Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon: A New Kind Of Pyramid Power
Pyramids are much more than just piles of stones in Egypt. Depending on who you talk to and their perspective, the word pyramid can conjure up a lot of different topics.
For mathematicians, a pyramid is one of the Platonic solids (if it’s triangular), and if you are an architect you may immediately think of the entrance to the Louvre in Paris.
Some might cringe at the word, imagining a pyramid scheme that defrauds everyone and their uncles. A music lover might immediately hear the progressive rock melodies from The Alan Parsons Project album titled – you guessed it – Pyramid.
Archaeologists and historians might immediately think of the pyramids at Giza, Chichén Itzá, or one of the hundreds of other sites spread around the world.
Pyramids are a part of humanity at this point, and we all have a real connection to them whether we know it or not. Since a pyramid is the most stable shape for a structure, nearly all advanced “builder” cultures had their own versions, and so the pyramid has been with our cultures and embedded into the collective unconscious since pre-history.
For this reason, the pyramid conveys not only a sense of history but also of stability and structure, something that is supportive of ideas, organizations, and societies. There is a reason that organizational hierarchies are often depicted as pyramids, and the same goes with something we have certainly all seen since our youths: the infamous food pyramid. While that one has been scientifically proven to be almost entirely arbitrary, it still leaves a legacy of important things contained within the pyramid shape.
Yet when it comes to watchmaking, it seems the pyramid shape is still a rarity unless you are speaking about Arnold & Son.
Since 2013, Arnold & Son has had a stunning watch series called the Time Pyramid inspired by early pyramid-shaped (sort of) clocks seen in English clockmaking. At Baselworld 2019 the Arnold & Son Time Pyramid got an awesome update with a new tourbillon and some other tweaks.
And since it has escaped my coverage in the past thanks to Arnold & Son’s incredible variety, I knew we needed to take a closer look.
Time Pyramid on time
The Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon is first and foremost an experiment in architecture and symmetry, just like the original Time Pyramid from six years ago. The arrangement of the movement is designed to create a bottom-weighted assembly with the tourbillon taking the position at the top of a loose pyramid structure. The shape becomes a bit more defined at specific times thanks to twin power reserve indicators that flank the tourbillon at the outermost edges of the movement.
The hands on these indicators sweep 45 degrees to help track the 90-hour power reserve, though they go at different times and in different directions. Since the spring barrels are set up serially, they wind each other, with the movement running first off the barrel on the right of the pyramid. Once the torque gets low enough, the second barrel joins in to continue delivering steady power.
When winding the movement, the power reserve indicator at right sweeps up while the other sweeps down.
At different times one of the two hands will point to the extents of the tourbillon and finish the pyramid shape on one side by combining the tourbillon visually with the rest of the movement; for a short time they will mirror each other somewhere in the middle of the power reserve.
The tourbillon positioned directly at 12 o’clock above the offset time dial isn’t just a new addition, it also clears up the running seconds’ indication.
The seconds were previously displayed underneath the main hour and minute display (between the dial and the balance wheel) with a semi-obscured ring and small second hand. Now, the tourbillon utilizes pointed arms on the cage to display the running seconds in 20-second segments, sweeping across a series of graduated dots just like the power reserve indications.
These dots are printed on the underside of the sapphire crystal (which makes installing the crystal dramatically more difficult since the orientation matters) and provide a clean and subtle way to add indications and scales without overcomplicating the design.
This is a significant visual improvement over the previous model, which might as well as have just left out the seconds display given its implementation.
Mechanical layout drives design
The center of the watch is now dominated by the time display at the lower half of the dial and tourbillon above, creating a fairly vertical gear train from the tourbillon to the hour and minute wheels. In a way it takes a page out of the Corum Golden Bridge’s playbook.
The removal of the poorly placed seconds display creates a clean mechanical assembly. The central column of wheels allows the twin spring barrels to perfectly hug the assembly, and with the mirrored power reserve mechanisms spreading like wings out to the edge the entire movement is almost completely symmetrical.
The hits on the symmetry come from the winding mechanism set to one side and the going train offset a bit to the other side, due to configuration. From the rear this is very easily seen, but from the front it is much less obvious and easily overlooked when the rest of the assembly is so cleanly mirrored.
When creating a pyramid shape like this, any deviation from symmetrical could cost the visual effect, but it has been minimized relatively well across the watch.
