For this Throwback Sunday, we delve into one of our most treasured and hypnotic complications – the tourbillon. To cast one’s gaze at the gently whirling vortex of fork, gear and wheel is to risk losing track of time and committing way too much time wrist-ward. The tourbillon is as anachronistic as the art of making mechanical watches itself. Given the various material advances to the balance wheel and hairspring, the tourbillon is arguably less necessary given the multiple axis a watch may swing on wrist each day (as opposed to the vest-borne pocket watch) while special alloy and now silicon hairsprings with greater concentric “breathing” makes gravity’s most deleterious effects literally null. Here are six throwback tourbillon equipped watches which in their varied designs, from modern to classical, are yet still emblematic of what early French-speaking watchmakers called, the vortex.
Throwback Sundays: Six Different Tourbillon Watches from Modern to Classical
First up, encapsulating the idea that no matter how modern the design, the tourbillon complication somehow always remains classically elegant, is the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor.
Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor
Right up to the point of the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon Sapphire, it wasn’t really possible to enjoy the display of a Bell & Ross movement and while the BR-X1 was in sapphire, it was fundamentally the same case shape we had all come to know and enjoy. With the Baselworld 2017 Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor, Carlos Rosillo unveils a new case and movement and more importantly, makes the case for a new generation of Bell & Ross watches with conspicuous movements.
Perhaps, as if making our argument that movement designers have begun to overshadow watch designers, the case of the Bell & Ross BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro Rotor showcases the new movement brilliantly – taking elements from the BR-X1 and the BR-X2 Tourbillon, the Tourbillon Micro Rotor adds a highly technical and challenging micro rotor.
Next, how do you take a classical complication and interpret it with modern yet tradition eyes? The people at Czapek & Cie show us:
Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs”
The Czapek & Cie Place Vendôme Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs” is a tad different from the usual Czapek & Cie. watches. Notably, it features 3 sub-dials, instead of the usual two that we see in the other models from their line-up while retaining its signature looks with the two sub-dials at the 4:30 and 7:30 position. But the additional “Grand feu” enamel sub-dial at the 12 o’clock position – which shows the time – adds an interesting touch to the aesthetics because it’s a nod to tradition and heritage like the companion one-minute suspended tourbillon which sits below it.
Powered by the proprietary Calibre SXH2, a manual-winding movement that is boasts a power reserve of approximately 60 hours. The Place Vendome Tourbillon Suspendu “Ici et Ailleurs” is a thoroughly modern watch with an old soul.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Tourbillon
Starting life as a symbol of modernity and the “death knell” to mechanical watches, the original Girard-Perregaux Laureato was a quartz chronometer wristwatch. Today, its resurrection as a Girard-Perregaux Laureato Tourbillon is exemplary of the contrarian irony the industry often faces as a matter of art rather than real function.
The case shape retains the character of the original Laureato. The dial is a Clous de Paris hobnail texture with a ring with applique hour markers and while the shape and textures are avant garde for the period, the tourbillon carriage is the classical GP tourbillon, carrying the traditional stylised “A” shape built as a three piece design with a brushed finish to the top and nice anglage. The watch is proof that you can modernise the design of a watch but something as classic as a tourbillon is hard to keep down.
IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph
Launched at SIHH 2017 is the IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph is one of the flagship models from the Schaffhausen manufacture and face of the revamped Da Vinci collection. As a collection, the Da Vinci has been through a few design changes, from round case to modern angular tonneau (or barrel) and now, classically round again, thus the addition of a classic tourbillon seems par course.
While it’s a pretty common occurrence for dials of tourbillon chronographs to look a little busy, IWC manages to keep indications for the Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph pretty well choreographed. More importantly, gold dauphine hands complement gold Da Vinci-style arabic numerals while blued date, chronograph seconds and totaliser hands serve to provide points of visual distinction and keep the watch face of the Da Vinci Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph firmly rooted in classic watchmaking codes without making it look dated. An impressive feat.
JLC Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon
The Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon features beautifully engraved continents and lacquered blue oceans in the center of the dial. The outer ring shows 24 cities representing 24 time zones in 2 circles. Cities in the Southern hemisphere are in red, cities in the Northern hemisphere in blue. Meanwhile, the secondary ring indicating the 24-hour indication is on the outer periphery sans minute markers. So this watch is more about being in time rather than on time. The flying tourbillon appears to float in space due to the absence of a bridge to hold the cage. The tourbillon’s position on the inner dial means that as the inner dial makes one revolution every 24 hours, so does the tourbillon, making it an orbital tourbillon. While many of the watches featured so far have been modern expressions of the tourbillon, the Geophysic Universal Time’s tourbillon enjoys futurist construction which belies its environment.
The 90-degrees-turned-race-car-steering-wheel-shaped – or double anchor-shaped – Gyrolab balance endows the timepiece with reduced air friction and increased precision and efficiency. The balance wheel was first used in the Master Compressor Extreme Lab 1 in 2007.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon
The Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon comes in a contemporarily-sized case at 44 mm in diameter and 12.20 mm thick. The case is handsomely polished on the top and on the flanks, and is brushed at the bottom for a contrasting look. At 3 o’clock is the crown with the emblematic Maltese Cross logo on top, and at 9 o’clock, a traditional repeater slide to activate the minute repeater function.
The brand’s signature Maltese Cross tourbillon cage is arguably the best looking in the business. Immaculately black polished throughout with plenty of tedious interior angle bevelling, this is a tourbillon cage that is as beautiful as it is difficult to finish. The tourbillon bridge that spans across the aperture is also black polished and expertly rounded, further highlighting Vacheron Constantin’s meticulous dedication towards fine finishing and craftsmanship. Dressed with a backdrop of mesmerising engine-turned guilloche motif on the dial and paired with another classical complication – the minute repeater. The Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Minute Repeater Tourbillon is salve and treasured reminder that while Robert Frost believes nothing gold can stay – some do.
We hope you have enjoyed our throwback selection of six tourbillons, some modern, some classical. For a complication as anachronistic as the industry, one can hazard a guess as to why it engenders such passion and devotion – it’s the most visible heartbeat of a living mechanism.