Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon Full Sapphire
The full-sapphire case was a logical development for the Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon. Here’s why.
Sapphire crystal is not widely used as a case material for watches mainly because it is extremely difficult to machine. Like carbon fibre, sapphire crystal is extremely resistant yet paradoxically also very brittle. On the one hand, its robustness quickly wears out CNC machine tools (sapphire crystal cannot be produced using stamping tools, for obvious reasons), requiring frequent tool changes and machine adjustments, which means that it takes much more time to produce a sapphire-crystal watch case compared with a metal case. On the other hand, its brittle nature means that anything but the utmost care in the process can lead to breakages – a factor that accounts for the high price of sapphire crystal watches.
While hardly widespread, the use of sapphire crystal for watch cases has increased in recent years, with models such as the Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire available for as “little” as 55,000 Swiss francs. At the other end of the scale is the Richard Mille RM 56-02 at a cool 2 million US dollars. The new Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon Full Sapphire is positioned somewhere between these two models at 265,000 Swiss francs for a limited edition of 50 watches available to order. But for this price you also get an extremely rare triple-axis tourbillon that is one of the fastest in the world. The tourbillon turns about its three axes of rotation in 17, 19 and 60 seconds respectively, offering a hypnotic mechanical ballet.
Sapphire crystal was already used generously in the existing Triple Axis Tourbillon models, which use a sapphire crystal tube as the main case element. The movement is assembled separately and then inserted into this sapphire tube from the side. This construction is complex, since the sapphire crystal tube is both asymmetrical and curved on the front and back. Because of this complexity, the tube has to be machined and polished by hand. Once the self-supporting movement, which is housed on a H-shaped mainplate, is inserted, the two sides of the tube are sealed by screw-on inserts. The Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon Full Sapphire uses sapphire for the inserts as well (also machined and polished by hand), making the case completely transparent.
While the off-set triple-axis tourbillon clearly attracts the eye in the upper half of the case, in particular thanks to the magnifying effect of the curved sapphire crystal, the true Cabestan signature element common to all of the brand’s timepieces, can be glimpsed just beneath the skeleton dial: a 240mm long steel chain, consisting of 350 links and 234 rivets (all assembled entirely by hand) ensures that the energy from the mainspring barrel is released to the tourbillon escapement at a constant torque. Unlike the other Cabestan collections, however, the Triple Axis Tourbillon is the only one in which this fusee and chain mechanism is arranged horizontally rather than vertically. In total, the manually-wound calibre CAB0017 that powers the Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon Full Sapphire consists of 978 individual components – all designed, machined, decorated, assembled and adjusted in-house by Cabestan’s team of experts.