Alberto goes to Genthoud

by AlbertoS

© April 2003

I had always been saying that I would never set foot in Watchland after the terrible welcome I received the one and only time I visited Franck Muller's showroom in Geneva a year ago (I wrote a post a while back on that experience), but while in Geneva for this year's SIHH I learned that one should never say never!

Indeed, ever since we arrived there and saw the city plastered with posters of Franck Muller's new double axis tourbillon, and with the Basel memories of Thomas Prescher's torkel tourbillon still fresh in my mind, I kept telling myself that I just had to see that watch.

So when Thomas was able to arrange a last-minute visit of the Franck Muller factory and showroom, I could not resist. Down the drain went my principles, and into the car we got for the drive to Genthoud!

I must say that my first impression of the showroom was a bit what I was expecting through the oft-voiced stereotyped ideas of the brand's rumored main clientele: a couple of gawdily-dressed, gum-chewing, tall, eastern european hostesses, and a lot of russian being spoken. Then I saw it - sitting in a display case on the right side of the showrooom, basically alone, regally set on a very high stand...

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I didn't hear, see or think anything else, and immediately made a beeline straight for Franck Muller's new double axis tourbillon watch, called the Revolution 2. That's when I discovered the first quality of this watch: it is thoroughly mesmerising. I sat there for a good ten minutes simply staring at it, looking at the tourbillon cage going round and round and round... in every direction! I must say that it is one of the most amazing watches I have seen in my life, and my only regret is that I was not able to hold it in my hands and try it on my wrist.

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The watch is housed in a typical large Cintrée Curvex case, which has a small protuberance on the back to allow sufficient room for the tourbillon cage to revolve along its second axis. On either side of the tourbillon dial opening you have two retrograde indicators - one going from 0 to 60, thus showing the revolving time of the tourbillon cage along its more traditional axis while also functioning as retrograde seconds for the watch, and the other graduated from 0 to 8 minutes, indicating the time the tourbillon cage takes to revolve along its new, literally "revolutionary" axis (triple pun intended ).

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The tourbillon itself is housed inside a tonneau shaped cage, which cleverly recalls the shape of the watch case, and which has a small gear protruding from one end, in line with the balance wheel axis. This small wheel engages on a static cylindrical brass gear (visible perpendicular to the tourbillon cage in the photos), thus making the entire tourbillon cage revolve around the second axis. This solution is very simple, elegant, and quite beautiful to behold! Unfortunately, I was not able to examine the watch closely enough to determine how he managed to get the escapement wheel motion out of the cage and onto the watch's gear train, but I suspect that it must not have been an easy thing to do...

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I have to admit that under the spell of this watch, I, who had always chided Alex for having once owned a Havana, actually entertained thoughts of selling my house and my entire watch collection to raise sufficient cash to order one! That was however before I learned of its retail price: 800,000 CHF, with a limited production of 6 per year. Two have already been made: one which is supposedly on Franck Muller's wrist, and the one which was sitting in the Watchland showroom. The other four planned for this year have already been sold, and rumor has it that some of them are already being traded among dealers at a high premium!

My parting thought as we left Watchland (both literally and metaphorically!) to go back to Paris, was that this new tourbillon simply makes other tourbillons all of a sudden seem "bland". I actually had to come home and put my Daniel Roth tourbillon back on my wrist to reconcile myself with it, and to finally come to the conclusion that tourbillons do remain indeed an exceptional thing… even though, from now on, some will be more exceptional than others!

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Kudos to Franck Muller for once again surprising the world with one of his premieres, and for having gone back to the more traditional values of watchmaking through great technical innovation.

Alberto

P.S. My apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, which were taken at a distance, through the glass of a harshly lit case which was not quite pristine (could this have been from all my drooling and gawking? ).

 


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