Calendars The New Tourbillon?
— Baselworld will see the introduction of two innovative new calendar mechanisms made by independent watchmakers aimed at chronometric improvement. Could these represent the new tourbillon?
WORLDTEMPUS - 16 March 2011
The era of the tourbillon as the premiere complicated aspect to a high-end watch movement may well be over. This addition to the movement that rotates the escapement in search of a better rate was only found in less than 100 timepieces (primarily pocket watches) up to the year 1980. Since then it has exploded: by 2004, there were 100 different companies offering wristwatches outfitted with tourbillons.
There is no doubt that brands and independent watchmakers are now looking for new ways to prove their horological competence and improve mechanical chronometry. Two boutique brands exhibiting at Baselworld are set to debut unique wristwatches involving innovative calendars – and new approaches to rate improvement.
Antoine Martin's first movement is not only a perpetual calendar; the base movement – which was brought to fruition by Martin Braun over the course of several years – contains a number of improvements with the sole aim of improving chronometry, and thus precision.
A free-sprung balance spring and a 17.5 mm titanium balance wheel have been added to a modified Swiss lever escapement Braun now calls HPE, which stands for High Performance Escapement. Changing the originally calculated angles of the impulse planes of the escape wheel; modifying the curved shape of the escape wheel teeth; and reconfiguring the pallets have increased Caliber AM 39.001's energy yield by about 7-8 percent. The optimized shape of the silicium impulse pin also brings another 1 percent increase. The result of these modifications is an increase in amplitude from 300° to almost 330° in direct parallel comparison to conventional escapement design. This is aided by Braun's Aerodynamic Amplitude Stabilization (ADAS).
Antoine Martin's Perpetual Calendar QP01.700.1A is a modern and solid piece of haute horlogerie. The 45 mm watch case is strikingly filled out by the movement, thus forming a holistic unit with intricate calendar displays: a large date and a perpetual calendar displaying day, date, month, and leap year as well as a day/night indicator.
Traditional Chinese Time Measurement
Heritage Watch Manufactory, having just launched its two debut timepieces in January, will present a Chinese calendar clothed in most traditional Swiss habillage at Baselworld.
The Centenus, based on the Magnus's movement with its unique precision balance and escapement regulation, is a Chinese watch in the true sense of the word: far more than just paying homage to all things Chinese, it actually displays the traditional Chinese system of measuring time and simultaneously indicates the Western system based on the Julian/Gregorian calendar. Its Caliber 888 includes the patented Sectator mechanism for adjusting the pallet lever below the balance, which – according to the company – allows watchmakers to perfectly set its rate for the first time.
The characters found in the small window at 12 o'clock are zodiacal icons representing the Twelve Earthly Branches found in the sixty-year cycle of the Chinese agricultural calendar. The Earthly Branches icons also represent the Chinese arrangement of the day into twelve units (known as “shíchén”). The symbols thus alternate twelve times each day, beginning – as is normal in the traditional Chinese measurement of time – an hour before midnight. Within the subdial 9 o'clock, the larger, outside scale reflects the Chinese division of the day into 100 units of time (each known as “kè”); each kè measures 14 minutes and 24 seconds in our western calendar system. The smaller scale represents the subdivision of a kè into 60 units (“old fen”). This timepieces comes in a 42.5 mm rose or white gold case.
Both Antoine Martin's Perpetual Calendar QP01.700.1A and Heritage Watch Manufactory's Centenus are appealing alternatives of high-end watchmaking with real approaches to chronometric improvement.
Karsten Fraessdorf, the watchmaker behind Heritage Watch Manufactory's movements, is certain: “With [our] chronometers, we succeed in providing a fresh definition of the precision of mechanical wristwatches.”