Triple Threat: The Harry Winston Histoire de Tourbillon 4, 3 Axis Tourbillon

Harry WinstonHarry Winston’s been very much in the news lately –and not just the watch news. In a surprise announcement, it was recently revealed that the company has been acquired by the Swatch Group, in a deal that reportedly totaled about $1 billion. The purchase of Harry Winston by the Swatch Group has left many enthusiasts wondering what direction the company will take under its new owners, but at least for now, Harry Winston seems steadily on course –and has just wowed its fans with the announcement of the Histoire de Tourbillon 3, the third mega-tourbillon complication in the Histoire de Tourbillon series.

It’s a remarkable watch. The Histoire de Tourbillon series is not a “history” of the tourbillon, but rather a story, so to speak, of the evolution of the modern tourbillon which Harry Winston is telling in the form of some of the most unusual and dramatically different tourbillons in the world. The tourbillon, of course is a fairly old and very venerated horological complication –it was, as Haute Time readers know, originally invented in the 19th century by Abraham Louis Breguet, who developed it (and patented it, in 1801) for the purpose of attempting to reduce the negative effects of gravity on the accuracy of a watch. Since a watch will run at slightly different rates depending on its position with respect to gravity, Breguet placed the most critical time-keeping components in a rotating cage –the idea was to create a single, average rate error rather than multiple errors for different positions, in order to simplify adjustment.

Since then, there have been many experiments intended to explore how to make Breguet’s invention, which was designed for pocket watches, and adapt it to the wrist. The Histoire de Tourbillon 4 is the watch equivalent of a concept car; it’s a fascinating intellectual experiment in the pursuit of greater accuracy, as well as an extremely visually striking watch that marks a return to a slightly more classical design language than the very large and unusual –even eccentric –form of the Histoire de Tourbillon 3, which was 65mm across the longest side of its rectangular case.

Histoire de Tourbillon 4 is, by contrast, more sober in execution (and size, at 40mm) but make no mistake –this is a most unconventional watch. The centerpiece is a triple axis tourbillon, which consists of three concentric cages each of which is inclined at an angle to the others, and each of which rotates at a different speed. The outermost cage rotates once every 300 seconds; the intermediate cage rotates once every 75 seconds, and the innermost cage rotates once every 45 seconds. The multiple axes have a purpose: to prevent the timekeeping components from ever assuming for any length of time a position in which the rate of the watch would be compromised. In order to allow the watch to operate as efficiently as possible, the tourbillon has beeen made very light: a mere 1.57 grams, and the watch is capable of running, from the power delivered by its two mainspring barrels, for 50 hours. Its design skews very contemporary –plates and bridges for the movement are made of titanium, and the case is a combination of 18k white gold, combined with the Harry Winston signature alloy Zalium for the case band, arches, and lugs.

This extremely exotic and unusual tourbillon is a welcome sign of the continuity of Harry Winston’s commitment to a philosophy of watchmaking that matches the audacity in gem selection and jewelry design of Harry Winston himself –and we very much hope it’s not just a sign of a healthy present, but also the shape of things to come.

Pricing and availability on request to Harry Winston. A limited edition of 20 pieces world wide.

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