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The Millennium Watch Book
Kerbedanz - Kerbedanz Maximus

Kerbedanz Kerbedanz Maximus

The outsize Tourbillon*

Go against the flow; aim for the unexpected; dare to be excessive. Those were the themes adopted by Kerbedanz for its Maximus tourbillon. Understanding its particularity isn’t rocket science: all it takes is a rudimentary understanding of Latin. Maximus means ‘the biggest’!

Some achievements are such that they call for no further comment. However you see them, they leave you speechless. Presented at Baselworld in 2017, the Maximus is a case in point. In the aisles of what was the largest watchmaking show, a strange rumour was abroad: a small, fully-independent firm, tucked in among the exhibitors grouped together in the ‘Les Ateliers’ section, had just produced the largest tourbillon in the world. This was not about technical prowess first and foremost; it was art for art’s sake. Watchmaking tends to specialise in this kind of feat. Measuring hundredths of a second or offering an accurate calendar for the next couple of centuries is an affront to common sense. But like art in general, the art of watchmaking cannot be confined to pursuing the dictates of common sense. That’s not it’s reason for being. Its vocation is to be creative, inventive, and innovative; pushing back boundaries, making scientific progress and inspiring others to dream. On that basis alone, Maximus is a triumph.

One Idea, Several Problems

Although the idea of designing “the largest tourbillon in the world” may sound like a challenge that few watchmakers could resist, making one was another matter entirely. Increasing a tourbillon’s diameter inevitably creates problems relating to frequency, precision, weight, and the energy required to operate it, as well as issues with its location within the movement – and thus to the way in which the movement is built. All this meant starting from scratch – and that’s precisely what Concepto did, working with Kerbedanz to bring Maximus to life. It soon became clear that the tourbillon had to be in the centre. Rather than being displayed on the dial, it is the dial!

Kerbedanz Maximus

Kerbedanz Maximus © Kerbedanz

Tourbillon diameters are generally somewhere between 8 and 12 millimetres. While Franck Muller may have produced a Giga Tourbillon measuring 20 millimetres, the Maximus went further, being fully 27mm in diameter, housed in a watch with an overall diameter of 49mm. The movement comprises 415 components, including 73 in the tourbillon – a relatively common number, consistent with the fact that its massive size apart, the Maximus tourbillon uses standard architecture. To be as light as possible, the cage is made of titanium, a material that also enables the Maximus to minimise the influence of magnetic fields.

Larger and Slower

Rather than completing a rotation every 60 seconds, the Maximus takes six minutes. To allow this colossus to move harmoniously and regularly, its frequency has been reduced to 2.5Hz (18,000 vibrations per hour), the lowest generally accepted for a contemporary mechanical movement. Naturally, even at such a low frequency, the giant Maximus is very power-hungry. Four parallel barrels supply the torque required to drive a central wheel mounted on ball bearings. Kerbedanz guarantees a power reserve (complete with its own indicator) of over 48 hours. The crown visible at 2 o’clock is not there to wind the watch, though: it is only for setting the time. Winding the four barrels of the Maximus requires a special key introduced via the rear of the case. What does the Maximus add to the tourbillon? First off, it’s a delight to look at, with its improbable and impressive technical performance. It’s also educational: at such a large scale, everything in the tourbillon is clearly visible to the naked eye. The low frequency reveals the minutest details. The effect is mesmerising, offering a return to the limelight of the somewhat neglected 18,000 vibrations per hour frequency used for the first pocket watches and dating back to the times when performance played second fiddle to the art of watchmaking as a whole.

Kerbedanz Maximus

Kerbedanz Maximus © Kerbedanz

*This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in  The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.



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