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
How a former Formula One champ turned cyclist helped Richard Mille design his latest ne plus ultra watch.
By James Jung
Richard Mille may be one of the world’s most preeminent watchmakers, but he’s almost as famous for his obsession with race cars. Ever since bursting onto the scene in 2001 with his radical and highly technical take on the classic, barrel-shaped tonneau, the charismatic Frenchman has drawn inspiration from the high performance machines of Formula One.
In the stone-and-timber garage of his 18th-century château in Brittany, you’ll find one of the world’s most coveted vintage-car collections (replete with iconic open-wheel McLarens and Ferraris), while his eponymous brand name can be spotted scrawled across racing grids the world over. But it’s in Mille’s unmistakable skeleton-dial watches that his obsession truly manifests itself. From aluminum-and-carbon fiber casings to shock-resistant movements as precise as a four-stroke turbocharged V6 engine, the similarities between Mille’s sleek, ultra-luxe watches and the world’s most bleeding-edge racing cars are striking.
And yet, for his latest limited edition timepiece, the bearded, rakishly stylish 66-year-old turned to an unexpected inspiration: cycling. It’s a sport that Mille—like any self-respecting Frenchman—grew up with, and one that has recently joined his ever-growing list of passions.
“I am stunned by the power cyclists churn out,” says Mille, who can be found logging serious miles on his local country lanes when he’s not bombing around those same roads behind the wheel of his Lancia Stratos rally car. He has also been following the Tour de France in person, often in the backseat of a commissioner’s car embedded in the fast-moving peloton. In 2016, after Mille struck up a friendship with professional cyclist Mark Cavendish, he gifted the Welshman his personal Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph. The decorated sprinter won his 29th Tour de France stage the following day, the timepiece strapped firmly on his wrist.
Such are the fortunes of a man who has built a business based as much on spontaneity as on rigorous devotion to detail. But, as befitting any true gear head, it was the technical innovations of modern racing bikes that most intrigued Mille. “The introduction of composites, the lighter materials, the performance gains in gear assemblies, these were revolutionary,” Mille says. “As a tech fanatic, I appreciate the many subtleties involved.”
To create a Tour de France–worthy timepiece, Mille knew he needed a collaborator. But rather than looking toward any number of world-class cycling companies for this venture, the watchmaker returned to his first love—Formula One. As it turned out, Mille’s longtime friend, four-time F1 champ Alain Prost, had been bitten by the biking bug as well.
“Richard is the one who had the idea for this watch,” recalls Prost, who at the height of his career was known as “The Professor,” due to his cerebral approach to car racing. “He wanted to blend automobiles and bicycles.” Prost himself began cycling at the behest of his trainer more than two decades ago. (The idea was that the sport would help better condition him for the demands of F1 driving—a sport where heart rates consistently exceed 160 bpm.) Today, Prost rides upwards of 200 kilometers a week, and regularly competes in races like the vertiginous L’Étape du Tour and the prestigious Masters World Cycling Championships.
The RM 70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost—which is limited to 30 collectors’ pieces—is the result of Mille and Prost’s three-year collaboration. On it, you’ll find numerous nods to cycling. Take, for instance, aesthetic details such as a barrel ratchet resembling a spoked wheel and a dynamometric crown evoking a pedal. For those more concerned with engineering, there’s the Grade 5 titanium used for both the baseplate and the Allen screws, which provides a stiffness capable of withstanding the roughest of road conditions, whether the local tarmac or the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix.
Of course, this being a Richard Mille creation, form always follows function. So, much like he’s done before for athletes including tennis star Rafael Nadal, golfer Bubba Watson and Jamaican runner Yohan Blake, he’s created a watch perfectly optimized for the day-to-day demands of sport. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the tonneau’s rectangular and asymmetrical carbon cage, which molds to the wrist without ever digging into the skin no matter where you grip the drop bars on a road bike.
The biggest innovation, however, belongs to the titanium odometer, a five-digit roller readout that allows riders to easily add the day’s distance to their ongoing tally. Cyclists live and die by their metrics. But while most will rattle off figures like their maximum heart rate or the average amount of watts they can generate in an hour, Prost found that few can recall the total mileage they’ve logged at the end of the season. The RM 70-01 solves that problem. By pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock, a cyclist can activate any of the odometer’s five rollers, while the pusher at 10 o’clock allows the rider to increase the number by increments of one. And there’s no danger of slipping up, thanks to a spring-lock neutral position that protects you from accidentally moving the wrong roller.
Sure, most cycling computers offer an odometer—one that automatically calculates total miles—at ten-thousandths of the cost, but anyone who’s resorting to basic bean counting clearly isn’t in the Richard Mille demographic.
For those who are, the RM 70-01, which is priced at a cool $815,000, comes with an added bonus: a hand-built Colnago carbon racing bike with an electronic Campagnolo drive train and thoroughbred Italian pedigree that evokes the spirit of Formula One.
One of the world’s most storied watchmakers celebrates a grand opening just in time for the holidays.
There’s always a hint of magic inside a Breguet boutique. Even brand-new locations come steeped in history, tracing lineage back to the original Geneva shop, which opened in 1775, and introduced the world to the first tourbillon soon after. That heritage is on display at Breguet’s New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue, adjacent to the St. Regis Hotel.
During a cocktail party celebrating the grand opening, collectors and select customers sipped champagne while exploring the new 2580-square-foot space. They discovered a Breguet craftsman demonstrating the art of guilloche on watch dials, as well as two specialty timepieces. The first was a replica of “The Turnip,” Winston Churchill’s famed gold Breguet pocket watch, created for the movie Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman.
The other? Also an incredible pocket watch, this one as original as they come, made by A.L. Breguet in 1817. The piece represents one of only 35 tourbillons that the company’s founder personally crafted during his lifetime. It provided a neat segue to the Marine Équation Marchante Ref. 5887, the brand’s latest Grand Complication wristwatch. In addition to a tourbillon and perpetual calendar, it features a running Equation of Time, displaying the difference between mean solar time and true solar time. This is achieved through a differential gear, powered by two rotation sources, operating entirely independently: the rotation of civil minutes, and the lever in contact with the equation of time cam, which makes one full turn per year.
Horology buffs will appreciate that complexity. To everybody else, it might as well be magic.
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