Magic Or Science? Revelation R01 Double Complication Tourbillon And Its Now-You-See-It-Now-You-Don’t Dial
Magic and sufficiently advanced technology are really one and the same. Think about Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the way almost all of our wireless technology connects to each other. . . . pure magic!
Many think they have a firm understanding of how it works, but it is only because they live in a world with generally accepted concepts such as radio signals and electricity. They don’t really know how it works, though, because a majority of people have no fundamental working knowledge of complex scientific concepts.
Remember when Bluetooth and Wi-Fi first came out? People were wowed.
Now imagine the year is 1837 and you are coming into town after a long day working the fields. Up the street near the new “telegraph” station, the entire town is gathered and buzzing excitedly about receiving messages from the next town over.
You ask what type of messages and people point to a little machine tapping away without anybody or anything touching it. The only thing attached to it is a little cord or rope of some sort.
You instantly fear demons or ghosts of menacing intent only to be (not convincingly) reassured by the crowd that it is just electrical signals traveling through the wires. But it looks like pure magic or witchcraft to you.
This type of story is echoed throughout history, often triggered by great leaps in technology. Ancient Greek worshipers were awed and astounded when the gods interacted with them through sacrifices and offerings thanks to extremely clever engineering by Heron of Alexandria. He made hydraulic- and steam-powered machines that fooled visitors into thinking that the gods were magically moving statues or dispensing holy water just for them, reinforcing the idea of magical powers from an unknown realm.
Things were simply (or in some cases, very complicatedly) controlled by cutting-edge technology, as was the telegraph and now Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. You could very easily (with the help of time travel) go back a couple centuries and terrify entire countries with displays of modern electronics and engineering.
And if you are superstitious enough in the modern age, there are probably many things that might terrify you, like invisible ink. That stuff is spooky.
An age of technology
We now live in an age of technology that is very advanced – and getting more advanced every day. So instead of being astounded and stupefied, we are curious yet accepting. And thanks to the aid of the internet and Google, the answers to what and how is now only a click away. What an incredible time we live in!
One magical technology (actually, numerous fields of research) is nanotechnology – the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. This means that we are working with materials and particles in the smallest amounts possible to create things that otherwise could not exist in the real world.
And one incredible example of this has found its way onto a watch: the nanometric optical discs of Revelation watches.
Oh, you say you are unfamiliar with such watches and such technology? For shame, because they are making some truly cool watches with some incredible “magical” dials that only modern science can give us.
What makes them so special? These are dials that mechanically change from transparent to completely opaque with a twist or flip of a rotating or hinged bezel. And by “mechanically” I am referring to two wafer-thin quartz slices that rotate 180 degrees to either align or cross in a precise way to block light from passing through or to allow it in.
Okay, from the beginning. In working with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), Revelation developed an optical system that can be used to make transparent objects opaque simply by manipulating how light interacts with a surface. Founders Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu were inspired by butterfly wings, which upon closer examination (“electron microscope” close) turn out to be incredibly complex surfaces with millions of ridges that manipulate how light reflects.
These ridges are truly nanoscopic and look like radiators lined up in endless rows. These ridges reflect, refract, or cause interference patterns to occur with the light, which creates different light anomalies like intense iridescent colors and patterns.
It was this phenomenon that Revelation hoped to capture in a very specific way by creating an interference pattern that completely blocks light from passing through. The outcome was two wafer-thin discs of quartz stacked on top of each other. Each disc can be made by either etching the quartz slice with a laser or applying the ridges onto a prepared slice. The exact technology behind this comprises techniques used by the microchip industry to make nanoscopic circuits that help our phones run and computers process extremely quickly.
The two discs have a repeating structure of nanometric grooves, each of which is about 200 nanometers across and about as tall, which is equivalent to 0.0002 millimeters. Typical watchmaking tolerances, which are measured in microns, would fall in the .002 millimeter area, or ten times larger than these grooves.
