How else to describe this watch but to say that it is a mesmerising example of the art of the tourbillon taken to the extreme.
There is really no need for me to explain its appeal. I mean, just look at it. Sure, you might enjoy looking at watch movements to see the parts moving and interacting with one another, but let’s face it, whatever you might have in mind most probably works on a single plane, and not like this, with the tourbillon doing its thing in three dimensions.
In fact, it is difficult to stare at anything else in this watch but the tri-axial tourbillon, helped in part by the design of the case with its complex sapphire crystal, which required an additional 14 months of research and development, (even after the movement had been completed) to come up with. The result allows an unimpeded view of the headline feature of the watch, the tri-axial tourbillon, from all angles. Here, it seems suspended like a disco ball under the main parts of the movement, with acres of empty space from which to view the tourbillon from all directions.
Tri-axial tourbillons are of course not a new thing, with a very small number of watchmaking’s elite brands offering them since 2004. The Spherion differs however, to all the others that have come before, by being the World’s Fastest Triple-Axis Tourbillon. In this watch, the inner, middle and outer tourbillon cages all rotate at higher velocities than previously attained in a triple-axis tourbillon: at 8 seconds, 16 seconds, and 30 seconds respectively.
Part of how this has been achieved is through the use of titanium for these cages, with the strength of the metal being able to handle the higher forces generated due to the increased velocity, and also being light enough to be efficient with the power that comes from the two mainsprings in the watch. In fact, the clearance between each cage is no thicker than a sheet or two of paper – between 0.1 and 0.2 mm – allowing a relatively compact size, and an overall weight of the entire triple-axis tourbillon assembly to come in at just 0.79562 grams, which is less than the weight of a standard paperclip.
Shock protection is handled by the eight Incabloc assemblies you can see all over the place in the triple axis tourbillon, to maximise shock resistance. It is difficult enough making watch parts that work well on a flat plane, so how much more difficult will it be when the parts in question need to perform in three dimensions? How do you even conceive of something like this, let alone make the parts, put it together and make the whole work? Well, what you do is to get someone who’s made a few watches like this before, someone whose mind probably can cope with unimaginable levels of complexity.
For the Spherion, the brand teamed up with master watchmaker Eric Coudray of TEC Ebauches, whose past work has included watches like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon and the Cabestan Trapezium.
On the wrist, the watch is surprisingly wearable, with the 48mm diameter being large, but not unbearably so. Helping the wearability is the Spherion’s open movement architecture that accounts for the calibre’s astonishing 15.7 gram weight. Add to this the option of a titanium case, and the open aesthetics, and what you get is a lightweight wearing experience that has a powerful horological presence. The light weight also allows a decent 40 hour power reserve, that is impressive given the relatively power hungry nature of the tri-axial tourbillon.
The watch was quoted to me at SGD$508,000 in this particular configuration that you see here, but it can vary, due to the highly customisable nature of almost every aesthetic component that you can see, including the normal things like the dial and hands, to even the outermost tourbillon cage, which can be customised to a client’s colour or finish preference using a variety of methods. Case options include a choice of polished, satin-blasted or black DLC-coated grade 5 titanium, 18k rose gold, or 18k white gold.
One of the interesting things about Cecil Purnell that you might not know is that it is a brand that only makes watches with tourbillons and it has a yearly production of between 50 to 80 watches. For the new Spherion, only 2 pieces can be made in a month, and this is due to the highly complex process of assembly and regulation (in 6 positions) that it requires. That being said, this is a watch that will certainly do well, due to the aesthetics and the technical feats that it has accomplished.