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Review: Time is a Pyramidal Construct – The Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon

by Frank Chuo on November 11, 2019

Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon

The Time Pyramid is the most distinctive offering in Arnold & Son’s broad collection of watches. First introduced in 2013, the Time Pyramid is inspired antique British skeleton clocks with their recognisable vertical construction. Six years on, the brand finally presents a more complicated iteration of the Time Pyramid, and with a minor but impactful design tweak. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The case of the new Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon comes in stainless steel or 18k red gold (5N). At 44.6 mm in diameter the watch isn’t exactly small, though it hasn’t increased in size either compared to the original Time Pyramid sans tourbillon. The crown is placed at 6 o’clock (instead of the usual 3 o’clock) to ensure that the time-setting and winding mechanisms are located at the base of the ‘pyramid’; this maintains the symmetry of the dial. The case is pleasantly nuanced and entirely polished for a classy look.

Placing the crown at 6 o’clock preserves the symmetry of not just the case, but also the movement.

The main attraction of the Time Pyramid Tourbillon is its dial – or rather, lack thereof. Indeed, this equates to a movement that is visible from the front (and back). It is laid out to vaguely resemble a pyramid. The openworked nature of the dial, as well as the movement, means that nothing is completely obscured, and especially not the tourbillon. Making a full rotation every minute, the tourbillon doubles as a seconds indicator with a 20-second dotted scale printed at 12 o’clock. Opposite it at the 6 o’clock position is the hour and minute sub-dial. The hour track – made of sapphire crystal – is marked by printed Roman numerals. Meanwhile the rhodium-plated minute track is fixed outboard of the hour track, secured by flame-blued screws. At the 9 and 3 o’clock positions are power reserve displays, one for each mainspring barrel. Just like the hours and minutes, the power reserve is indicated by flame-blued arrow hands.

The Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon also comes in stainless steel, which will most certainly entice collectors.

One highly positive change made to the original Time Pyramid is the removal of the seconds sub-dial. Located BEHIND the hour and minute sub-dial, the seconds sub-dial was barely legible, being partially blocked by the hour and minute tracks. As discussed above, the seconds function in the new Time Pyramid Tourbillon is fulfilled by the flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock, which is far more visible.

The Movement

Driving the Time Pyramid Tourbillon is the 31-jewel Calibre A&S8615. The movement boasts a commendable 90 hours of power reserve and operates at a stately 3 Hz beat rate. It has a gear train that runs vertically in a linear arrangement connecting the two barrels at 6 o’clock to the tourbillon escapement at 12 o’clock, giving the movement its memorable pyramidal architecture. The bridges are designed so that all the wheels, the two mainspring barrels, the escapement and balance wheel are all visible dial-side. Interestingly, the twin mainspring barrels are set up in series whereby the right barrel takes over when the left barrel reaches its limit. According to Arnold & Son, this enables the provision of a more regular force to the wheel train, and thus better timekeeping.

The Calibre A&S8615 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Calibre A&S8615 is anointed with excellent finissage that is typically associated with high horology. The movement is decorated with chamfered bridges, polished edges and Geneva waves, while the main plate is satin-finished. The top bridge and cage plate of the tourbillon are circular satin-finished, chamfered, and black polished. Even the signature Arnold & Son three-spoke wheels are chamfered, with said chamfers polished.

Finissage is one of the strengths of the Time Pyramid Tourbillon, as evidenced by how well polished and beveled the tourbillon bridge and cage are.

The Competitive Landscape

Tourbillon watches are rather ubiquitous today, but ones that are both uniquely designed and finely crafted remain somewhat uncommon. Indeed, the Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon is both avant-garde in design and very attractively finished. It is priced at about USD40,000 in stainless steel, and USD50,000 in red gold. As far as fine watchmaking is concerned, the Time Pyramid Tourbillon appears to offer good value for money, especially in its stainless steel form.

Due to the skeletonised nature of the watch and the exhibition case back, some skin will be visible through the dial. This may or may not become a deterring factor for the more hirsute clients of the brand.

But where exactly is the bar set when it comes to skeletonised tourbillon watches? That, bar lies somewhere between the straps of the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395. Much like the Time Pyramid Tourbillon, the dial is virtually non-existent, save for the sapphire disk bearing the hour and minute track. The movement itself is also bare bones – expertly and meticulously openworked. Then, of course, there’s the tourbillon at 5 o’clock. No expenses were spared finishing the Calibre 581SQ that powers the Breguet Classique 5395. One tell tale sign is the sheer number of inward angles found on the bridges; these are the most difficult to execute (compared to outward and rounded angles) and impossible to do by machine. Suffice to say, the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395 is a level above the Time Pyramid Tourbillon. But such excellence comes at a high price: an eye-watering CHF220,000 – or five Time Pyramid Tourbillon watches.

The Breguet Classique 5395 retains some of its signature design in spite of its contemporary nature; note the blued open-tipped hands, the straight lugs, and the fluted case band.

For something priced in the ballpark of the Time Pyramid Tourbillon, look no further than the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon. Despite carrying a price tag more commonly seen on a time-only Calatrava, the Marine Tourbillon is fitted with a flying tourbillon, a guilloched enamel dial by enamel specialists Donzé Cadran, a power reserve display, and automatic winding. The CHF28,000 price tag makes the Marine Tourbillon the undisputed king of value when it comes to tourbillon watches. Sure, the watch isn’t openworked, nor has it got the same level of finissage as either the Arnold & Son or the Breguet, but it is still packed to the brim with horological goodness – all for the price of an entry-level Patek Philippe.

While there are cheaper tourbillon watches in the market, none offer better value than the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon.

Final Thoughts

The Time Pyramid Tourbillon builds on the concept of the original Time Pyramid not just with the addition of a tourbillon escapement, but also by getting rid of the one element that didn’t work – the seconds sub-dial. With tourbillon watches being a dime a dozen these days, manufacturers need to come up with ways for them to stand out. Arnold & Son has done just that with the Time Pyramid Tourbillon. The watch is perfect for the contemporary fine watchmaking fiend.

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