Patek Philippe Introduces New High Tech Heart for Limited-Edition Perpetual Calendar 5550P
For hundreds of years watches were made with just three materials: brass, steel, and ruby bearings. Patek Philippe is often considered the guardian of watchmaking’s most elegantly conservative high craftsmanship (with prices that match its peerless quality.) But with its new limited-edition 5550P perpetual calendar, it’s taken a bold leap into a high tech future.
The 5550P uses components made from silicon, a material usually associated with integrated circuits, into the very heart of the watch: the escapement, the part of the watch that actually keeps time. Using cutting edge fabrication techniques, the new escapement–dubbed the Oscillomax by Patek–incorporates ultra strong, ultra light silicon into the balance, lever, and hairspring of the watch to produce a mechanism highly resistant to shock, dramatically more mechanically efficient, and immune to the effects of magnetism (which can seriously disrupt the timekeeping of mechanical watches.) This groundbreaking creation is integrated with a perpetual calendar mechanism, which automatically adjusts the date to the correct length for any month–even during a leap year.
Only 300 examples of the ref. 5550P Perpetual Calendar will be available worldwide. Get ‘em while they’re haute.
Born In Fire: The Ur-110Zrn Torpedo
The watches of URWERK are a very new twist on a very old idea. In URWERK watches, a “time satellite” carrying the hour indication crosses a sector of the dial marked with the minutes; as the satellite carrier reaches the 60 minute mark a new hour marker appears at 0 and the whole process starts over. The complication’s called a wandering hours display, and though it’s hundreds of years old, this ain’t your daddy’s wandering hour watch.
Their most recent watch, the URWERK Torpedo, features a new twist on their wandering hours design in a very literal sense: the minutes sector was moved from its position at the bottom quarter of the watch, where it created a very classical feeling bilateral symmetry, and placed on the right hand side of the dial. The watch takes on a powerful, dynamic imbalance that makes it seem more aggressively instrumental, as if it’s a sophisticated and sensitive instrument designed to measure levels of some hitherto unknown lethal radiation. The dial is completely opened up to showcase the time satellites: three rotating cubes mounted on arms rotating on a central pivot, which rotate to show a face with the right number for each hour as they pass across the minutes sector.
The latest version of the Torpedo is the UR-110ZrN – the watch is armored in zirconium nitride, applied over a sandblasted steel bezel. Zirconium nitride is a modern technical ceramic, a super-tough material developed for high stress environments like ballistic missile nosecones and turbine blades in jet engines. High tech both inside and out, this highly exclusive watch from a highly exclusive haute horlogerie design house will vanish quickly.
Only 12 UR-110 ZrN Torpedos will be made. They will be available only through Chronopassion (Paris), Marcus (London), The Hour Glass (Singapore) and Westime (Los Angeles.) Price, $135,000
The Thin Man: The Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Collection Excellence Platine
In 1755 pocket watches were quite thick, but men of fashion wanted timepieces that wouldn’t bulk in their pockets. The solution was a new type of construction; an extra thin movement that became known as the Lépine calibre first used by Vacheron Constantin in 1780.
Though there are many distinguished extra flat watches in Vacheron Constantin’s collections, one of the newest is the new Patrimony Contemporaine self-winding watch from the Collection Excellence Platine. A pure example of the classic extra flat gentleman’s dress watch with two hands and delicate baton markers.
Inside is one of the most exclusive movements in watchmaking: the Vacheron Constantin calibre 1120, the world’s flattest self-winding movement with a full diameter rotor, and a record holding extra flat watch movement at only 2.45mm thin, with the case measuring 42mm overall. The icing on the cake: the movement is stamped with the Geneva Seal, a mark awarded by an independent inspection office at the Geneva School of Watchmaking only to movements of the highest quality.
The Patrimony Contemporaine in 42mm is offered in platinum only, with a platinum buckle and dark blue alligator strap; it is a limited edition of 150 numbered pieces; price $53,000.
Cutting Edge Complication: Piaget’s Ultra Thin Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic
There’s no company better known than Piaget for making the kind of watch that was once the last word in elegance: thin, gold, and automatic. At the top of its pinnacle of artistry is the new-for-2011 Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Ultra Thin. The creation of an ultra thin tourbillon is a challenge in itself, since the mechanism requires additional height in the movement of the watch due to its very nature. The Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic is superlative as both science and art –the heart of the watch is its movement, the self-winding tourbillon calibre 1270P, which required three years for Piaget to develop and which packs 269 components (including the flying tourbillon) into a movement that is only 5.55mm thin. The entire case is only 10.4mm thick, and nothing gets in the way of the wearer’s ability to appreciate both the movement of the tourbillon and the movement of the gold micro-rotor oscillating weight that keeps the watch wound by harvesting energy from the movement of the watch on the wrist. A combination of the best of Piaget’s unparalleled expertise in extra flat watchmaking with its equally superlative mastery of elegant design, the Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic’s the last word in resplendent refinement.
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.