The 540 Magnum Tourbillon features a sapphire crystal case that pushes the art to extreme limits

The 540 Magnum Tourbillon features a sapphire crystal case that pushes the art to extreme limits

It took 47,600 minutes of diamond grinding, that is 99 business days, to extract the eight elements that make up the case of the 540 Magnum Tourbillon from specially cut sapphire blocks. It was a mad idea that took the magic of transparence to new heights.

Sometimes, the value of the container competes with the value of the gem it contains. The independent Swiss watch brand, REBELLION TIMEPIECES has given the queen of all watch complications, the tourbillon caliber REB T-14, the most incredible rectangular watch case ever made.

Exhibited in Geneva, January 18-21, 2016, at the Espace Fert Barton

It all began with a mad challenge uttered in a defiant and passionate tone of voice. Some master watchmakers are plainly and simply masochistic. When taking up the insurmountable challenge announced by REBELLION TIMEPIECES, David Candaux had no idea what to expect. The task facing him was to make a case of sapphire crystal imagined by the designer Eric Giroud, which would already be complex enough as it is when made of steel, gold, titanium, or carbon. Armed with all the confidence of a true pioneer, somewhere between unawareness of danger and the wish not to disappoint anyone, he produced something that qualifies as a world premiere.

The 47,600 minutes that were required to machine and polish the extraordinary case do not include the hours and hours devoted to conceiving and verifying whether it would be feasible at all, one step after the other. It was a titanic job made possible by simulation using a computer and an advanced 3D software especially reprogrammed for the task at hand. Take the moorings that usually disappear into the mass of steel, gold or titanium: Here, they suddenly reveal themselves as very esthetic beauty marks.

Because the sapphire crystal allows us to see everything.

Superlative mind and tools

It involved reinventing, reshaping everything, from the tip of the smallest screw, to the most inaccessible panel reachable by human tools, right down to the gasket that maintains water-resistance, which had to be made of transparent silicon. “We had to put a lot of thought into finding each and every way to avoid changing the esthetics of the watch while managing to assemble all the elements and making sure all the connecting elements were invisible,” says David Candaux on completing the job.

As for the tools, they needed to be designed and made, or, in the best case scenario, just adapted. Sapphire is transparent, but it is also very hard and brittle. Not many materials are so hard to work on. In this project, the lifespan of a burr with a diamond tip, the only material able to get the better of sapphire and grind it down, was somewhere between four and thirty minutes.

On the other hand, since breakage is inevitable in watchmaking, in order to actually have the timepiece presented at the Espace Vert in Geneva during the watch week in January 2016, three cases ended up being sacrificed on the altar of perfection.

Grand Tourbillon, house caliber

Because of the “world premiere” character of the actual encasement, a sapphire box of unparalleled complexity, onje could almost forget the actual content. Well, inside this virile timepiece in XXL size is an extreme mechanism also developed by David Candaux, a recognized maker of movements. REBELLION TIMEPIECES, the only Swiss watch brand boasting its own race car stable, the Rebellion Racing team, has no qualms inviting inspiration from values extant in the world of automobiles: sportive, high-performance, precision and endurance, no compromises allowed....

The rectangular architecture of the REB T-14, with a double spring barrel, immediately catches the eye due to the large size of the tourbillon cage. Here, the mechanism devised by the brilliant watchmaker and physicist Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) has been interpreted in a most original manner, with finishing and subtleties that testify to an extreme mastery of horological complications. With its 540 tenths of a millimeter circumference and a diameter of 17.2 millimeters – hence the name of the collection, 540 Magnum – the tourbillon pervades the entire dial from its magnesium cage, like a kinetic crater topping an active volcano. Another thing to note is the world's smallest chain, to give legroom to the regulating ten-day power reserve indicator with conical gears. It’s a little reminder of the world of mechanical sports.

Shadow and light, finishing in between

In order to optimize the visual impact of this piece, which is destined to be visually undressed, the mainplate was made of carbon fiber. The high-tech materials used, like the special aluminum alloy, provide the mechanism with the necessary rigidity and lightness. They also offer some dark and racy views composed of subtle interplay of shadows and light. Synergies that are now exposed to the fullest extent, in mysterious watch style thanks to the total transparency of the sapphire crystal.

January, 18-21 2016, REBELLION TIMEPIECES moves to Geneva:
Espace Fert Barton,7, rue Barton Geneva (Pâquis Area)
Contact: Joëlle Pucci and Philippe Dubois, CEO.

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