Watchuseek Blog

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beyond reach: Arnold & Son Grand Tourbillon Perpetual Equation

Beyond Reach is a series which looks at watches most mere mortals simply couldn’t justify on top of the weekly grocery bill.

They represent a range of incredible watches aimed at those elite few basking serenely in the luxury super yacht league or still taking outrageous bonuses as the heads of beleaguered European banks.

Most of the watches we will show will be out of reach even if you do have sufficient funds to afford them as they are usually part of extremely small limited edition watches spoken for before they even leave the manufacture. At this level of haute horology, it’s not only about how much you have got, but how much the watch manufacture values you to allow you to acquire one of the precious few pieces.

The development of the tourbillon

The tourbillon was created to compensate for the detrimental effects of gravity on watch movements, and to this day it remains one of the most challenging horological accomplishments.

The greatest challenge for a watchmaker regulating a watch is getting a similar result from the escapement no matter the position in which it is suspended. This has been made infinitely easier with accurate timing machines which give instantaneous timing results, where as in Abraham Louis Breguet’s time all that watchmakers had was another watch from which to regulate, so results were not exact and it could take weeks to get them.

Due to the complexities of developing a tourbillon, and, in modern day tourbillons, the precious metals used in making them, the tourbillon is one of the most valued features of collectors’ watches and premium timepieces.

Of course nowadays there are $50 quartz watches with equal accuracy, but for connoisseurs it has never been about just telling the time. It’s the quality of the craftsmanship in getting there that really counts.

Rarity of the Grand Tourbillon Perpetual Equation

The only way you will track an Arnold & Son Grand Tourbillon Perpetual down now is to keep your ear pressed close to the door of an authorised dealer who may know of a collector keen to sell, as only 10 in white gold and 10 in red gold of this piece were made.

While John Arnold didn’t invent the tourbillon – that distinction went to his good friend Abraham Louis Breguet – he did directly contribute significant ideas to its development, even though the launch of the tourbillion was some two years after Arnold’s death.

So while many brands may offer a tourbillion, the watchmaker John Arnold was instrumental its development.

In the Arnold & Son Tourbillon Perpetual, the tourbillon is beautifully highlighted through a generous opening in the lower part of the dial.

The tourbillon carriage with its three-arm propeller-shaped hand is complemented by an impressive array of additional functions. Above it, on either side of the grid-patterned dial section the day of the week and month are displayed in neat apertures. There’s also a dedicated arrow-type pointer which sweeps over the elegant retrograde date display appearing on the top of the dial.

Technical wizardry

The same hand-wound automatic calibre A1768 movement, with a 68 hour power reserve, also drives moon-phase and leap-year indications visible through the open back. All the perpetual calendar displays can be independently set by means of two pushpieces at 2 and 10 o’clock and two recessed correctors at 4 and 8 o’ clock, or adjusted simultaneously by the corrector at 9 o’ clock all housed in a 46mm case.

The dial also features a perpetual equation of time window, protected by a sapphire crystal and permanently displaying the difference between the time in space (sidereal time) and the time on earth (civil time). And for those who prefer to keep track of the stars in a more symbolic way, a zodiac calendar may appear in the same position.

The Grand Tourbillon Perpetual is a fine example of horological expertise realised by a brand that remains true to the pioneering spirit of one of the great British Masters.

And the asking price? Somewhere in the region of $350,000.

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