available in precious metal. The 40mm watch features an off-centre dial, as well as an additional power reserve indicator. The La Tradition is also designed with an exposed wheel train, which is entirely different from the PanoInverse. The Breguet is priced at €26,900 (approximately S$41,292).
The other piece, albeit from a vastly different price point as well, is the magnificent Voutilainen 28 Ti. Similar to the La Tradition, the different elements on the 28 Ti are also exposed. The gearing chains are in full glory, together with the mainspring barrel and clicks. In the reverse end, the watch also displays both the seconds sub-dial and power reserve indicator. The finishing is superlative as well for the 39mm timepiece, although all the good things certainly comes at a price. The titanium variant is priced at CHF86,000 (approximately S$117,877), while the platinum model retails at CHF98,000 (approximately S$134,325). Notably, they are limited to a production run of a mere 8 pieces.
The PanoInverse is a timepiece that beautifully provides the best of both worlds: a timepiece that tells time, and yet allows us a visual treat to the movement and its various components. We like how these different elements are able to complement each other nicely, without one component overpowering the other. It is akin to a symphony, where everything comes together beautifully.