Harry Winston’s Histoire de Tourbillon: the first five episodes
The arrival of a 6th creation in the “Histoire de Tourbillon” collection made us want to review the first five pieces of a collection that pushes the boundaries of the ultra-complication.
The idea of pushing the limits of mechanics originated with Harry Winston’s Opus collection. The originality of the pieces available at the time, combined with the power of the brand's name, put them in the spotlight and rapidly propelled the brand to the niche circle of complicated watchmaking. Such creativity zeal pushed the brand, which has always been ready for a challenge, to explore further. Thus, in 2009, Harry Winston came up with a range that revisited the tourbillon, a most fascinating watchmaking mechanics.
The first "Histoire de Tourbillon"
With the first piece of the “Histoire de Tourbillon” collection, Harry Winston signed the first chapter of a fantastic adventure. Just like a movie saga, it followed strict criteria such as only 20 pieces per model and one model per year.
The first episode was directed by two masters of the tourbillon. The piece’s case was made of Zalium®, a material patented by Harry Winston and that can be exclusively used by the brand. It is an alloy of Zirconium, a light and non-allergenic material that is harder than titanium and highly corrosion-resistant. The choice of material was in sync with trends at the time, which were significantly influenced by futurism and new materials. The ultra-light case housed two (yes, two) tourbillons.
This made the brand want to dare to take on a sector that only a few watchmakers had approached in the past: adding several regulating systems to one watch.
But not only that, the mechanism developed by watchmakers Greubel and Forsey consisted of two tourbillons with axes tilted at 25° to mirror the natural tilt of the earth and to offer the regulating organ, which completed a rotation in 36 seconds and not in the usual 1 minute, more space in an attempt to correct the tiny flaws of both free-sprung balances.
Smartly repeating the experience
The watch Harry Winston introduced in 2009 immediately seduced a public of aficionados and professionals who are always brimming with enthusiasm at the sight of exceptional mechanisms. And so, in 2010, the brand developed another model that revealed the whole tourbillon mechanism in a completely different way.
In its own way, the "Histoire de Tourbillon 2”, also produced in 20 pieces, represented the starting point of a new chapter in watchmaking, where the freedom to create was a vocation. Style wise, this range off-centered and highlighted the tourbillon's mechanics significantly, thus putting technique at the service of shape in this avant-garde design. The 48.5-mm white gold case of this reference is made of interlaced circles that make up a diffracted but complete time display (hours with day/night indicator at 2 o'clock and minutes in a sub-dial at 6 o'clock) with the majestic, flying bi-axial tourbillon. Taking up most of the available space, the unique regulating system offers the visual spectacle of a complex dance. In it, the whole structure completes a revolution in 120 seconds while the internal carriage housing the balance, balance-spring and escapement, makes a complete rotation in 40 seconds.
The mesmerizing and unique instrument came with an alligator strap and obtained immediately the seal of approval of most and logically brought about other creations that were even more untraditional.
All good things come in threes
With avant-garde design as a guiding principle and using the freedom time gives in all its aspects, Harry Winston chose rectangular over round cases to illustrate their architectural potential for the third episode of the "Histoire de Tourbillon" saga that came out in 2011. But the brand did not choose a geometrical shape like the ones studied at school; that would have been too simple. Indeed, in this model available in a limited edition of 20 pieces, it seems that the white gold and Zalium® case, made of 77 parts, is embedded in a circle. Such a choice gave a more architectural character to a version that could have shocked others with its rigid lines. In this case, attention was drawn immediately to the two tourbillons facing each other and defying gravity laws.
The double bi-axial tourbillon caught the eye as its two individually rotating carriages revealed the fourth dimension of time through three dimensions of space. Made of titanium and aluminum, these carriages helped the regulating organ to complete its multidimensional rotations. The visual effect was striking because the external cage spun in 120 seconds while the internal one, which houses the balance, the balance-spring and the escapement, makes a full rotation in 40 seconds on a perpendicular axis.
But that was not enough and the engineers added a single-axis tourbillon that made one full rotation in 36 seconds. Further, as technical challenges are not only meant to be visually appealing, the two regulating systems were connected through a differential, which increased the watch's precision by reading its different rates.
The non-invasive linear time display on discs inscribed with numerals makes this mechanical jewel rather a sculpture or work of art that happens to display time. Finally, the piece is driven by a hand-wound mechanical caliber with a power reserve indicator in the lower right side of the case.
A risky combination
The half circle and half square design was the materialization of the designers' quest for original shapes and, in a way, could be seen as an attempt to achieve perfection by “squaring the circle”. In the "Histoire de Tourbillon 4", the circle is embedded in a square to form the so-called cushion volumes in watchmaking. When looking at the triple-arc assembly of this watch, which feels almost like Harry Winston's signature, the eye is captivated by the amazing tourbillon carriage that rotates under its crystal dome.
This model was created to allow the regulating organ to take up as many different plans as possible and thus be able to compensate the almost unlimited amount of different positions a wristwatch can take during the day.
In order to provide effective correction for the free-sprung balance, the single oscillator is housed in an assembly formed by three concentric carriages, each of which rotate at their own pace and also at a different angle that was calculated taking the other carriages into consideration. Thus, the inner carriage (that of the oscillator) rotates every 45 seconds, the middle carriage spins in 75 seconds and the outer carriage completes a revolution in 300 seconds; i.e., 5 minutes.
The tourbillon is driven by a hand-wound mechanical caliber of 345 components including two rapidly spinning barrels that bring to life this tri-axial kinetic unit made of 134 elements. It should be noted that it weighs a record-breaking 1.57 grams. This unique watch - produced in 20 pieces - displays hours and minutes in two separate dials and is equipped with a white gold and Zalium® case that measures 47-mm, including the middle, tourbillon bezel and lugs. The piece comes with an alligator strap.
A passion for the extreme
The "Histoire de Tourbillon" adventure, from the first to the fourth timepiece, proved two things. On the one hand, that it was possible to treat the iconic complication of watchmaking know-how that is the tourbillon as a kinetic sculpture. On the other hand, that it was possible to constantly push the limits of this regulating system's mechanics in order to noticeably improve the precision of a wristwatch.
With the fifth version of Harry Winston's "Histoire de Tourbillon", the engineers gave aficionados an insight into the heart of mechanics.
The skeletonized and black-treated watch leaves the whole movement on display with all its parts repositioned higher to offer a mechanical scenery so that enough space was left for the Tourbillon Tri-Axial to dominate its dome. In breaking down the material and increasing the volumes and layers, the brand managed to preserve the product's coherence and DNA in terms of time display with the hours at 2 o'clock, the minutes at 5 o'clock and the power reserve indicator at 11 o'clock. Incidentally, this was the first "Histoire de Tourbillon" watch to feature a pink gold case but it was still produced in 20 pieces only. As usual, the reference with a light caliber comes with a black alligator strap that is closed with a pin buckle made in the case's material.