2011 is coming to a close and it’s been another spectacular year if you’re anything like me and appreciate art and mechanics combined into beautiful objects. I’ve compiled my own little shortlist of the most awe-inspiring machines that’s been presented in their final production form over the year, there’s many more that could have made the list (and a few of them are presented below) but in my mind these are the ones that really stood out in 2011.
The annual Grand Prix d’Horologerie de Genève took place over the weekend and one of my absolute favourite watches took the top honors, the De Bethune DB28. The Aiguille d’Or or Grand Prix is the supreme award given to the best timepiece of the year by a jury of watchmaking professionals. De Bethune was fonuded in 2002 and is independent manufacture with a thing for original movements that pushes the envelope technologically and design-wise, they also have a contemporary aestethic unlike anything else out there.
I’m fascinated by tourbillons, the tiny, tiny mechanical marvel invented around 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet to increase the accuracy of pocket watches. It’s still one of the most complex and difficult horological complications to master and only a handful of manufacturers can make them. The basic idea is to offset the effect of gravity on the watch by rotating the scapement and balance wheel (often one turn per minut). While I’m mesmerized by normal tourbillons I’m totally hypnotized by Jaeger-LeCoultres Gyrotourbillon II. In this complication there are two tourbillons, one inside the other rotating on a perpendicular axis at a speed of one turn per 18.75 seconds while the outer rotates at the normal speed of one turn per minute. The result is a spectacular mechanical animation that not only takes the tourbillon into the 21st century but also is the base for one of the most accurate mechanical movements ever made.
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.
I’ve been dying for Max Büsser and his friends to create a timepiece that actually seems wearable. I love the steampunk aestethics and concept of all the Horological Machines, but the superwide aspect ratio of the two first machines looked strange on wrists the HM3 Sidewinder and Starcruiser just felt strange (until the Frog, but more on that later).
There’s a very nice little film about the creation of Maîtres du Temps latest watch, the Chapter 2, at Vimeo.
The style of the film reminds me of The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello, even down to Peter Speak Marins narration. If you haven’t seen Jasper Morellos Explorations, do it. It’s a fabulous little steampunk short animated in a very peculiar, dark style.