After 2022 and its several intense months filled with new projects, it was time for us to give you an update on the tourbillon project! Yes, it’s true that we’ve been slow, since our last communication dates back to January, but the wait was worth it and you won’t be disappointed. That’s a promise.
In this chapter, we will briefly review the history of the tourbillon, we will of course share the progress of the project with you and finally, we will ask for your votes for the next steps! Enjoy your reading.
The tourbillon: history and original purpose
Patented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, the tourbillon is a legendary complication that ranks among the Grails of every watch lover. The tourbillon is the pinnacle of the watchmaking art, and its purpose is to counteract the effects of gravity on the regularity of mechanical movements, a fact that was particularly symptomatic of the pocket watches of the time, which stayed upright in the pocket for many hours.
How was such a feat made possible? By enclosing the heart of the watch (balance wheel, hairspring and escapement) in a mobile cage that rotates on itself, thus eliminating the effects of gravity. Today, tourbillons are more popular for the hours of skill and design required to create them, demonstrating a keen sense of horological expertise, than for their original purpose.
Since the appearance of wristwatches, the effects of gravity on the mechanism are less significant because the random movements of our wrists throughout the day already counterbalance the mechanical disturbances attributed to gravity. The tourbillon is available in many variants: simple, bi-axial, tri-axial, self-winding or manual…. There is no lack of choice.
The three best-known variants are as follows:
The tourbillon consists of integrating the balance-spring and escapement in the same mobile cage, which is itself integrated into the watch. On average, a minimum of 60 components are needed to create a tourbillon, which generally weighs less than 1 gram.
The bi-axial tourbillon is equipped with two concentric cages (one internal, one external) which allow it to rotate in several dimensions and thus to compensate for disturbances caused by the earth’s gravity.
As its name suggests, the tri-axial tourbillon rotates around 3 distinct axes, allowing it to almost completely cancel out the effects of gravity on the watch mechanism. The tri-axial tourbillon is one of the rarest complications in mechanical watchmaking.
Although the tourbillon is referred to as a “complication”, this is not exactly the case in the strict sense of the term. Indeed, the tourbillon does not provide a watch with an additional function or indication, unlike a date, a power reserve or a moon phase, for example. Nevertheless, it is commonly accepted to call it a “complication” because of the complexity and expertise required to create it.
Beyond its captivating aesthetics, mastered only by a handful of expert watchmakers, the tourbillon technique above all crystallises the apogee of its creator’s talent, and inspires an unparalleled fascination among watchmaking enthusiasts. Until now, only a happy few have been able to wear watches with this sophisticated complication on their wrists.
The reason: a very high entry ticket, often set at several tens of thousands of euros and exceeding hundreds of thousands of euros for certain pieces. But today, thanks to our economic model (direct sales on our website without intermediaries and total transparency on prices), it is possible for us to reshuffle the deck and offer you the unattainable, as was the case with our first model of participatory Haute Horlogerie, the X41.
Project outlines and progress
Let’s rewind: last November, a large number of you voted in favour of the tourbillon (6,125 votes) to make it one of our future watchmaking projects, clearly ahead of the moon phase, which came second (5,634 votes). In terms of design, you have chosen a round and therefore original case, in an elegant, refined style. In short, more of a dress watch than an adventurer.
Based on your suggestions and wishes, we got to work. The first step and the cornerstone of each of our projects: the search for the best possible partners to offer you models faithful to our values of transparency, high quality and excellent watchmaking expertise. Our rigorous selection criteria include:
- The capacity of the partners to produce several types of tourbillons, according to your future votes;
- The production prices, which must allow us to make this exceptional complication accessible to as many people as possible and therefore not prove too expensive while maintaining the best possible design quality;
- The features proposed for the movement (precision, power reserve, frequency, manual or automatic winding, type of weight (peripheral or not), etc.), which will affect the final price of the project;
- The precision of the quality controls and tests carried out to determine the reliability of the tourbillons and the proper functioning of the movement as a whole;
- All the related but no less essential points: the guarantees offered in the event of a manufacturing defect, the manufacturing times, the location, etc.
In addition, we also evaluate our potential partners on all aesthetic points, which are very dear to us in order to respect CODE41 standards: thickness and diameter of the tourbillon and the movement as a whole, quality and rendering of the materials, etc.
Finally, on this new project, the search for suppliers is more complex than usual because it requires the use of many different types of expertise to design the case, the movement or the dial, depending on the final design that will be chosen by you. It is therefore a long-term project but the study is progressing well and the final choice of partners is well underway.
What happens next?
Once the partner selection phase is over, we will finalise the first designs following your votes and we will come back to you with several possible styles, colours and positions for the tourbillon, in bold configurations and 100% in the spirit of CODE41. We can’t wait!
It’s your turn! As always, you will actively participate in the adventure of creating our models, and the tourbillon is no exception to the rule. This is why we are calling on you to choose the type of tourbillon you want for this project:
at 6 or 9 o’clock
Generally observed price: between CHF 20’000 and CHF 60’000
Estimated selling price for CODE41: from CHF 11’000
Advantages: position of the “classic” tourbillon at 6 or 9 o’clock; this is the most affordable option for entering the world of tourbillons
Disadvantages: this is the most common configuration for a tourbillon. Less exclusive and less distinctive than the other variants
Generally observed price: between CHF 25’000 and CHF 80’000
Estimated selling price for CODE41: from CHF 13’000
Advantages: perfectly placed in the centre of the dial, this is aesthetically one of the most beautiful configurations possible for a tourbillon. In addition, its central layout allows for a thinner case middle thanks to a domed crystal in the centre
Disadvantages: the hands are more difficult to carry because they have to be placed around the tourbillon
Generally observed price: between CHF 50’000 and CHF 150’000
Estimated selling price for CODE41: from CHF 17’000
Advantages: equipped with two cages rotating in two dimensions, this tourbillon allows for greater compensation of the effects of gravity for excellent precision of operation. It is also more spectacular to observe than a simple tourbillon
Disadvantages: more difficult to design, it is therefore more expensive to produce than the “simple” tourbillon
Generally observed price: from CHF 100’000
Estimated selling price for CODE41: from CHF 20’000
Advantages: a spectacular complication, the tri-axial tourbillon offers a fascinating and unparalleled ballet, passing through all the possible positions thanks to its three axes of rotation
Disadvantages: a very high manufacturing cost due to its very complex machining (3 cages rotating on 3 axes), as well as its high number of components
Project milestones (indicative dates)
21 JUL. 2022
Supplier search and next steps
END SEPT. 2022
Colour and material research
Reception of prototypes
Launch of pre-orders
Suggestions and remarks
Do you have a question? A suggestion? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, we will be happy to answer you!