Published - Not Just in, Thin Is Almost De Rigueur

Tourbillons have become a popular feature of fine watchmaking, but these additions to the mechanics of a watch escapement to counter gravity’s effects on accuracy take up space and this is becoming an issue for watch brands looking to feed into the recent aesthetic design trend for thinner watches, highly favored by Chinese clients. So this year, several watchmakers, like those at Richard Mille and Piaget, have been working to slim down their tourbillons. At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva in January, Piaget presented the Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Ultra-Thin. Three years in development, the watch combines Piaget’s 2006 Calibre 600P (which, at a thickness of 3 millimeters, or 0.1 inch, is the world’s thinnest hand-wound tourbillon movement) and the 2010 Calibre 1208P (the world's thinnest automatic movement with micro-rotor at 2.35 millimeters thick), making the Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Ultra-Thin the world’s thinnest self-winding tourbillon movement, measuring just 5.35 millimeters thick.

By fine watchmaking standards, the Emperador case is still hefty, at 10.4 millimeters thick — by comparison, Piaget’s Altiplano Automatic Ultra-Thin watch case is 5.25 millimeters thick — yet it is slimmer than those tourbillon watches previously considered thin, like the Blancpain Leman Automatic Tourbillon, with a 11.4 millimeter-thick case, or the hand-wound Breguet Tradition Tourbillon at 11.65 millimeters.

Not to be outdone, Richard Mille, which is better known for its bold and chunky statement watches, unveiled the RM 017 Tourbillon Extra Flat, a manual wind titanium timepiece measuring just 8.7 millimeters from top to bottom. The extra-flat, rectangular case is a counterpoint to the existing collection’s themes of motor sport and sailing, yet has the same wrist fitting curvature and taper. The RM 017 tourbillon also makes use of the function selector developed by Richard Mille, which is based on a car’s gearbox. The selected mode — winding, neutral or handsetting — is displayed by a needle situated at 4 o’clock.

The Swiss brand DeWitt will be releasing in Baselworld this week an automatic Tourbillon with a decidedly slim appeal, as its case is only 10.28 millimeters thick. The Twenty-8-Eight Tourbillon has a peripheral oscillating rotor, a dead-beat second, a patented Automatic Sequential Winding system and a power reserve of 72 hours.

Mr. Koh notes that the slimmer tourbillon is a return to the source as the first wristwatch tourbillon with an automatic system, which was produced by Audemars Piguet in 1986, was also an ultra-flat one. Read the whole story in the IHT