Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon: Double Triple-Axis Spherical Tourbillons At That!
by Martin Green
If you have the disposable income to spend at least CHF 425,000 on a wristwatch, you are wealthy by any standard.
In today’s online world, flaunting such wealth has become acceptable and in certain circles seemingly mandatory. On social media, it can also help in amassing a large following, which can be quite lucrative in itself.
It is not that difficult to imagine the Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon in such a setting. It’s priced upwards of CHF 425,000 and it ticks all the boxes that a prospective client with a million-plus following on Instagram account has on his or her shortlist. With an eye-catching diameter of 48 mm and a cuff-busting height of 19 mm it’s no wallflower, not even under the sleeve of a Gucci tracksuit. And its two triple-axis tourbillons are likely attract as much attention as its social-media-celebrity owner.
The fact that the Escape II Double Tourbillon can be extensively customized – even, for example, to the point of having the tourbillon cages plated in a matte gold finish to match the color of the owner’s new Bugatti Chiron – turns it into an instant “must have” for this target group.
More than an accessory to a ‘gram-glam life, though
But does being Instagram-friendly make the Escape II Double Tourbillon just an accessory in the ‘gram-glam life of the rich and famous?
No. That’s not the Purnell. While it can certainly play that role well, it’s a just a “bonus” as the Escape II Double Tourbillon is a true horological creation with features that should capture the interest of a true watch connoisseur, even including those of us who cannot afford its six-figure price tag.
Complicated haute horlogerie doesn’t get much better than twin triple-axis tourbillons. And while in some cases less is more, here more is definitely more. The fact that the tourbillons are so mesmerizing is partly due to their high rotation velocity: they make full revolutions in respectively 8, 16, and 30 seconds.
These speeds made the Purnell briefly the fastest triple-axis tourbillon in the world until it was surpassed by the MB&F Thunderdome, whose trio of tourbillon cages run at speeds of 8, 12, and 20 seconds respectively.
Purnell still holds the title of the fastest double triple-axis tourbillon in the world, keeping a firm claim to that throne.
Another Potter making magic
In a twist of horological irony, although Switzerland is a country where fates and futures are often intertwined, the tourbillons in both the MB&F and Purnell watches were developed by the same watchmaker: Eric Coudray. This master of the triple-axis tourbillon rose to fame in 2004 with the development of the first spherical dual-axis tourbillon: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon.
For those keeping track, Thomas Prescher’s non-spherical triple-axis tourbillon wristwatch was also launched in 2004.
Coudray’s multi-axis tourbillons build upon the invention of another, largely unknown, hero of watchmaking: Albert H. Potter. Born in 1836 in New York City, Potter moved to Geneva in 1875, where he made a name for himself as both an excellent watchmaker and a highly creative inventor.
Potter took over where Abraham-Louis Breguet left off by creating a high-speed tourbillon with the goal of further increasing precision. He achieved this by creating a fixed escape wheel ring with teeth on the inside, interacting directly with the pallet fork without requiring a reduction gear pinion.
Coudray took Potter’s ball and ran with it, multiplying the speed three (and even six) times with the Purnell. He did this this by placing the balance wheel and pallet fork in the innermost cage, which is driven by the middle cage containing the fixed escape wheel. That is in turn set into motion by the outermost cage, which gets its power directly from the mainspring barrels.
The energy of four mainspring barrels is combined by a differential gear, which drives the tourbillons.
Hungry for power
Not surprisingly, the rapid motions of the triple-axis tourbillons also makes them very power hungry. Even though the Purnell has six mainsprings in four barrels, its power reserve is a mere 32 hours. As it is a manual-wind movement, the power reserve indicator is a necessity.
Winding so many barrels at once can be quite a tough job. To counter this, the crown connects to the mainspring barrels via reduction gears, making the winding is less laborious – although it takes about 185 turns to fully wind the watch.
Which is why the Escape II Double Tourbillon come with a device that looks somewhat like a headless electric toothbrush to gently and effortlessly wind the watch. What better way to stand out at a Hollywood party than to take out this device and casually wind your watch?
What is missing from the Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon?
With such a focus on creating a precise watch, it is ironic that the Escape II has no second hand. To me, this would be a vital addition, further elevating Purnell’s status among aficionados. I would also love to see a bit more attention to the finish of certain elements.
On the visible mainspring barrel lids for instance, there’s a relief engraving with the story of Purnell’s watchmaking philosophy. While cool, it also seems like a nod toward Greubel Forsey. I don’t think the Escape II Double Tourbillon needs it and I would prefer the mainspring barrel lids topped with semiprecious stone or even meteorite instead in keeping with this brand’s persona.
While the Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon does a good job of looking industrial, I would like to see some more fine hand-finishing at this price point. I think that this would also help the watch further claim its rightful place among entrenched watch connoisseurs. Not that double triple-axis spherical tourbillons aren’t sensational enough as they are. And they’ll certainly liven up any Instagram account!
For more information, please visit www.purnellwatches.com/escape-II.
Quick Facts Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon
Case: 48 x 19 mm, pink gold, forged carbon, or titanium
Movement: manual-wind Caliber CP03 with two spherical triple-axis tourbillons with titanium cages (some set with diamonds), six mainsprings in four barrels, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 32-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; power reserve
Price: starting at CHF 425,000
* Disclaimer: Purnell paid for the author’s travel to its Swiss workshops.
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