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Watch Brands Get Complicated

Technical and cosmetic innovations will abound this year at Switzerland's watch fairs in Basel and Geneva, with tourbillons continuing to garner a fair...

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WWD Basel Preview issue 04/03/2008

Technical and cosmetic innovations will abound this year at Switzerland’s watch fairs in Basel and Geneva, with tourbillons continuing to garner a fair amount of top watchmakers’ attention.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Corum will give a new twist to the mechanism with its Golden Tourbillon Panoramique, which holds the fabled movement in a case

of clear glass. Eighteen months were needed to develop the mechanism, which requires three weeks to be assembled and adjusted. The watch boasts a 90-hour power reserve. Production is limited to 99 pieces.

Jaeger-LeCoultre is introducing a tourbillon to its AMVOX line, which is a partnership between the fabled manufacturer and British luxury carmaker Aston Martin. The AMVOX3 Tourbillon GMT blends tradition with technology by housing the movement in a ceramic case. Materials such as carbon fiber, platinum and iridium alloys, and tiny ceramic ball bearings were used to reduce the watches’ weight and girth.

Chopard has filed two patent applications for an innovative high-frequency escapement that is capable of reaching a cadence of 8 to 10 hertz. The higher the frequency of balance oscillations, the more accurately the watch will run. Traditional mechanical watches have a frequency of 4 hertz, or four oscillations per second. So vibrations per hour more than double and the space between seconds will take five-hundredths of a second.

Piaget has a Polo Tourbillon Relatif with a flying tourbillon that circles around the watch once an hour. The watch is designed as a tribute to Paris, with monuments like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower engraved onto the case. Zenith, for its part, is showing off its prowess with tourbillon that offers a moon phase, date and chronograph.

Two of horology’s most august names have significant technological introductions. Breguet is offering the Classique 5447, with a perpetual calendar and minute repeaters. The minute repeater has been improved to produce a more sonorous sound. The movement is entirely hand-engraved with a complex retrograde jumping-month mechanism.

Patek Philippe is unveiling its World Time watch ref. 5131, with a mechanism that allows for the permanent display of all 24 time zones. On a cosmetic level, the cloisonné enamel dial highlights Patek’s decorative prowess. Fawaz Gruosi, the owner of de Grisogono, continues to make bold statements with his watches. This year, he has created a mechanical digital watch inspired by fast-running computer clocks.

“My office was crazy when I told them my idea,” said Gruosi, who pushed his team to make the watch, which he calls Meccanico. “Ours has 650 pieces, but with only one complication.”

Van Cleef & Arpels is also striving to find new applications for mechanical complications. After introducing its so-called “poetic” complications last year for women, this year the jeweler has come up with a poetic complication for men: a watch with a face representing the nighttime sky over Paris’ Place Vendôme. It rotates according to the date to give an accurate representation of the firmament.

Tag Heuer is introducing the Grand Carrera series of watches that plays on its heritage in motor racing. At the top of the line is the Grand Carrera Calibre 17 RS2 chronograph. The piece, limited to a production of 1,000 pieces, offers twin rotating systems in a sleek and lightweight titanium case.

And Bulgari is offering a new Diagono Calibro 303 in honor of the 20th anniversary of the watch style.

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