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GRAND PRIX VIEW: GPHG 2015 TOURBILLONS

With the pre-selected Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève watches visible on the organization’s own site, enthusiasts can see all the nominees for the annual ‘Oscars of the watchmaking industry on October 29. Until then, iW has been annotating the list of nominated watches for you with a series of posts, organized by category, so you can put each nominee into context.

All told, seventy-two timepieces will be competing to win the Aiguille d’Or Grand Prize or one of the sixteen prizes awarded for creative talent and watchmaking expertise. Readers can submit their own vote for Public Prize at the GPHG site, where each voter also enters a contest to win a Glorious Knight Chronograph by DeWitt. The 2015 list of winners will be announced at the 15th annual ceremony at the Grand Théâtre de Genève on October 29. Today we look at the watches nominated in Tourbillon category.

Antoine Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons

Not content to add one tourbillion, famed watchmaker Antoine Preziuso (joined by his son Florian) here makes three tourbillons mesmerize on a revolving plate, which resonate like three hearts beating in unison. This produces what Preziuso calls a mechanical ballet and it involved the creation of a central planetary triple-differential. The result is a timepiece full of poetry: a vibrant homage to the tourbillon, according to the firm.

The three tourbillons oscillate at a stable frequency. Each tourbillon completes one rotation around its axis every 60 seconds. All are equidistant from the center of the plate, which completes six revolutions every hour… another reference to the figure 3 and its multiples. This tribute to measuring time superbly ignores the decimal system in favor of a system founded on the figure 12 – as in the year’s twelve complete lunar phases. The watch is a technical tour-de-force that, when combined with Preziuso’s status as a veteran force in Swiss watchmaking, will sway many of the GPHG judges in this category’s tight race.

Blancpain L-Evolution C, Tourbillon Carrousel

Blancpain reunites once again a tourbillon with a carrousel. This example evolves from the version several years ago devised for the brand by Vincent Calabrese. This time the result is a far more contemporary 47.4mm platinum-cased watch that features a flying tourbillon and flying carrousel. The movement of the Tourbillon Carrousel is equipped with two differentials, one designed to combine the information from the two complications in order to average the two running rates and the second to produce the power reserve indication shown at the back of the watch. The unusual bezel, featuring applied numerals together with the asymmetric bridges and base plate, are a far cry from the firm’s previous, more classical designs. Here we see a frosted finish, an NAC coating (a galvanic process) and hexagonal screws.

Bovet 1822 Braveheart

This versatile and complicated model displays the hours, minutes and seconds on both sides of its movement. The first side seems to possess a single hand, even though it presents three indications. The hours hand, slightly off-centered on the upper part of the movement, crosses the main dial as a retrograde hand to count the minutes as a 120° sector acts as the seconds indicator. When the timepiece is turned over, hours and minutes are displayed traditionally by two hands on an off-center dial at 12 o’clock. Here, the tourbillon is the center of attention once again. But unusually the tourbillon’s escapement is distinctly separated from the balance wheel and balance-spring, yet still perfectly connected to it. More surprisingly still, the seconds are also displayed on this side of the movement, on the axis of the tourbillon carriage spinning in the opposite direction of the seconds indicator on the other side of the watch. Like all Bovet’s Fleurier collections, the case of the Braveheart is equipped with the Amadeo System that allows the wearer to convert the timepiece into a reversible wristwatch, a table clock or a pocket watch without the use of a single tool.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision

With its single dial-side aperture and slimmer (2.5mm thinner than any previous model) profile, this watch may just be Greubel Forsey’s most traditional piece, at least in outward appearances. We will find out on October 29th if the GPHG judges appreciate the subdued appearance. Its tourbillon is certainly visible from the dial side via a large 14mm aperture, but no other indicator can be seen there save the elegant running seconds display. Also on the dial, via the large aperture, a delicate arched tourbillon bridge offers a suggestion to see the more pronounced back arch, and both designs are inspired from Romanesque vaulted architecture. A wide opening for the dome on the back allows extra light to flow through to the front than might be expected. The 24-second tourbillon also appears on the back of the timepiece under a sapphire crystal dome: a first for Greubel Forsey. Even with the dome, the case only measures 16mm thick. (I couldn’t feel it at all when I placed the watch on my wrist earlier this year.) The back dome, however, does display the perfectly polished Romanesque tourbillon bridge.

MB&F HM6 Space Pirate

Inspired by Max Busser’s nostalgia for a 1970s Japanese anime TV series known in French-speaking countries as Capitaine Flam, this model’s biomorphic shape is dominated by five globes, an incredible ten sapphire crystals and two large crowns linked with a matte and polished titanium skin. Two of the globes echo the earlier MB&F HM3 Frog. As on the Frog, a set of bugged-out eyes became the watch’s hours and minutes indicator. Surrounding the central tourbillon and its blinking eye cover are the two time indicator domes and two turbine domes. The paper-thin aluminum hour and minutes domes are machined from solid blocks of metal and revolve on ruby bearings. They rotate vertically via bevel gears that transfer the automatic movement’s power from a standard horizontal plane to the vertically rotating dome. To protect the HM6’s flying tourbillon, MB&F designers have built into the watch a retractable, semi-spherical, titanium protective shield. The watch is an avant-garde eye-pleaser and in my estimation will battle for this category’s top prize with Ulysse Nardin and Antoine Preziuso.

Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon

This watch incorporates the Ulysse Anchor Escapement, a constant force escapement that Ulysse Nardin says took eight years to perfect. The escapement, made entirely of silicium, displays architecture based on the principle of flexible mechanisms exploiting the elasticity of flat springs. The impulse that issues from each alternation of the balance wheel transmits its energy to the blades, which snap from one stable state to the other, very much like a snap hair-clip. The pallet arms pivot backwards and forwards around the pallet staff that is purely virtual, thus generating no friction. This design challenges the principle of the traditional Swiss anchor escapement’s dual-ruby pallet. Here instead is an escapement with a circular frame with a pallet fork fixed in the center, supported in space on two blade springs less than a tenth of the thickness of a hair in diameter, each perpendicular to the other. Visible through a large opening in the dial, the entire device is encircled by the indication of its power reserve of at least 7 days. That it’s set in a lovely grand feu enamel dial created by Donzé Cadrans, a dial-making specialist company owned by Ulysse Nardin, makes this watch a serious contender for the Tourbillon trophy.

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