So, yeah, these grooves are basically invisible to the naked eye; the only thing we can sense is that the quartz slices are slightly foggier than a pure slice. But that nano-sized fog is really cutting-edge optical technology.
When the grooves on both discs are aligned, light is given passage to bounce and pass through, allowing the wearer to see the mechanics underneath. When the rotating or hinged bezel (depending on the model) is activated, one of the discs begins to rotate. As it rotates, the ridges start to cause an interference pattern in the light, which reduces the amount of light flowing through the crystals. So the dials begin to darken (very evenly I might add).
When the disc is rotated a full 90 degrees, the interference pattern is complete and absolutely no light can pass through the crystals as it is reflected and stopped by the nanometric surfaces.
Awesomazing, simply fantabulous! If you didn’t know that this technology existed, or you thought only something electronic could achieve this effect, then you would view this as indistinguishable from magic. But, alas, it is not magic, it is science, mechanics, and nature all wrapped up into a very cool watch. And that’s not all.
The cases are rather complicated for the simple fact that you need to be able to rotate an interior component via the bezel and still maintain water resistance, functionality, and stability. The original model (and my personal favorite) is the R01 Double Complication Tourbillon, which features a centrally mounted tourbillon rotating around under the dial and a hinged bezel that activates the magic dial function.
Pressing a secret release integrated into the case (to honor secret watches of yesteryear), the bezel hinges open from the top of the case. As it rotates, a special system of planetary gears mounted inside a worm gear translates the axial rotation into circular rotation meshing with a ring gear that is attached to the polarizing disc. This allows for the full range of motion required and for change in direction needed for the activation.
Later models featuring the magic dial use a slightly different mechanism, which has been turned on its side and trades the worm gear for a set of pinions. This allows the bezel to rotate a quarter of a turn and achieve the full 90-degree rotation of the polarizing disc. Very cool!
Plus, that dang tourbillon is just awesome, and to have it hidden not permanently like some of the secret luxury watches out there (boring), but instead hidden at will, is a great concept. The science behind that reveal is not as magical as one might have first thought, but it isn’t any less marvelous.
These pieces are something that enthusiasts should take a look at because they definitely are surprising and intriguing. For a man of scientific curiosity like myself, the Revelation watches and magical dials are sure to entice and won’t fail to disappoint!
My car is running just fine, I know, but this article is about to break down!
• Wowza Factor * 9.4 For all intents and purposes, it has a magical dial that can change forms! Or it’s science. Either way it wows!
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 81.5 » 799.241m/s2 Serious lusting goes after this technology and that tourbillon, an awesome combination to be sure!
• M.G.R. * 68.8 Extremely strong geek rating that takes into consideration the dials and bezel mechanism; it’s a tough match to beat!
• Added-Functionitis * N/A Alas, we are back to time-only watches that are awesome for other reasons. And this one is awesome though you won’t need any Gotta-HAVE-That cream to manage scientifically horological swelling from this piece.
• Ouch Outline * 10.4 – Plucking Every Nose Hair In Ten Seconds Tears, oh the tears. There is no way to not cry after pulling out nose hairs, it’s body chemistry or something. And yet, I’d do it every day to get this piece in my rotation!
• Mermaid Moment * One Flip Or Twist Of The Bezel Seriously, I don’t think there is a watch lover who wouldn’t go “holy smokes” when he or she sees what happens when you play with the bezel on these watches. It would make me start tasting cakes and looking at centerpieces.
• Awesome Total * 560 Take the number of components in the movement (360) and add the thickness in nanometers (200) for the ridges of the magic dials and the total becomes something to applaud!
For more information, please visit http://www.revelation-watches.com.
Quick Facts R01 Double Complication Tourbillon
Case: 45 x 15 mm yellow gold, pink gold, PVD-coated pink gold, white gold, PVD-coated titanium
Movement: manually wound Caliber TM01 “Tourbillon Manège”
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 15 of each case metal
Price: 150,000 Swiss francs