It’s the most recognizable of all haute horlogerie complications –the tourbillon (French for “whirlwind,” first invented in 1801 by that most renowned of watchmakers, A. L. Breguet, is immediately identifiable thanks to the rotating cage which its proud creators generally allow the equally proud owner to view through an opening in the dial. In recent years, the trend has been for the tourbillon to be used in watches that contain other complications as well, and in the last decade, the tourbillon has worked its kinetic magic in the company of virtually every complication there is, from the repeater to the chronograph to exotica such as the Equation of Time and sidereal time displays.
It’s also been the subject of almost unlimited experimentation, and ingenious variations on the tourbillon now abound, so that the affluent collector might easily build a very wide collection of just variations on the basic theme. And yet, despite the proliferation of new members of the family there remains something undeniably alluring about a tourbillon watch that looks back to the roots of the complication in a 200 year old quest to defeat the disruptive effects of gravity on accuracy –and lets the tourbillon take center stage.
In this spirit, Vacheron Constantin has created the first tourbillon watch it has made in some time which features only a tourbillon –the whirlwind, the whole whirlwind, and nothin’ but the whirlwind. The Patrimony Traditionnelle 14 Day Tourbillon presents an exquisitely finished tourbillon carriage in the shape of the firm’s signature Maltese Cross through an opening in a dial uncluttered by any other indications except the power reserve indicator that balances it perfectly at 12:00. Despite the tonic simplicity of the watch, the movement does have another card up its sleeve –as the discreet lettering on the power reserve says, the tourbillon is backed up by a staggering 14 day power reserve (one of the longest power reserves in any tourbillon watch.) Four mainspring barrels provide the necessary torque.
The watch as well as the movement are the first produced by Vacheron Constantin which adhere to the new, updated requirements of the Geneva Seal, which now sets quality standards for both the movement and the entire watch. The Geneva Seal is awarded to watches which fulfill requirements and pass inspections mandated by the Geneva School of Watchmaking, which maintains an independent inspection office for the express purpose of awarding the Seal to especially high quality watches made in the city and canton of Geneva.
With 336 hours of running time wound into its four mainsprings the Patrimony Traditionelle 14 Day Tourbillon is not only a watch with a lot of power under the hood –it’s a powerhouse of horological heritage and excellence as well.
Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.