There are technically impressive movements, beautifully executed ones, complicated ones… and then, sometimes, there are movements that imply someone at the brand has gone absolutely mad, mix-and-matched his or her favorite complications… and refused to take no for an answer. Here’s a perfect example of that latter phenomenon, the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante, a watch with a tourbillon, a double column wheel flyback split second chronograph, automatic winding, power reserve indication, and a healthy amount of skeletonization.
Double column wheel flyback split second chronograph. I did have to stop twice in typing that – it sounds so good it makes my knees tremble and my fingers tingle. According to Angelus, it took its watchmakers and engineers five years to develop the Angelus A-150 manufacture caliber that drives the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante. All the complications, they say, have been re-engineered so that they fit together inside this 37.60-millimeter-wide and 9.35-millimeter-thick movement and so that they can be exposed through some rather impressive-looking skeletonization on both the dial and case back sides.
The movement is fully integrated, meaning that there are no modular add-ons to a base caliber. Instead, the A-150 was designed from the ground up to accommodate all its complications. Here’s what you see on the dial side:
First, according to Angelus, there is a total of 15 wheels visible on the dial side – it will appear to be considerably more, but some of them are actually pinions and not wheels. So there is no lack of eye-candy, that much is immediately apparent. The hour and minute hands are mounted in the center, to its right is the 30-minute counter sub-dial for the chronograph, and just below it is the column wheel for the split-seconds, also known as rattrapante functionality of the chronograph. Coming around to the left side of the dial at 8 o’clock is the colorful red-green power reserve indicator with its neat set of wheels and pinions. Last but definitely not least, in the upper left quarter of the circular movement is the one-minute tourbillon. It operates at 4 Hertz and is highly visible through the large open space around it, and the heavily skeletonized bridge above it.
Here’s how the chronograph works. A totally normal column wheel chronograph, in and of itself, is a true engineering challenge to get right. What the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante watch offers, though, is one of the rarest mixes of all chronograph complications: it is a rattrapante chronograph with a fly-back function. The rattrapante part means that there are two central chronograph seconds hands that are always started together but, at the press of the button in the crown, they can be separated so that the bottom one stops to mark the split time, while the top one keeps on tracking the timed period. While there is very little practical use for this feature today – phones can track a virtually endless number of split times – this is one of the coolest and most impressive chronograph modifications in existence.
What fly-back chronographs do is they allow the wearer to start the chronograph and then, simply by pressing the reset pusher at 4 o’clock while the chronograph is still running, reset all chronograph indications to zero and immediately restart the timing. Sounds simple enough, but what actually happens inside the movement is quite the contrary: the already running chronograph first has to stop (without exploding into a cloud of beautifully finished components), which means that the function’s clutch has to disengage, then the heart-shaped cams of the seconds and minute indications have to be reset by their respective cams to the zero position, then the clutch has to re-engage, and the chronograph can start running again.
There is such a wide variety of ways a chronograph complication can go wrong – if not engineered and/or used properly. And the more complex it is, which the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante’s certainly is, the more challenging it is to ensure that nothing can go wrong. How the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante delivers on that is difficult to tell right now, but let’s just say that hopefully 5 years in research and development was enough to get everything right.
Add to all this a tourbillon and a tirelessly vibrating automatic winding mechanism, and what you get is a movement that is so delicate and complicated, that truly only the best – and probably the bravest – would even think about engineering something like it.
Angelus has taken all these functions and dressed them up in a truly 21st century fashion: the movement’s bridges, as well as the solid 22k white gold winding rotor have been treated with black ADLC coating, but there still is an ample amount of hand-chamfering and polishing visible on the edges of the plates and bridges.
The 47-millimeter-wide and quite reasonable 15-millimeter-thick case matches the movement’s dark themed colorway with its untreated grade 5 titanium bezel and lugs, and its black-coated case profile. Even the strap is referred to as “Black stealth alligator” by Angelus – that animal must be somewhere really high on the food chain.
Angelus dropped the bomb on this Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante as though last week’s bold new, all-sapphire release of the U20 (debuted here) never happened – or is it BaselWorld 2017 already? To release two totally different and new watches of such complexity is rare even for the largest, richest brands of the industry, let alone for relatively small manufacturers like Angelus and La Joux-Perret – La Joux-Perret is the movement manufacturer and owner of Angelus, which in turn belongs under the parent company Prothor, which is actually owned by Citizen Japan.
Anyhow, Angelus really amazed us with these two new releases, and while the sapphire U20 in and of itself got us excited about meeting the brand at BaselWorld 2016 soon, the new Angelus U30 is the one I can’t wait to see in operation. Available in a limited edition of just 25 pieces, price for the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante is a competitive $59,950 – considering the fact that many comparably complicated tourbillon watches come with six-figure price tags. angelus-watches.com