Another aesthetic change that came from the mechanical differences is a cutout in the minute ring that surrounds the sapphire crystal hour dial. Previously the ring entirely surrounded the dial, which is partly why the seconds dial was so obscured.
Now, even though the seconds dial is gone, the ring features a cutout to allow the wearer to see the tourbillon assembly in its full glory. The sapphire crystal hour dial plays a huge role in this and aside from the printed Roman numerals it makes sure the mechanisms underneath aren’t hidden from sight.
Another big reason why this movement can be so symmetrical is the placement of the crown, which is at the bottom of the case between the lower lugs, keeping the mechanism hidden within the base of the pyramid.
This does create a slightly asymmetrical case shape top to bottom (not left to right) as there are some crown guards screwed to the case middle and extending out, making the lower strap attach lower while the upper strap hugs the case shape.
This asymmetry doesn’t affect it too much since it is within the lugs, which are already visually solid, but it is a difference that adds a bit of complexity to the watch as a whole. Given that the goal of the watch was to keep the mechanism clean and simple (even though it has double power reserve indications and a tourbillon), the amount of detail and points of interest on the watch is fantastic.
The movement finishing is very good and mainly focuses on circular and radial graining along with côtes de Genève and polished bevels on the bridges and wheels.
The finishing doesn’t try to take center stage and instead simply supports the design of the assembly, which truly is the star of the show. Like many skeleton watches, there will be prospective buyers who might wish it wasn’t see-through to allow a man’s arm hair to be visible (pro tip: just shave a watch shaped patch of your wrist, guys, problem solved!), but that is hardly an issue for those who appreciate the design and craftsmanship of the watch.
Ever since this watch was released it has been one of my favorites from Arnold & Son, and now that the tourbillon has been added and the nagging issue of the seconds dial fixed it takes an already great watch and kicks it up a notch.
Often skeleton watches are hard to differentiate among each other unless they have something truly different about the structure, which is why the Golden Bridge by Corum was always so popular. It seems clear from the past six years that the Time Pyramid has risen to the challenge of being a standout skeleton in the market.
Now the Time Pyramid Tourbillon adds to that success and, I believe, helps cement this watch as one of the best modern skeleton watches in the market.
The details are increditastic, giving you everything a skeleton watch should: beautiful movement, clean uncluttered layout, and a great view of the engineering. Now if only I could figure out a way to borrow one for a few months I could spend the holidays with pyramid power* on my wrist!
*Public service announcement: Pyramids do not provide any supernatural or extrasensory healing effects, nor do they allow one to tap into the free energy of the universe. They look cool, but a gateway to another dimension they are not. And they do not sharpen razor blades. Sorry.
Since the pyramid is such a stable structure, let’s make a bold attempt to break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.2 The pyramid will capture anyone’s attention!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 92.7» 909.076m/s2 There is always a lot to lust after with Arnold & Son, and the Time Pyramid Tourbillon is no exception!
- M.G.R. * 65.1 This is a strong movement developed around a set of serial mainspring barrels with power reserve indications for both, not to mention the tourbillon at the top. And since it came from La Joux-Perret, the manufacture of Arnold & Son, you know it’s top notch!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate A power reserve is great, two are even better. So since this watch has double the complexity of a single power reserve, it needs double the dose that a single power reserve would have. This piece requires extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the double trouble!
- Ouch Outline * 10.9 A tiny metal shard lodged in your face! Sometimes when you are working with a lathe you create small metal chips and slivers, and sometimes those get on your hands. And sometimes, you forget and go to rub your face right next to your eye and jam said sliver deep into your face. Not fun. But I’d do it again if I got this watch for my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Pyramid power discovered! This watch was an immediate desire because the original was an immediate desire. But it’s even better when the movement gets an upgrade and you have more reasons to call a preacher!
- Awesome Total * 762.66 Begin by taking the diameter of the watch (44.6) and multiply by the thickness of the movement in millimeters (5.7), and then multiply the result by the rate of the balance in Hz (3) and you will get a mystically awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.arnoldandson.com/home/instrument-collection/time-pyramid-tourbillon.
Quick Facts Arnold & Son Time Pyramid Tourbillon
Case: 44.6 mm, stainless steel or 5N red gold
Movement: manually winding Caliber A&S8615 with one-minute tourbillon, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 90-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; dual power reserve
Limitation: 28 pieces in each metal
Price: $39,995 in stainless steel, $49,995 in red gold