Haute Time Review: The Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon

We love tourbillons here at Haute Time, and we love minute repeaters–what to choose, what to choose?  Fortunately, with the Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon, you can have your cake and eat it too.

A quick review: regular Haute Tiime readers will recall of course that the tourbillon is a device invented by Abraham Louis Breguet (one of watchmaking’s greatest inventors) in 1801; its purpose is to improve accuracy by canceling out the disruptive effects of gravity on a watch, though nowadays it is most highly prized as a demonstration of watchmaking skill and for its mesmerizing rotational motion.  The minute repeater is a watch which, when a special sliding lever built into the case is activated, chimes the time: first the hours on one gong; then the quarter hours on two gongs; and finally, the number of minutes past the quarter hour.

The tourbillon is demanding to make because of the high precision and care necessary to make it function as intended, and the minute repeater likewise is extremely challenging to make. The minute system of levers, “snails” (the rotating, stepped gears which are the first element in translating time into music) hammers, and gongs not only have to be made and adjusted with incredibly accuracy in order to function properly, but the whole watch has to be painstakingly “tuned” by ear in order to produce a pleasing tempo, volume, and sound quality.  Repeater connoisseurs are among the most demanding and discriminating of watch collectors (and at the astronomically high prices commanded by quality repeaters, they have a right to be) and makers of the best quality chiming watches go to enormous pains to ensure their watches sound as good as they look.

All of which makes the Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon an especially enticing watch.  Though the combination of a tourbillon with a repeater is already rare, the Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon is even more unusual, in that instead of using the two gongs and two hammers employed by most repeaters, it uses three, adding further complexity (and sonic beauty) to what’s already a very complicated watch.  Named for the haute de gamme firm of Daniel Roth, which became part of Bulgari 12 years ago, the Carillon Tourbillon has the signature “ellipsocurvex” case shape that’s the hallmark of Daniel Roth.  It’s a beautiful and distinctive design but makes the watch even more challenging to produce, as the gongs–made of specially treated hardened steel–are not the usual round shape, but instead are made to fit the case and mechanism.

The tuning of any minute repeater is a great challenge, and the achievement of a good sound is measured, not in hours or days, but in weeks or even months.  The gongs are painstakingly filed at the tips and at their point of attachment to the movement in order to adjust pitch and also sound quality: the force with which the hammers strike is adjusted to give the best volume but avoid harshness and the tempo of the chiming is adjusted via a specially constructed “governor” device.  But set the Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon into motion by activating the repeater slide, and you’ll be treated to one of the richest, most elegantly seductive experiences watchmaking can offer.

The Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon, with its in-house movement, calibre 3300, is available in pink gold, in a limited edition of 30 pieces worldwide.  $257,000

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