Around the turn of the last century, Ulysse Nardin began supplying deck chronometers to the U.S. Navy. This 50-piece limited edition wristwatch featuring a stars-and-stripes dial decoration in red, white, and blue pays tribute to that little-known relationship, which continued until the early 1950s. Appealing to fans of Ulysse Nardin and patriotic watch lovers alike, the skeletonized timepiece was introduced on—you guessed it—Independence Day.
It’s happening slowly and all at once; more and more, tomorrow looks a lot like yesterday, run through a funhouse mirror. Did you see Star Trek: Discovery, the next-gen period piece that’s set a decade before the original series? Catch high-fashion’s astro-chic looks on the runways last year? Or hear that S.J. Clarkson, a young Netflix director, will helm the franchise’s next film? Welcome to life inside the supercollider of “back then” and “right now” and “in a moment.” It’s pretty weird in here.
It’s also harder than ever to put a finger on the zeitgeist. But that’s exactly what Girard-Perregaux is doing with its current collection. The latest entry into that heady catalog, the new Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton, arrives steeped in tradition; its triple-arch layout, the brand’s signature motif, dates back to 1884. One hundred and thirty years later, Girard-Perregaux reinterpreted the idea with the Neo Tourbillon. The bridges, traditionally gold, have been enlarged and hewn from titanium, a nod to modern cable-stayed structures, like Southern France’s Millau Viaduct, the tallest in the world.
The new Skeleton conveys all that history, while also introducing decidedly futuristic design elements. Girard-Perregaux’s flagship automatic movement carries over here, composed of 260 components, with a lightweight, titanium tourbillon cage and 18k white gold micro-rotor, offering a 60-hour power reserve. But the 45 mm case is taller and, crucially, the baseplate is gone. Exposed screws now sit deep into the structure of the openwork movement, holding the polished and bevelled bridges in place.
Somehow, the resulting piece, a mash-up of heritage and progress, feels cohesive. The Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton isn’t a limited-run proposition. But its $138,000 price point ensures exclusivity, and, in a way, it’s the rarest piece of all: one that’s both timely and timeless. Like the rest of Girard-Perregaux’s contemporary portfolio, it would look right on the wrist of William Shatner’s Kirk, or Patrick Stewart’s Piccard, or Jason Issacs’s Lorca, in any galaxy and on any planet, a watch sure to remain fashionable and collectible well into the future—even if that future is just a colorful sendup of the past…
Neo Tourbillon Three Bridges Skeleton
It starts with the case, steeply-cambered, anti-reflective-treated sapphire front glass and sapphire crystal caseback. Inside, the unidirectional, self-winding mechanical movement features a brilliant 18k white gold micro-rotor. Still, the bridges remain a highlight. They’re made of titanium, sandblasted, blackened via PVD process. Their shape is so complex, composed of interior angles, arches, extensions and overhangs, that their machining is a watchmaking feat in itself. The result is a taut and powerful shape. Gravity, mass, transparency—what do you need with a spaceship? This radical new skeleton has it all.
The L.M.’s avant-garde, titanium case contains an innovative solution to the age-old horological concern: how to maintain the precision and regularity of a mechanical watch. Introduced as a prototype in 2008, this award-winning movement uses an integrated, microscopic silicon blade; it serves as an intermediary device in the escapement, metering energy to ensure constant power delivery to the oscillator, and, in turn, constant amplitude and constant rate. Sound like science fiction? Consider this: Even with Girard-Perregaux’s master watchmakers gave ‘er all they had, the super-complicated L.M. still required eight years of research and development.
The Laureato is sports watch icon. Designed by a Milanese architecture studio, it was released in 1975, flourishing in an era that celebrated leisure for leisure’s sake. In 2016, Girard-Perregaux brought out a limited-edition re-release; it was so well-received, the brand upped the ante, bringing out a whole new range. This Laureato 42 mm beams the octagonal case styling of its iconic 1975 predecessor straight into the present, but brings two thoroughly modern touches: a handsome rubber strap in place of the old integrated bracelet, and the acclaimed mechanical GP01800 caliber (designed, produced, assembled, and adjusted in-house) in place of the original’s quartz movement.
