3 New Tourbillons For 2020 By IWC, H. Moser & Cie, And Jacob & Co
by Martin Green
Why is the tourbillon such a popular and desirable complication?
While usually expensive, most, if not the vast majority, of tourbillons contribute little (if anything) to a mechanical watch’s precision. But I don’t think that it’s just prestige or status driving the excitement many watch connoisseurs and collectors feel for the tourbillon, but rather its technical ingenuity and the mesmerizing animated ballet of the tourbillon itself.
A result of its popularity the market for tourbillons is quite saturated, and yet new models are still launched in significant numbers. Standing out in such a market is challenging, but thanks to a generous dash of creativity, there are a few new tourbillons that manage to differentiate themselves from the field. Here are three watches that I feel are worth highlighting.
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands
If there is one thing that H. Moser & Cie doesn’t lack, it is color. It is a traditional brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and while it never makes concessions to its craftsmanship or quality, it loves to take a different edge to things.
In a world where “luxury” often equates with a famous brand logo on the dial, Moser offers many of its watches without a visible logo – or without a logo at all. Yet even that understatement can be taken to the next level – in a watch with neither branding nor color.
Moser achieves this with the use of a Vantablack coating on the dial and black DLC on the hands and case. Vantablack is made from nanotubes that absorb 99.965 percent of the light that hits it. To the human eye, it appears as if you are looking into a black hole.
Now Moser takes things a step further with the Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands, where the entire watch dons the non-color. This is an exercise in subtleties as it is extremely difficult to pull off a concept like this.
There are several techniques for coating a watch case with a black finish, but not all of them stand the test of time. For its latest stealth watch, Moser opted for Diamond Like Carbon, a robust and relatively hard coating better known as DLC. This is a wise choice as even the slightest scratch can ruin the overall appearance of an all-black watch.
Even the hands of the Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack are blackened, and this might give the impression that legibility is severely compromised. Granted, polished steel hands would have made it easier to read the time, but these blackened hands also demonstrate how much blacker the Vantablack dial is as they still offer quite a contrast.
The result of all this lack of reflected light is that what does shine stands out even more: and that’s the flying tourbillon. In that sense, we can see the Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands as a tribute to its tourbillon. In a sea of blackness, the rotating escapement serves as a lighthouse of tradition and craftsmanship.
The flying tourbillon is an intricate part of Caliber HMC 804, an automatic movement crafted in Moser’s manufacture. It comes with a generous three-day power reserve, and while it is a classic caliber in terms of style, finish, and construction, Caliber HMC 804 innovates with its tourbillon, where the cage wheel, balance, and escape bridge are crafted in aluminum to reduce mass and increase precision.
The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands stands out from the crowd by virtue of most of the watch not standing out at all.
For more information, please visit www.h-moser.com/en/collection/endeavour-tourbillon-vantablack-black-hands.
Quick Facts H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack Black Hands
Case: 42 x 11.6 mm, stainless steel with black DLC coating
Movement: automatic Caliber HMC 804 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, three-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 50 pieces
Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon
When Jacob & Co signed its partnership deal with Bugatti in 2019, I was a bit disappointed by the first couple of watches emerging from the collaboration. Both were existing models given just a few cosmetic Bugatti-inspired details as there was little time to do more.
Now the brand has set the record straight with the launch of the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, a watch in which the tourbillon is almost served as a side dish: the most eye-catching part of this watch is the sapphire crystal “engine block,” complete with 16 working “pistons” and a “crankshaft.”
It is mesmerizing watching the tiny pistons working as they would in their larger-than-life-size cousins. The animation is powered by a spring and activated on demand by a pusher at the bottom of the case.
Jacob & Co paid a lot of attention to detail as the whole movement is suspended on “shocks.” This challenged the movement constructors as it meant that the crown stems had to be able to handle motion, something that they normally are not designed to do.
The power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock resembles a fuel gauge, and Jacob & Co even created “exhaust pipes” extending out from the “engine block.” These flank a flying tourbillon positioned at a 30-degree angle at the top of the watch, which can be admired through a sapphire crystal window modeled after the iconic Bugatti car grill.
While certainly impressive, the tourbillon is more a sideshow as the focus is on the mesmerizing engine block. The Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is as eye-catching as its automotive counterpart.
While Jacob & Co needs quite a large case to showcase this miniature marvel, it is more like a titanium frame with lots of windows made of sapphire crystal. I do expect that it sits quite nicely on the wrist as Jacob & Co’s oversized watches usually do thanks to clever design.
The mechanical mini-engine serves, of course, absolutely no real purpose at all, but the fun factor is extremely high. I can see that this is a very tempting watch, especially to Chiron owners, for which the $280,000 price tag is probably not something they would scare away from. A fresh set of tires and a full service for their Bugattis probably come close to this amount anyway.
For more information, please visit www.bugatti.com/media/news/2020/an-exlusive-timiepiece.
Quick Facts Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon
Case: 54 x 44 mm, blackened titanium
Movement: manually wound Caliber JCAM37 with 30-degree inclined one-minute flying tourbillon, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 60-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; power reserve indication, engine piston and crankshaft automaton (on demand)
Limitation: 20 pieces
IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph
Do tourbillons become more enjoyable when other complications are added? In many cases yes, especially if a chronograph is thrown into the mix. Although the added practical value of this complication can be questioned, I do sometimes use chronographs in the kitchen as an overpriced egg timer.
IWC is currently highlighting its Portugieser collection with the recent introduction of a brace of new watches, including the Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph. It features the both its namesake complications as well as a retrograde date indicator.
Portugiesers have always been generously sized, but with a diameter of 43.5 mm and a height of 16 mm the Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph is among the larger in the collection. It will probably also give your arm a workout, especially in 18-karat Armor Gold (a new pink gold alloy proprietary to IWC that is more resistant to scratching) with a blue dial or the even heavier platinum model with a silver dial.
While both versions will put significant weight on the wrist, their visual appeal and impact is undeniable.
The movement powering the Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph was first introduced in 2017 in the latest generation of the Da Vinci. This is quite interesting as IWC has made a Portugieser with this movement once before, combining a platinum case with a blue dial. That was also in 2017 for the 11th Laureus Charity Night, where the unique piece raised CHF 200,000.
While large, IWC proportioned the Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph just right with a thin bezel and plenty of room on the dial for the Arabic numerals and indications. While the combination of complications resulted in quite an exotic look for the Da Vinci, it offers a more balanced look in the Portugieser. Perhaps this is thanks to the more traditional styling of the round case.
IWC integrated the chronograph counters for minutes and hours in a single subdial flanked by the retrograde date on the left, opposite the flying tourbillon. This makes the chronograph surprisingly easy to read, although it takes a bit more effort to determine the exact date at a glance.
Not that this really matters because the Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph rightfully claims its place as one of the most desirable of the new Portugiesers.
For more information, please visit www.iwc.com/en/watch-collections/portugieser/iw394005-portugieser-tourbillon-retrograde-chronograph-boutique.
Quick Facts IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Retrograde Chronograph
Case: 43.5 x 16 mm, 18-karat Armor Gold or platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber 89900 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 68 hours of power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; retrograde date, flyback chronograph
Limitation: 50 pieces
Price: CHF 105,000 boutique edition in Armor Gold; CHF 123,000 platinum edition