A most interesting niche among Swiss watches are those with power reserves of at least eight days. As more and more Swiss watch companies have become manufactures, they have looked for new complications to add to their line of movements, and these often require more powerful mainsprings with longer reserve power.
The most common multi-day movements are eight-day types that were inspired by the eight-day pocket watches, travel clocks and sports timers of decades past. Often these eight-day clocks were specially mounted on the dashboards of automobiles during the 1920s and 1930s for long excursions of a week or more. Typically, they had oversized winding crowns on long posts located at the 12 o’clock position. At the turn of the last century, Georges Ducommun, founder of Doxa, started to develop instrument-panel clocks for cars (and aircraft), for which he used a high-grade eight-day watch movement, which he had patented in 1908. Doxa and many other companies continue to make eight-day table clocks.
More recently, many Swiss high-end manufactures sought to meet the challenge of designing a serially produced movement that could be manually wound and that could run for eight days. Ironically, these high-end brands are developing long reserve models well after the success of several mid-priced makers, including Angelus (seen in several Panerai models), Peseux-based Eberhard models, and the early and famed Hebdomas 8-Jours pocket watches that later made their way to some wristwatches, among others.
Running times of this duration in a movement less than 35 mm in diameter (wrist watch size) can only be achieved by the use of two or more spring barrels. There are even some automatic long-duration movements as well.
Blancpain was among the first companies to offer multi-day wristwatches. In 1989, it introduced the first 8-day tourbillon wristwatch, and in 1998 it introduced its 8-day automatic tourbillon. Working with (now in-house) movement maker Frederic Piguet, the company then began development of a new eight-day base movement, the 13R0, and introduced it in 2007. The 13R0 would serve as the basis for numerous other complications and was designed with three barrels to achieve the desired running longevity.
Audemars Piguet introduced a chronograph tourbillon with ten-day power reserve in 2006. The AP 2884 is a shaped movement with a carbon fiber base plate and twin barrels. Two years later the firm developed the ten-day AP 2895 with main components of black carbon fiber and green eloxed aluminum plates, and other components finished in black PVD while others are traditional stainless steel. This movement consists of 384 parts and is considered a horological engineering tour de force.
Chopard has numerous multi-day movements produced in its manufacture, all having four barrels and a nine-day power reserve. The L.U.C 1.98 was introduced at BaselWorld in 2000 with a simple seconds subdial. This was followed by a Tourbillon (L.U.C 1.02) in 2003, and a chronometer-rated L.U.C 1.98-3789, in 2004. This year the firm releases a new L.U.C caliber with nine-day power reserve inside the Imperiale Tourbillon Full Set.
As a manufacture, Jaeger-LeCoultre is perhaps the most prolific maker of in-house movements in Switzerland, and in 2004 it introduced an eight-day movement—caliber 177, as part of its heralded Gyrotourbillon, perpetual calendar and achieves this power reserve with only two barrels. In addition, the firm’s Master Eight Days models, including the new Perpetual 40, all boast an eight-day power reserve, thanks to their twin barrels.
Perhaps the most radical multi-day movement in terms of design, time indication and construction is the Parmigiani Fleurier 370, designed in collaboration with Bugatti. The finished movement is an elliptical cylinder with two barrels that provide a ten-day power reserve indicated in the main window where the entire movement is visible, while the analog dial displays time at the end of the elliptical case. Parmigiani also makes several other calibers with week-long-power reserves.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak series, introduced in 2001, is also a marvel of design and construction. For example, the UN 200 caliber in the Freak Blue Phantom is a carousel tourbillon having a seven-day power reserve. It has no crown; instead, it is wound using the caseback and time is set using the bezel. Panerai’s in-house calibers, which it began to introduce several years ago with its manual-wind model Cal. p. 2002, feature eight-day power reserves.
IWC has offered long power reserves for many years and this year added a new Portofino model with its own in-house Caliber 59210. Bovet too offers watches with eight-day reserves, notably its own Dimier by Bovet model with tourbillon caliber 13DM01.
More than a week
There are a few watches with greater duration than even these, and these are mostly found among the customized pieces made by independent watchmakers. But, among larger firms A Lange & Söhne has produced a watch with a 31-day power reserve. The appropriately named Lange 31 has the L034.1 caliber that features a stacked twin mainspring barrel with each mainspring measuring nearly two meters in length having an integrated constant-force escapement to ensure the company’s legendary movement accuracy for an entire month. The movement is wound not with the crown but with a cylindrical key having a shaped tip that is inserted through an aperture in the sapphire-crystal case-back that is tripled-sealed against water.
The Jacob & Co. Quenttin also features a proprietary 31-day tourbillon movement. It gets its impressive power reserve from seven spring barrels mounted in a series, visible at the top of the movement through the crystal face. It does not use traditional hands to indicate time but the days, hours and minutes are marked with discs in parallel with the spring barrels.
The multi-day movement is a natural evolution of the romance with the mechanical. These watches and their movements (and there are several others not listed here) are a reflection of an ongoing desire that, without winding or wearing, the new generation of movements continue to operate longer than the historical standard of about forty hours.