That new Laureato collection? It now includes dozens of references, housed in a variety of case sizes and materials. Among them, a skeletonized ceramic, which uses a thin, suspended, indexed ring as a dial, in turn offering a glimpse deep into the heart of the movement, dubbed GP01800-006, those last three digits denoting a skeleton variant. It’s a self-winding labyrinth, comprised of 173 total components, sand-brushed and treated using a galvanic process (“anthracite gray ruthenium,” according to the Girard-Perregaux’s master watchmakers), decorated by hand in a “unique and contemporary manner.” Which is all to say: the Laureato Skeleton Ceramic is a collector siren. Resistance is futile.
If the Freak Vision—a small-batch, all-platinum, self-winding, 45 mm wristwatch without a crown or hands—wasn’t wild enough for you, check the Coral Bay.
In the foreground, red and white acrylic paints go onto the barrel bridge; behind it, lacquers are mixed directly on the dial and heat-treated at 90 degrees between each application. Details are hand-applied, requiring some 20 hours of painting time.
On March 6, Louis Vuitton designer Nicolas Ghesquière unveiled his fall/winter 2018 fashion collection in a little-used hidden courtyard at the Louvre Museum, in Paris. An inspired visionary, Ghesquière’s ideas of how we’ll want to look in six months will, no doubt, have repercussions on fashion for years to come. Science fiction references have always been an integral part of his work, interweaving idealized concepts of the future and what humans will want to wear. The latest garments referenced multiple time periods, paired with a single long glove, astronaut style name tags, and printed bags resembling circuit boards. The models emerged on what appeared to be the hatch of a spaceship, introducing the Vuitton fall/winter collection with a startling intergalactic appeal.
Two weeks earlier, on the other side of the globe, La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton, the equally visionary watchmaking division of LVMH, unveiled another avant-garde timepiece, the Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon, with a little less fanfare. Resembling the clean lines of Star Trek’s Enterprise, the platinum Tambour Moon updates the 19th-century “mysterious” concept to propose a modern-day movement that appears to be floating in space.
Created using sapphire crystal discs with imaginative ingenuity, the optical illusion plays an important technical part in the mechanics of the watch, but magically disappears before your very eyes. And, like the iconic Vuitton luggage, the back of the tourbillon cage can be personalized with the customer’s own initials. The mesmerizing gleam of the spinning mechanical elements brings to mind the interlocking initials and fleur-de-lis symbols of the iconic “LV” monogram.
The LV 110 caliber, which boasts a remarkable eight-day power reserve, is concealed within the 54 mm Tambour Moon’s concave platinum case. The manual wind mechanical movement displays hours and minutes, along with a tourbillon cage designed to resemble a monogram flower that rotates around the dial every 60 seconds. Beneath the Monogram Flower at 12 o’clock lies the co-axial double barrel, above the central wheels dedicated to the hours and minutes, followed by the tourbillon carriage at 6 o’clock, all forming a vertical straight line.
This is where the “mysterious” use of transparent sapphire crystal comes into play, allowing for the appearance of the lack of connection between the winding crown and the double barrel, along with the spinning flying tourbillon that rotates around the dial once every minute. The introduction of the Tambour Moon propels Louis Vuitton into the stratosphere of high watchmaking, while still adhering to the original fundamental codes of the house.
Founded in 1854, Louis Vuitton has always played a supporting role in developing transportation technologies by creating innovative goods for all types of travel. This has helped the maison evolve, keeping pace with changing times by proposing solutions for passengers and operators of automobiles, passenger liners, trains, and airplanes, all intended for ease of use, freedom, and, of course, style.
It will only be a matter of time before Vuitton introduces goods for space travel; the day of taking your moon phase to the Moon (and someday Mars) will be here before you know it. Just as fashion shows allow us, however briefly, to look seasons ahead, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon Mystérieuse Flying Tourbillon envisions the future with startling clarity.
Breguet’s super-slim tourbillon gets a minimalist makeover.
Looking for a thin tourbillon? Talk about being spoiled for choice. In recent years, we’ve seen remarkably slender movements from Arnold & Son (2.97 mm) and Bulgari (1.95 mm). But both of those are manual-wind. Breguet’s caliber 581, found in the Classique line, lays claim to the thinnest automatic tourbillon on the market today.
The Classique Extra-Plat 5367 brings a new grand feu off-white enamel dial, sans power indicator, offering maximum contrast with minimal clutter. The 18-karat rose gold case retains the customary open backing—all the better to study the mechanical triumph therein: an 80-hour power reserve, at 4Hz frequency, from a 3mm movement.
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, Price Upon Request; breguet.com