The Tourbillon Orrery by Swiss Graham was among the more unique watches we were lucky to see at Baselworld 2013. Graham vacillates between producing bold sport watches and classic timepieces often with an astronomical component. The Swiss brand’s namesake is George Graham, a well regarded British horologist who was instrumental in many innovations and achievements, especially when it came to astronomical timekeeping and measuring. That should explain a bit why the Tourbillon Orrery has an old-world look, and little heavenly bodies moving around on the dial.
Graham will produce just 20 pieces of this unique watch – which in our opinion has nothing even remotely like it. “Orrery” is the name for a large clock-style planetarium that George Graham made in the 18th century. It seems to refer to a classification of astronomical devices used to show the movements of the Earth, the Moon, and Mars around the sun. In wristwatch form, the Tourbillon Orrery reproduces all of that.
From a design perspective, Graham wanted the watch to look both interesting but also recall the style and technology of watch making in George Graham’s day. The most unique element of the dial is in the middle with a hand-engraved cage over the tourbillon. Timepiece enthusiasts will recognize this style has having been used on many of the earliest pocket watches. Here it has been used with a diamond in the middle to cover the tourbillon. Right away you see one of the interesting quirks of the Tourbillon Orrery. That being that while it does have a dial visible tourbillon complication, it is almost hidden by the decorative element on top of it.
Nothing on the watch is perfectly centered. The tourbillon is slightly to the left, while the hands for the hours and minute are slightly to the right. Given that there is no simple scale for the time, it is not easy to read the time on this watch. Having said that, there is a scale for the hours and minutes away from the hands, on the periphery of the dial. Interestingly enough the markers do sort of line up to the eccentric position of the hands, but this isn’t a piece most people are going to read at a mere glance. Having said that, you are more likely to stare at the small marbles that represent Earth and Mars in an attempt to read the time.
What you’d actually be looking at is the relative position of the Earth, moon, and Mars around what would be the Sun in the center. You’ll have to live with a diamond serving as the Sun, or perhaps the tourbillon. The movement is cleverly designed to have them move with time, and you can read the current calendar data by seeing the position of the Earth. What is really cool is that the movement allows you to adjust the planetarium both forward and backwards in time. The calendar scales display the month, date, as well as zodiac.
Sadly our little red ruby Mars doesn’t get an indicator. If you are a Martian then you’ll be upset that Mars calendar indicators are missing. Another piece of calendar data is found on the rear of the watch in the form of a sapphire disc with the years on it. The disc has something like 100 years on it, offering yet another way of tracking the passage of time. In a sense it is both depressing to know that you’ll not live to see too much of the calendar move, but nice to know that if you are watching it, you’ve not only purchased this watch, but can ideally pass it down to an heir who will be able to see the end of the disc, and replace it.
Yes, Graham offers two extra year discs with the Tourbillon Orrery. They are supplied in the event that the Tourbillon Orrery watch is carefully passed down a few generations and the person in possession of it at the right time takes it to a watchmaker to get serviced. Come to think of it, I would really like to know what watchmakers will be like (let alone the state of the watch industry) in 300 years.