A few years ago I decided that I was no longer really impressed with tourbillons. It isn’t that tourbillons are not special or complicated, but the deluge of tourbillons from every brand able to buy one from BNB Concept (now defunct) or Concepto, etc… made the tourbillon game too easy. They just lost their rarity and sense of importance. The mystery behind their function, and the allure of their complicated movements was lost in their sheer availability, and often laugh-inducing prices. So I just stopped caring about tourbillons for a bit. Then a neo-tourbillon renaissance started to occur. Where purists were revisiting the tourbillon as a graceful complication that was about viewing it in action within a nice frame. This is the time we are in now.
While I already praised the new Royal Oak Offshore as a fantastic piece for 2011, I don’t have any choice but to also give Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Moonphase the right to call their new Jules Audemars Tourbillon Grande Date limited edition watch, the best tourbillon timepiece debuted at SIHH 2011. Why? I love the straight forward execution and emphasis on the tourbillon that has a view straight through the watch. The Jules Audemars platform makes for an elegant looking timepiece that is formal looking without being boring, and is thin, without trying to be an “ultra thin watch.” The dial is easy to read, and has an interesting looking stack of elements. From the top you have the AP logo, then the big (Grande) date indicator, then the point where the hands connect, and then the tourbillon with subsidiary seconds hand. These element form a nice stack and allow the dial to be almost perfectly symmetrical.
The tourbillon window is larger than it needs to be, but in a good way. The finishing is really nice, and the view of the mechanics is appreciated while not overdone. I am writing this article before Audemars Piguet officially announces the piece so I don’t have all of the details. I am not sure of the size, but I think the case is 40-42mm wide. It feel quite right in size – especially because the lugs extend to the ends of my wrist. The fact that the strap ends are curved to match the rounding of the case is a high-end touch, and the big date complication mixed in with the tourbillon makes the dial feel appropriately populated without being cluttered. I simply think that Audemars Piguet did a fantastic job with this piece.
As you can see on the back, the Jules Audemars Tourbillon Grande Date will be limited to just 25 pieces – done here in 18k rose gold. I have a feeling a while gold version will also be available, and possibly a black dial choice. We will have to see when more news comes out from AP.
Just like its companion, the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Perpetual Calendar in Rose Gold which has been unveiled at precisely the exact same show, the Jules Audemars Extra Thin is powered by a version of AP’s tried and tested Caliber AP 2120 ultra-thin automated movement (it’s, obviously, based in an elderly Jaeger-LeCoultre 920 movement,) which is visible throughout the display back in all its open-worked, hand-finished beauty.Of course, being a “easy” two-hand view, the AP JA Extra Thin uses a base version of the movement.Not burdened from the endless calendar and other complications, the bottom caliber is simply 2.45 mm lean and 28.4 millimeters in diameter, making it just slightly larger than a dollar coin! AP’s engineers managed to squeeze into such a tiny volume as many as 214 brilliantly completed parts with the mainplate and bridges being circular-grained and adorned with all the Cotes de Geneve motif. Its 18-carat rose gold case is 6.7 millimeters in height, making it significantly thicker than the above offerings from Piaget and Vacheron Constantin. However, being about 41 mm in diameter, the case appears so thin that a few of you may even have a strong urge to insert it into a slot machine!
From a movement perspective I am impressed again. The manually wound movement has a symmetrical design that you can see from the sapphire exhibition back. I love movement that look like this, and AP seems to have take just a bit of influence (maybe) from the highly-acclaimed Laurent Ferrier watch. The finishing is quite nice, and this watch just begs to be a sought after collector’s item. I was so impressed with it that after seeing all the new tourbillon watches debuted at SIHH 2011, I feel that AP has a top contender with the Jules Audemers Tourbillon Grande Date. Simply put, this timepiece epitomizes classic good looks that never went stale and offers a straight forward, no BS, tourbillon watch with a great looking movement from a well-respected brand. Look for this limited edition piece sometime in 2011.