There are two very rare watches covered in this article. Both are in the Westminster Minute Repeater Jaquemarts Tourbillon collection. Actually, I have seen this collection name arranged in a series of ways. Suffice it to say that "Minute Repeater, Jaquemarts, and Tourbillon" are all in the name - somewhere. These are among the most complex and expensive watches that are produced by Ulysse Nardin.
I actually covered the Jaquemarts Tourbillon collection before in this article here. I am covering the pieces again mainly because I got some much better video and photography. This merits a second look because a watch collection such as this is all about the beauty of the details. These models we have here are the famous Genghis Khan piece and the later Alexander the Great version. Note that the Genghis Khan version is the extremely limited edition of 30 pieces Genghis Khan Haute Joaillerie timepiece.
You can see that the Genghis Khan Haute Joaillerie watch isn't even on a strap yet (being factory fresh). For this watch, the 18k white gold case (44m wide) is set with over six (6) carats of diamonds. Diamonds line the lugs and bezel, as well as around the periphery of the dial. Black diamonds are used for the hour markers. Ulysse Nardin keeps this masculine by opting for baguette style diamond cuts. Note how the dial background is onyx on that piece.
Inside of these pieces is a movement that has three impressive features. First is the tourbillon, second is the Westminster minute repeater, and third are the automatons (jaquemarts). Each of these elements alone is a big deal, but together they make for something extraordinary. The jaquemarts move around as the minute repeater is operated. It is a fun thing to watch and it is impressive how detailed the figurines are.
Let me ask you something, does the tourbillon bridge look like a peacock? See what I mean. I totally see a peacock or some other bird. The movement is the Ulysse Nardin produced caliber UN-78. Manually wound, it has about 70 hours of power reserve and looks pretty fantastic as visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. I took a heap of pictures of the movement - many of which you can see in the gallery below. Not only is the movement architecture attractive and well finished, but it is great to watch it in action when you activate the minute repeater.
In the video above you can turn up the sound all the way and listen to the minute repeater in action. Operated by the lever on the left side of the case, the minute repeater (as you know) plays the time back to you in audio via a little song done by hammers and gongs. The minute repeater in this watch is a full Westminster Carillon minute repeater with a lot of notes to play out the time. It sounds quite nice but with the design of the movement you don't really get to see the hammer hitting the gongs. Really not that big of a deal. On the dial side of the watch is the large exposed tourbillon with its free-sprung balance wheel. More and more I learn how tourbillons are just for show and not accuracy, but that doesn't change my opinion of how cool they look.
The real distinction between the Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great Minute Repeater Jaquemarts Tourbillon watches are the figurines on the dial. Yet both seem to use a similar mechanical layout with different characters. The focus is on the horse-rider, which is presumably the man of action... Khan or Alex. Seeing the animated automaton display is a pleasure from another time. With today's technology, seeing little hand-engraved gold figures writhing about is not that innovative. But, at the same time, there is an innate satisfaction to seeing them move around and swing their weapons. Like children, we grin and giggle as the deceptively simple display takes a still dial and turns it to life. For literally hundreds of years, people have been entertained by stuff like this. There is a sort of built-in nostalgia which transcends time and the $600,000 - $1,000,000 price tag on these limited edition watches.