Code 11.59 Universelle RD#4
The brief was to make a wearable ultra-complicated wristwatch. And Audemars Piguet has succeeded. Packed into a 42mm, 15.5mm-thick case are 1,155 components and 40 functions, including 17 technical devices and 23 complications (though take that with a pinch of salt because one of those listed is “silence”).
It has a grand sonnerie from RD (Research and Development) #1, minute repeater, ultra-thin perpetual calendar from RD#2, split-second flyback chronograph, and tourbillon from RD#3.
Everything is run off the crowns and pushers, with super crowns being used for multiple functions such as selecting chiming mode and setting the perpetual calendar, good to the year 2400 because it doesn’t need leap correction every 100 years.
The split seconds module is integrated into the rotor; the super sonnerie can now be seen, so a secret caseback was created to let air in and a new sapphire crystal soundboard on which the gongs are mounted so sound isn’t compromised. And that’s just the Cliff Notes.
Neo Constant Escapement
Ten years ago, Girard-Perregaux unveiled its constant-force escapement. Rather than try to regulate power from outside the movement it created the silicon structure that encircles the escapement comprising a nickel impulse lever, two pure nickel escape wheels, balance wheel, hairspring and fifth wheel. Through the middle is a 14-micron thick silicon blade, buckled at one side.
As the balance wheel swings energy accumulates in the buckled blade, held in place by a locking lever until ready to flip. A roller engages with the control lever’s fork forcing the blade to flip, causing what looks like a ripple of energy to flow alternately through the two escape wheels, via the fifth wheel, which provides an impulse that is always “constant” to the balance regardless of the how wound the main barrel is.
All this jazz is back for 2023, only every part that can be in silicon is, for efficiency the number of parts is reduced, power reserve is seven days, the case is now 45.5mm, and the hands are now centrally mounted, which required redoing every part of the gear train.
This watch has a movement with a frequency of ten beats a second, a power reserve of three days and is an automatic chronograph. See? Tentagraph.
Powering it is the high-beat Calibre 9SA5 – nine years in development, designed from scratch and part of Grand Seiko’s new generation of movements.
At its heart is the Dual Pulse Escapement, which delivers energy both indirectly, like a traditional Swiss lever escapement from the palettes (those claw-like thing you can see rocking back and forth) and directly straight from the balance via a star-shaped gear mounted on the balance itself making the movement 20% more efficient.
To this, GS has added a chronograph module – integrating it would only make it harder to service – used two barrels so it can run for three days, even with the chronograph running, and upped the testing time to 20 days (it’s usually 17) to ensure the watch adheres to GS’s strict +5/-3 seconds per day accuracy.
HM8 Mark 2
At first glance, the real technical mastery on this revamped HM8 appears to be the way the numbers are projected – the flat discs running on the plane of the movement refracted at 90 degrees through prisms with integrated magnifying lenses, so the jump hours and running minutes are legible when driving.
Or maybe it’s the body panels in white or British racing green made from CarbonMacrolon – a composite material comprising polycarbonate macrolon that has been reinforced with carbon nanotubes.
In fact, it’s two things, the first is the sapphire glass on top of the watch, double domed, so it imitates the roof of the Abarth 750 Zagato “Bubble Back”, which inspired the design. It is 30 to 40 times more expensive than normal domed sapphire and so difficult to make only one supplier would take it on.
The second is the hidden crown, only revealed by turning it three quarters to give the movement more space.
Louis Vuitton x Akrivia
LVRR-01 Chronographe à Sonnerie
As first collaborations go this is certainly ambitious. Louis Vuitton has teamed up with independent watchmaker and founder of Akrivia, Rexhep Rexhepi – a man renowned for his love of haute complications – to launch this unusual sonnerie, with added chronograph and tourbillon for good measure.
Whereas in traditional sonnerie watches, the chimes indicate the hours, minutes and sometimes quarters, here it is connected to the chronograph and chimes on the minute to indicate elapsed time; something that is necessary because the movement has been inverted putting the chronograph dial on the back and the tourbillon and chiming components on the front.
To do this, Rexhepi linked the chronograph and the sonnerie to a separate gear train, with its own escapement, powered by a second barrel. This escapement locks and unlocks once a minute, which allows the chronograph and sonnerie to run in tandem and without affecting the timekeeping element. Technically accomplished but with an element of wit.
Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante
Quietly innovative rather than delivering technical pyrotechnics is this Minute Rattrapante – a diving watch in dress watch clothing.
Building on the technology developed for last year’s GMT Rattrapante, this uses a pusher at eight o’clock, to reveal a red gold hand underneath the minute, rather than the hour, hand. This pusher moves the hand forward in increments of five minutes, a second pusher at 10 o’clock by increments of one.
When the rhodium-coated white gold minute hand catches up with the red one, your allotted time to do whatever you were planning to do has passed. Parmigiani has used the movement to do what is usually done with a rotating bezel.
In a diving situation, set the hand for how long you can dive, surface when the hands come back together. At 60m water resistance, it’s still legible for surface dives, and much more elegant than a traditional diver.
Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
There are two patented innovations buried in this dizzying 3D spider’s web of mechanics not including Roger Dubuis putting its vertically clutched, column-wheel chronograph mechanism dial side.
The first innovation is the Second Braking System (SBS): a brake mounted directly on one of the two arms that work together to engage and disengage the vertical clutch.
When the chronograph is stopped these two arms lift the clutch, disengaging it, to prevent it turning, while the seconds hand is also braked to prevent the hand stuttering.
The second is the 120-degree Rotating Minute Counter at three o’clock. The numbers 0, 3, 6, and 9 are on a static scale. Below it is a tripartite hand on which are the values 0, 1, and 2. These values move along the scale noting the increments of 10 that have passed. When the hand with the 2 on it reaches the end of the static scale 30 minutes have elapsed on the chronograph and the tripartite hand returns to 0.
Plasma Diamant D’Avant Garde
The technical aspect here isn’t the movement but the materials. More specifically the diamonds. To celebrate the Carrera’s 60th anniversary – its diamond anniversary (ahem) – TAG Heuer has chosen to push the limits of lab-grown stones, which have the same chemical and structural properties as mined stones.
Here TAG Heuer’s suppliers used a process known as chemical vapour deposition (CVD) where a diamond seed is placed in a chamber filled with gas enriched with carbon and heated, which forces the carbon atoms in the gas to stick to the seed; the build-up of which grows the diamond.
In the 36mm version, the stones grown for the crown and the Heuer shield cover are coloured. For a stone to become pink, as it is with that model, small irregularities must be introduced to the growing process through irradiation. The stones need to be a uniform colour without any need for post processing; something very hard to achieve. But TAG Heuer has managed it with aplomb.
Blast Free Wheel Marquetry
The silicon marquetry background combined with the glass-box sapphire and lack of conventional bezel makes it feel as though Ulysse Nardin’s dial-mounted movement is floating in water.
The mechanism of the Blast Free Wheel Marquetry has been strategically arranged – barrel at 12 o’clock, decorated winding wheel at three, power reserve at four, tourbillon at six, then reduction gear, power reserve differential (the only disruption to the flow) and intermediate wheel.
This allows you to watch the flow of power through the movement like the horological equivalent of a synchronised swimming display.
The marquetry is no mean feat either. Ulysse Nardin is a silicon pioneer and here it has taken 103 pieces in varying thicknesses, finished in both matte and mirror polish, to make its dial.
The assembly takes hours and is extremely difficult owing to the delicate nature of silicon in this state. There’s even a silicon wafer adorning the caseback with tiny cut-outs to view what’s left to see of the movement.
UR-100V Magic T
Urwerk’s UR-100 series was conceived to bring time and space together in one object. It has the brand’s iconic orbital hour satellites with minute pointers, of course.
However, there’s more. Inspired by a pendulum clock owned by Baumgartner that displayed the distance of the earth’s rotation at the equator, there are two scales through which the hour markers pass on their rotation.
One depicts the distance covered by the Earth’s rotation on its axis at the equator (555km or 345 miles) in 20 minutes and the distance travelled by the Earth around the Sun in the same time scale (35,742km or 22,208 miles).
There have been several material iterations of the 100V – an updated version with the hour numerals moved closer to the minute track for better legibility – and this is fully titanium, which has largely been shot blasted (a more aggressive technique than sand blasting) to give the whole watch an industrial aesthetic.