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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

‘I see earth, it’s so beautiful’: The Gagarin Tourbillon

There was a good view of the Earth which had a very distinct and pretty blue halo. It had a smooth transition from pale blue, blue, dark blue, violet and absolutely black. It was a magnificent picture.

(Gagarin in his official statement after the flight, April 15, 1961.)

1961, at the age of 27, Gagarin left the earth. It was April the 12th, 9.07 Moscow time (launch-site, Baikonur). 108 minutes later, he was back . The period of orbital revolution was 89:34 minutes (this figure was "calculated by electronic computers"). The mission’s maximum flight altitude was 327 000 metres. The maximum speed reached was 28 260 kilometres per hour.

The vessel used was the Soviet spaceship/satellite Vostok 1, which was a small one-manned spherical descent module with a diameter of 2.3 metres. The module was mounted on top of an instrument module containing the engine system. Together these weighed less than five tonnes. The cosmonaut was strapped into an ejection seat, from which he would exit the descent module upon re-entry.

The Vostok 1 was mounted on a SL-3 variant of the SS-6 Sapwood rocket, which was 38.36 metres long and weighed 287.03 tonnes at launch. It had three stages, the first stage being four breakaway boosters, strapped on to the second and third stages. The first stage used RD-107 engines, which provided 102,000 kg of thrust.

Essentially, Gagarin was sitting in a tin-can on top of a bomb.

The Gagarin Tourbillon

The Gagarin Tourbillon features a 60 second flying orbital tourbillon that rotates counterclockwise around the dial counter in 108 minutes.

An integrated rotating magnifying glass allows appreciation of details on the dial. Looking through the loupe to the dial is reminiscent of looking out of the Vostok space capsule towards the earth.

The mechanical manual winding movement was entirely developed and produced by Bernhard Lederer in Switzerland.

The Gagarin Tourbillon is a limited edition of 50 pieces in platinum.


The mechanical movement of the Gagarin Tourbillon is manual winding with three mainspring barrels providing a power reserve of approximately 80 hours and the back plate is hand bevelled with Côtes de Genève waves. The complex movement with 264 components and 35 jewels was entirely designed, developed and manufactured by Berhnard Lederer in Switzerland.


The Gagarin Tourbillon features a 60-second orbital flying tourbillon that rotates counterclockwise (symbolising east) 360° around the dial in 108 minutes, which is the time Gagarin took to orbit the earth in the Vostok capsule.

The tourbillon appears to be suspended by a sweeping bridge inspired by the large 25 m (82 ft) commemorative statue at Gagarin’s landing site near Engels.

The tourbillon cage is formed by the word “VOSTOK” spelt vertically and curved around its perimeter.

Case and magnifying glass

The case of the Gagarin Tourbillon is in high grade 950 platinum and incorporates an integrated rotating magnifying glass that allows more detailed appreciation of the tourbillon and details on the dial.

The magnifying glass is locked in place by a catch inspired by a hatch on the Vostok capsule.

Yuri Gagarin, the Cosmonaut

In his youth Gagarin developed an interest in space. After working in a foundry, he was selected for a technical school where he joined the flying club and learnt to fly a small plane. After graduating, he joined the air force and qualified as a jet pilot.

While always interested in sport and keeping a high level of fitness, Gagarin's 1.57 m (5 ft 2 in) height gave him a significant advantage as a cosmonaut due to the Vostok's small capsule and in 1960 he was selected as one of 20 cosmonauts for the Soviet space programme. The following year Gagarin was selected to fly the first Vostok mission due to his performance, fitness, size and psychological stability.

After his historic flight, Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity. On the 27 March 1968, while requalifying as a fighter pilot, Gagarin and his instructor died in a crash.

Bernhard Lederer, the watchmaker

Bernhard Lederer was born in 1958 near Stuttgart, Germany. After a watchmaking apprenticeship he qualified as a Master Watchmaker in 1984 and opened an atelier specializing in restoration and developing his own timepieces. In 1985 Lederer became a founding member of the prestigious A.H.C.I. (Horological Academy of Independent Watchmakers).

Lederer's innovative timepieces include a clock with a moon phase needing correction only after 1,000 years, and an award-winning sculptural clock called "Trojka". A series of wristwatches with orbiting disks was awarded German Watch of the Year in 1996.

Bernhard Lederer's philosophy is to create timepieces that tell the time without imposing it on the viewer, allowing the wearer to appreciate the beauty of time without being stressed by it racing by.

Opening description of Gagarin's flight by Cosmonaut David Polfeldt

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