My Trip Back To The Beginning And Watch Mecca: Franck Muller Vanguard Gravity
Most people probably have something or some activity that they used to absolutely love, especially when they were young. For me, this particular thing is the once-beloved Chevy Corvette. It was my favorite car growing up; I had shelves full of models of my favorite vintages. Today, though, it isn’t even close to being my favorite car.
Some might attribute this phenomenon to growing up, growing apart, or an expanded frame of reference. But I believe that people (myself included) can love something so much that after a while they exhaust their passion for that thing.
This is not because the thing is any less exciting, but simply because the brain has been flooded with endorphins so many times that it won’t biologically react the same way. This is akin to developing a tolerance for pain, cold, alcohol, or even Jerry Seinfeld. (I mean, after a while, even he isn’t funny without some variety in the comedic diet.)
So how do we cope with the loss of enthusiasm for what was once driving our excitement? We take some time off and enjoy something else, which allows us to return someday and possibly find renewed excitement for an old acquaintance. If it can work for the McRib, then it could work for anything!
Excitement for an old acquaintance
This is what I did too. No, not with the Corvette (though the 1953-1967 model years are still dear to my heart), instead I did this with the brand that originally kicked off my extreme fascination with watches in the first place: Franck Muller.
As some of you may remember the Franck Muller Revolution 3 with tri-axial tourbillon was the first super complicated watch that I went gaga over (see The Mechanism That Sparked A Passion: Thank Heavens For The Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon). I loved it so much that I researched everything I could about it, including tourbillons and multi-axis tourbillons. I then proceeded to design and built my own desktop model, which I thought turned out pretty nicely considering my utter lack of knowledge on anything horological at that point (see Introducing Resident “Nerdwriter” Joshua Munchow).
The watch, the brand, and the mechanics fueled a continued passion for watchmaking and everything that goes with it. Franck Muller’s headquarters, appropriately called Watchland, even became a horological Mecca for me, and I vowed that someday I would make a visit to that picturesque watch haven.
Time passed and while I still loved everything Franck Muller I slowly started to learn more about the industry, all the other brands, and started to find other incredible pieces. One day I realized that I couldn’t pick a favorite anymore, and that Franck Muller had lost its grasp as the only watch for me. It wasn’t sad, but more surprising because it had been the absolute pinnacle of watches and mechanics in my mind.
I’ve come to realize with a field as incredible as the watch industry, it’s tough for someone who likes a wide array of ideas to actually have a favorite. And now that I know that, I’ve felt much better about going back and seeing what Franck Muller has to offer now. And it is is pretty darn special.
WPHH 2015: Vanguard Gravity
It all started during the 2015 SIHH when Quill & Pad (yours truly included) made the trip to the edge of Geneva to visit Watchland for what the Franck Muller Group calls the WPHH (World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie). Cue dramatic music and chorus of angels: “Ahhhhhh!”
Watchland lived up to its description for beauty and horological epicness. But that is another story. The story today is about what I saw while I was there: the newly unveiled Vanguard Gravity. While very different in approach than the Revolution 3, the Vanguard Gravity checks all the boxes for Franck Muller awesomeness.
The Vanguard Gravity begins with the now-famous Cintrée Curvex case in titanium, pink gold, or white gold. The standard behind many Franck Muller pieces, it wouldn’t have the same je ne sais quoi without being housed in this curvaceous, wrist-hugging home. The way that the curved case stands so proud yet feels so comfortable on the wrist sets Franck Muller watches apart.
But inside that case is where the real magic happens. In the starring position at 6 o’clock is a ginormous tourbillon measuring 21.2 millimeters in diameter, containing a 14-millimeter balance wheel that is obviously no shrinking violet itself. In fact, the off-center balance wheel is larger than most tourbillon cages out there. This balance is balanced by a slightly heftier portion of the tourbillon cage directly opposite the center pivot. That cage, though, has a couple other surprises.
Firstly, it is made entirely out of aluminum. Being so large, the weight needed to be kept at a minimum so the rotating mass wouldn’t need an army of mainsprings just to move it. The aluminum also allows for the cage to be free of magnetic influence, a nice side bonus.
Secondly, the tourbillon cage itself has an elliptical profile, which reduces the mass at the outer edges by sloping to a tight curve instead of being a squared-off box for the balance to sit in. That ellipse, when combined with the aluminum and the skeletonization of the arches, makes for a very “deep space” looking creation.
This all sits underneath a sprawling half-ellipse-style bridge arching over the tourbillon in a long, squat X shape. This spans a huge aperture in the dial taking up more than half the real estate on its own. In the confines of this aperture you can see a lot of the inner workings of the gear train (a huge plus for anyone like me) and all the way through as there is a sapphire crystal on the case back directly beneath the tourbillon.
With such a large and dominating mechanism, a budding WIS can get a great look inside at a favorite “complication” and begin to understand what all the fuss is about. The dial and the case really play second fiddle to the impressive aluminum tourbillon. The slow 60-second rotation of the cage gives ample opportunity to study the mechanism and (better than I did back in school) dissect how it works.
That is what got me interested in watches in the first place. With the tri-axial tourbillon, it was the exposed mechanism in a viewing window that made me think I could decipher the engineering behind it simply by looking at it long enough (that’s never truly enough, but it is a start). With the Vanguard Gravity, I see another opportunity to get lost in the mechanism because it is proudly displayed in all its glory.
What really sealed the deal for me (something I never thought would matter when I was but a young and silly twenty-something) was how completely comfortable it could be. Amazing mechanics usually give way to bulky cases and slightly odd-fitting concoctions. But the Vanguard Gravity felt like a svelte sports watch or even a slim dress watch for how it fit so gracefully on my wrist. That can be attributed to the classic and yet ever-modern Curvex case.
The Vanguard Gravity has definitely renewed my passion for Franck Muller, and hopefully it will spark someone else’s passion too. I may have wandered, and I definitely still have no favorite, but Franck Muller has made it back on the long list of brands that I currently love to explore. Having seen the watch during my first trip to Watchland, my onetime Mecca, probably didn’t hurt either.
You know what might hurt though? The breakdown!
(Okay, so nothing really breaks during the breakdown, but you never know.)
• Wowza Factor * 8.2 With the Curvex case and an incredibly large tourbillon staring you in the face, the Vanguard Gravity definitely can wow.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 101.1 » 991.452m/s2 It breaks one hundred faster than you can say tourbillon!
• M.G.R. * 68.1 Simply look at that tourbillon, in that movement, made in-house. It can only be described as geekerific!
• Added-Functionitis * N/A Again, not the first and not the last amazing piece that does nothing but tell the time. But who cares! You won’t even need children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the non-swelling awesomesauce.
• Ouch Outline * 11.31 – Trying To Open A Bottle Of Coke With Your Nostril No idea why anyone would try this but there are enough crazy people in the world that it has probably been tried at least a dozen times. I would try it a dozen more times to get this baby on my wrist!
• Mermaid Moment * It Looks Awesome And Is Comfortable Too! Right when you were wishing the incredibleness of the Vanguard Gravity came in a more manageable size, you slipped it on your wrist and all worries faded away. Hmm, I wonder if the Carmichael Plantation is available for a May ceremony?
• Awesome Total * 1,138 Multiply the length of the case (53.7 mm) by the diameter of the tourbillon (21.2) and you get a seriously awesome total!
For more information, please visit www. franckmuller.com.
Case: 44 x 53.7 x 15.1 mm, titanium, pink gold, white gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber CS-03 with five-day power reserve and tri-axial tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 105,000 Swiss francs