In the world of luxury watches, the Tourbillon is the apex of style and finesse. Intricate, beautiful and difficult to produce, Tourbillon have been popular since their invention by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1776. Tourbillons from that era are collector’s items, but so are the Tourbillons being produced by master watch makers today.
2012 may not be as exciting a year for Tourbillon since 1776, but it marks a definite turnaround from the last few years of economic slowdown. Several brands are starting to take bold steps in new product development, rather than simply revising old models to play it safe. This level of innovation hasn’t been seen for nearly 5 years, and 2012 has seen the launch of some truly exquisite watches.
Some key independent names to note this year are Cecil Purnell, Speake-Marin and Christophe Claret. Representing the larger companies, Chanel had a strong offering with their Premiere Tourbillon. It is resplendent with jewels and the case literally glimmers. Some collectors are sure to find it crass and over the top though, not to mention the fact that it is a carousel, which many dispute as belonging to Haute Horlogerie Tourbillons in the first place.
In the independents, Claret’s brilliant X-Trem-1 Tourbillon was a beacon of light and Speake-Marin had a strong offering as usual with his new Renaissance Tourbillon. While they brought much to the Palace at Baselworld 2012, the biggest winner this year is probably Cecil Purnell, based on the scope and overall quality of its new collection.
Cecil Purnell's most notable execution is the Passage De L’Heure, or the V13 calibre. The watch is intriguing in that it measures not only hours themselves, but uses a customisable chime to measure the passage of the hours. Cecil Purnell has opted for a semi-skeleton presentation to show the intricate detailing on the movement and its working. This gives the viewer a glimpse into what makes this Tourbillon unique – the distinctive placement of the hammer and resonance rod on the dial. This placement enhances the visual effect of the piece and draws attention to the beauty of the inner mechanics.
So is 2012 the best year for Tourbillon in recent memory? I would say yes. It is unusual to have such a variety of beautiful Tourbillons launched in one year. They range from very modern takes on the format to more traditional offerings. What they all represent, ultimately, is a new age in the illustrious history of this movement.