About time: grand tourbillons
So Art Basel Hong Kong has been and gone. With the art circus having left town, the philistines among us will no doubt be rejoicing - and it's true the number of asymmetrical haircuts, leopard-print onesies and conversations that highlight "the cognitive salience and post-industrial ubiquity of artspeak" have reduced again to normal levels.
As one crowd of avant garde, creative types leaves, though, something must fill the void. So, this week we take a look at the modern art of the tourbillon watch.
Before we dive headlong into tourbillon talk, a brief primer: a tourbillon is a complication first created in the 18th century that counters the effects of gravity on the movement by placing the escapement and balance wheels inside a rotating cage. These days, it's debatable as to whether a tourbillon makes much difference to accuracy but creating one requires a great amount of skill and they often provide aesthetic focus on a watch.
We begin our round-up with the master of the tourbillon, Greubel Forsey, which launched its Double Tourbillon Asymetrique (below) in Hong Kong last week. The watch builds on Greubel Forsey's tourbillon expertise and gives a new spin to the iconic Double Tourbillon 30° released in 2004. The latest iteration has been given an asymmetrical case that not only changes the presentation of the tourbillon but the entire image of the watch.
What remains unchanged is that there are two tourbillons, rotating at different speeds and both inclined at 30 degrees. Coming in a 43.5mm case, the design is much changed, with power reserve now indicated by a rotating disc and stretching to 72 hours. Prices for the Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Asymetrique are available upon request and numbers are limited to 11 pieces in white gold and 11 in red gold.
Next we have a new piece from Harry Winston that brings together the tourbillon and the jumping-hour function in perfect artistic harmony. The Ocean Tourbillon Jumping Hours (above left) was launched at Baselworld this year and contains the watchmaker's new HW4401 movement.
The design has that wow factor on immediate inspection, with the tourbillon held in place by two steel bridges, giving the impression that it is suspended in space. The other key design detail is the jumping-hour dial towards the top half of the watch, which splits it in two while maintaining a sort of unified composition.
At the risk of straying too far into artspeak, the Ocean Tourbillon Jumping Hours is a deliberate attempt to bring modernism and geometry into play. Aside from the tourbillon and jumping hours, the watch has a nifty power-reserve indicator on the case back, while the case itself is 45.6mm and comes in white or red gold, both of which complement the black alligator leather strap. The Harry Winston Ocean Tourbillon Jumping Hours is priced at HK$1.79 million for both versions, with numbers limited to 100 of each.
Lastly, we have the most baroque of watchmakers, Parmigiani Fleurier. This year it has linked up with Italian yacht maker Pershing to create the Pershing Tourbillon Abyss (top right). The tourbillon is placed at the six o'clock position and, again, seems to be suspended in the air as it hangs from a single steel bridge. The 45mm case is made of titanium and rose gold and houses a nautical-themed dial design and signature chunky Parmigiani hands. The strap is a lovely blue Hermès alligator leather strap. Limited to 30 pieces, the Parmigiani Fleurier Pershing Tourbillon Abyss is priced at HK$1.82 million.