I have a very weak spot for beautiful machines (guess why I bought the Elektra coffee machine?) and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen is the Winch Vertical Tourbillon from Cabestan. It’s a timepiece like no other combining technical novelty, mechanical art and impeccable finish and execution.
The timepiece is designed by Jean-François Ruchonnet who enlisted Vianne Halter to help out with a prototype before starting his own manufacture together with Andreas Stricker. Rumour says that they coudn’t get any of the independent horological workshops to make it for them after Ruchonnets near-impossible to manufacture Tag Heuer V4 so the only was to start their own. Eric Coudray, the mastermind behind of one of my other absolut favourites – the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon II, joined the team and created a beating, functional movement from Ruchonnets design.
The inspiration for the movement comes from the vertical drums used in sailing vessels to provide leverage and force using a rope or chain by turning a winch, the capstan (french word cabestan). Mounted the way they are and using chains I think that the drums in the movement resembles windlasses more than capstans, but I guess that’s nitpicking. The mainspring is hidden inside the drum to the lower left (the one with the word “cabestan” engraved) and transmitted to a fusée (constant torque device – the upper left conical drum) using a 235 link chain. The chain, like everything else in the 809 part movement, is assembed by hand, one piece at the time.
The lower right drum houses the vertical tourbillon with a second indicator on the outside. The constant power device and the tourbillon is the key to the exceptional accuracy of the movement, the newly announced Ferrari One collaboration is said to be accurate to +- 1 second per day and the Winch Vertical Tourbillon should be in the same ballpark. The hours and minutes can be read on the two drums to the upper right. Contrary to many other timepieces that invent novel ways of telling the time the rollers both work intuitive and are highly legible.
In order to wind up the 72 hours of power reserve a small winch is used, it’s stored under a glass window in the deployant buckle. Although the winching is true to the nature of the capstans a much more practical solution was introduced in the Cabestan Nostromo. In this timepiece one of the capstans pop out and acts as a winding and time-setting crown.
What really gets me triggered on this piece is that it’s beyond form follows function, it’s just the machine. And it’s still one of the most beuatiful objects I’ve ever seen. The design is the true definition of timeless and still it’s a completely new concept. I can only hope that I’ll some day be able to dream up something equally groundbreaking and bring it to life. Production is around four per month from the small team in the workshop in L’Orient and it’s priced accordingly, it starts at around $350,000 which sadly puts it out of range for me. But I’ve started saving up and one day I’ll have one.