Best Of Class: My Favorite Fine Timepieces
You will find here a selection of timepieces that will blow your eyes, your mind, and possibly – your wallet – if “watch fever” eliminates the constraints of fiscal responsibility. While a month has gone by since this year’s festivities have come and gone, the memories of my favorite timepieces continue to happily linger.
The Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Grande Complication watch was absolutely phenomenal, and my personal favorite this year. While I have often stated that, as a rule, I prefer simple watches, I can in perfect conscience break from my usual view and declare this watch as something I WOULD have, were I so financially able. The example we had was in platinum, and you would have to search far and wide to find a half-million dollar-plus watch with more understatement and exceptional refinement. No one, and I mean no-one, outside of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of human beings, would have any idea of this watch’s value (a good thing!) while the owner can quietly enjoy what is certainly one of the most beautiful examples of haute horlogerie made in the world today.
The stats of the Audemars Piguet Grande Complication watch have always impressed me – 654 hand-finished parts uniting to control a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar with moon phases, and a split-seconds chronograph – but looking into that caseback, and SEEING this perfectly finished microcosm was something else entirely. Absolute aesthetic harmony rules here, and each detail is lavished with the finest degree of traditional finish – from the massive, engraved 22K gold rotor (personalizable with the owners initials, upon request) to the remarkable architecture of the very deeply constructed and extremely complex mechanism. The minute repeater was outstanding, with an excellent tone and volume (particularly delightful considering the platinum case) and I made sure to enjoy the chimes several times before this watch went “home” to Audemars Piguet.
Ulysse Nardin was also well represented this year, and it was a real treat to be able to finally hold in my hand and experience the Circus Minute Repeater. I’d had a chance to view some really fantastic closeups of this watch’s dial taken by gifted photographers, and my own viewing of the watch confirmed the impression the photos left me with. The animated dial is superb – and I commend the master craftsmen at Ulysse Nardin for creating such an amazing work of art. To be able to chime this minute repeater and see “the show” was certainly memorable, and I will place this watch as a close second behind another Ulysse Nardin watch which I saw the year before – the Jungle Minute Repeater, which happens to be my all time favorite Ulysse Nardin Complication watch.
The Glashutte Original Karree Tourbillon watch kept me coming back to the Glashutte counter over and over again. As many of you know, the last year or two has witnessed a market explosion of tourbillon watches, some extremely fine, with others being decidely more mediocre. Well, I am happy to state that the Karree Tourbillon watch is one of the most beautiful tourbillons I’ve had the opportunity to see. At the apex of the beautiful silver dial with a fine sun-ray guilloche pattern, is a breathtaking “flying” tourbillon, crafted according to the construction of famed German horologist, Alfred Helwig. This tourbillon, perhaps more than any other I have observed, really gives you a sense of the remarkable mechanical intricacy and delicate construction that the tourbillon is famous for: Softly pulsing as it completed its minute revolutions, I found myself truly entranced. This watch had plenty to offer from the back side as well – the hand-wound Glashutte Original Caliber 43 movement displays hand-engraved bridges, jewels mounted in screwed-in gold chatons, and a delightful little suprise that you don’t notice right away – a tiny engraving of a watchmaker intently working at his bench! In its perfectly sized platinum case, the Karree Tourbillon sat beautifully on the wrist, and like the Audemars Piguet Grande Complication, exuded refined understatement and modesty all out of proportion to its rarity and value – a perfect 10 in my book.