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Review: McGonigle Tuscar Bánú

by Charles Sutanto on November 28, 2015
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Editor’s note: The McGonigle brother, John and Stephen are an unusual team of watchmakers. Domicile in both Ireland and Switzerland, they are a small independent watchmaker who create their watches in the traditional Celtic style. This is a story of our Deployant Ambassador: Charles Sutanto who was mesmerized with the watches and why he bought the McGonigle Tuscar Bánú.

 

Flashback Tempus 2: Singapore 2007

 

I am sure that I am not the only one to say that Tempus 2007 was a significant event for many watch collectors, aspiring or savvy alike. It was here I was exposed to wonderful world of independent watchmaking and actually met the people behind the products.

Many memorable meetings but few remain treasured such as my first meeting with John McGonigle. I never thought I could meet someone more reserved but surely John came across as such. But behind the exterior I came to appreciate his passion and brilliance on watch making.

The McGonigle Tourbillon, until today still remain one of the best styled tourbillon for my own taste. With is unique case shape – notice it is not entirely round – with sapphire dial, it just exudes certain charm that is everlasting. I remembered clearly that I had a conversation with John that if he is ever to create a time only watch, I would be the first on the line.

 

Enter the McGonigle Tuscar Bánú

 

The McGonigle Tuscar Bánú in rose gold. The first series production wristwatch by Irish brothers John and Stephen.

The McGonigle Tuscar Bánú in rose gold. The first series production wristwatch by Irish brothers John and Stephen.

 

I received sketches of the time only watch at around 2008.

 

One of the sketches showing the proposed engraving for the back plate.

One of the sketches showing the proposed engraving for the back plate.

 

It looked promising, as the brothers were able to keep the signature design (which I think is always important for identity of a brand) while staying true to traditional watchmaking techniques. The movement was designed from the ground up with assistance of Mr. Alberto Papi, father to the Guilio Papi of Renaud et Papi (now Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi). More information on Alberto Papi can be found here (needs Facebook access as this is a Note on McGronigle Watches’ FB page).

The watch was first offered as on a subscription basis, and I was so excited but alas at the time, it was not a good time for me to commit to purchase it. Also at the same time, there was something about the design that just did not sit well with me. But the concerns went away with the announcement of series production, and the watch became known as the Tuscar Bánú.

I straight away put my deposit and ordered no 1. Stubborn me, I still tried to toy around with the design including changing the shapes of the dial to make it more balanced. This process was comfortably handled by John and Stephen but in the end, the original designers will always know best hence the decision was to stick to the original design but with a twist. I asked John and Stephen to have tip of the hands, seconds chapter ring and the balance cock finished using frosting techniques which I think will bring different charm for the watch.

So in 2015, the watch that started as a conversation between me and John back in 2007 became a reality. It has been 8 years’ journey but it has been rewarding and I gained friendships with 2 of the most down to earth guys that I have ever known.

 

Case, dial, hands

 

So, on to the watch.

 

The rose gold case is highly polished, and features a clear sapphire dial with a large cut-out to expose the escapement.

The rose gold case is highly polished, and features a clear sapphire dial with a large cut-out to expose the escapement.

 

I think as any McGonigle watch, there is no doubt that the case design is very masculine. It is not a easy watch to carry especially with small wrist like mine. And the lugs are not for the faint hearted as it is a straight lug type. Having said that, the finishing on the case is impeccable. It is all done in high polish which might be prone to scratches.

 

The escapement. The escape wheel's cock is in a stylized form, looking like pincers, give the watch its characteristic look. At Charles' request, it is finished with a frosted texture to contrast top the brilliantly polished anglage.

The escapement. The escape wheel’s cock is in a stylized form, looking like pincers, give the watch its characteristic look. At Charles’ request, it is finished with a frosted texture to contrast top the brilliantly polished anglage.

 

As the case of the first subscription series, the dial consist of a shaped sapphire dial. In the case of the Bánú, the sapphire is smoked to perfection. It does change its colors depending on how light hits the dial.

 

The Movement

 

The McG01: The movement is turned upside down. The side which is typically the dial side is on the back, and the side which normally sits below the dial is flipped over to be the dial side. This meant that the back of the watch shows a full plate, which the McGonigles decorated with celtic designs engraved on the maillechort plates.

The McG01: The movement is turned upside down. The side which is typically the dial side is on the back, and the side which normally sits below the dial is flipped over to be the dial side. This meant that the back of the watch shows a full plate, which the McGonigles decorated with celtic designs engraved on the maillechort plates.

 

The main attraction will is the large balance wheel which vibrates at 2.5 Hz. It is a free sprung balance equipped with a Breguet overcoil. The watch is manually wound, with 31 jewels and the movement has a baseplate in untreated maillechort with its characteristic hue. The plates are decorated with manually applied perlage which is clearly visible under the balance wheel. One thing to note is that the brothers use a gold escape wheel and feature wolf’f teeth on some of the train wheels. These features are typical of very high end pocket watch movement of 19h century.

 

Detail of the back plate showing the maillechort plate, and the intricately designed click spring. Note the celtic motifs engraved on the plates pointing to the heritage of the McGonigle brothers.

Detail of the back plate showing the maillechort plate, and the intricately designed click spring. Note the celtic motifs engraved on the plates pointing to the heritage of the McGonigle brothers.

 

As for the back of the baseplate, similar to the first and long sold out subscription series, is decorated with Celtic engraving with highly polished counter sinks for the jewels and deep engraving with model designation.

 

The movement plate, showing the polished chamfers and anglage, and the flip side showing the grooves cut by the CNC machine.

The movement plate, showing the polished chamfers and anglage, and the flip side showing the grooves cut by the CNC machine.

 

If there is one thing that I do have slight issue with the watch is on the feel of winding the watch. Somehow I feel that the feel is not as smooth as I would have liked it. Lucky that the brothers have the crown shaped with etching representing ancient Ogham alphabet which provide enough texture to provide grip when you wind the watch.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

In the end, I truly love the outcome of the finished product.

 

On the author's wrist, the 43mm case diameter sits fairly well, even with the straight lugs.

On the author’s wrist, the 43mm case diameter sits fairly well, even with the straight lugs.

 

The uniqueness of the design and the fact that this is the first model which the brothers designed from the ground up is a plus. This for me will be a piece that I will treasure and truly personifies independent watchmaking. No corners are cut and it really provides characters from both of its creators.

I thank Peter Chong whose wonderful photography of this piece does the watch some justice. And I thank the brothers who have welcomed me as part of their journey.

 

Tuscar Bánú – Rose Gold

A limited edition of 20 pieces in Rose gold. Recommended retail CHF 52,800.

Technical Specifications

Calibre: McG01 manual-wind mechanical movement

Double mainspring barrels connected in parallel
Power reserve: 90 hours

Balance: free sprung balance spring with Breguet overcoil

Balance frequency: 18,000 bph/2.5hz.

Balance diameter 12.8mm (large diameter for timekeeping stability)

Gold escape wheel

Mainplate and bridges: Untreated German silver

Number of jewels: 31

Case

18k rose gold case and crown
Case diameter: 43mm
Crystals: Anti-reflective treatment on both top crystal and display back
Water resistance: 30 meters/ 3ATM

Dial & Hands
Clear sapphire dial
Hand-polished steel hands with beveled and grained rose gold arrowheads

Strap & Buckle

Hand engraved 18k rose gold folding buckle.
Black hand-stitched alligator

 

Editor’s note: Captions are from the Editor.

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