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Antoine Martin Tourbillon Astronomique Watch Is $565,000

Antoine Martin Tourbillon Astronomique Watch Is $565,000 Watch Releases

Antoine Martin has rightfully earned itself a special place in the heart of hardcore watch enthusiasts with their Slow Runner piece and its huge, gracefully oscillating balance wheel exposed at the caseback. But there is another side to the brand, one that offers more traditional complications, re-interpreted to fit into the rather well-defined styling cues of the brand. In 2012, Ariel went hands-on with their perpetual calendar and tourbillon model, and today we are debuting the Tourbillon Astronomique, a watch they also refer to as their “Masterpiece No. 1”. Now, that is a name that we find rather fitting for what is an incredibly complicated piece that fuses more traditional features with a number of unique astronomical indications.

Looking at the list of features and the actual dial of the Tourbillon Astronomique, it gives the impression of a watch that was intended to be complicated in the first place, but then somehow morphed into a watch maker’s wet dream, comprising an array of functions that go beyond the line of what makes sense, but is likely just enough to entertain a master watch maker and his narrow circle of customers. Let’s start from the more traditional and work our way through to the more outlandish features of the Tourbillon Astronomique.

Antoine Martin Tourbillon Astronomique Watch Is $565,000 Watch Releases

As a nod towards traditional watchmaking, a one minute, 2.5 Hertz flying tourbillon is seen exposed on the dial side. Knowing that Antoine Martin likes to have their own interpretations when it comes to escapements, it is of no surprise that they could not leave this two centuries old invention alone. Instead, as a rather unique feature from such a small independent brand, the pallet lever, escape wheel and impulse pin are all made of silicium (or silicon), for the material’s non-magnetic qualities and the fact that it renders the use of lubricants redundant. Something that many brands tend to “forget” when they set out to make a tourbillon watch is properly regulating it. This is not to say they are horrendously inaccurate, but rather that while such pieces are praised for their superior rate results, they actually are often set to less stringent expectations.

With today’s manufacturing abilities, creating the microscopic parts of a tourbillon escapement is difficult, but is nonetheless manageable, and so the real challenge lies in regulation, as the constantly rotating tourbillon is not only much more difficult to adjust than a fixed balance wheel, but is also a lot more time consuming to repeatedly check for accuracy as adjustments are performed. By contrast, according to Antoine Martin, the tourbillons in their watches are adjusted for five positions and for temperature changes; which is an appreciable, and again, not so ubiquitous effort.

It is safe to say then that a lot of effort has gone into making this watch a tourbillon, and a rather special one at that. Things get more, well, out of control with the astronomical indications of the Masterpiece No. 1. There are six of these on the dial and two on the case back, so let’s go through them one by one. To begin with, there is a date, and no, it is not of the perpetual, not even of the annual kind: it is your simple date that requires correction at the end of every month that is less than 31 days long. The reason for this is that there was really no space left in the movement –or inside the already substantially sized case – for a more complicated version. One thing that does make it rather unusual though, is the date hand’s rotation which is counter-clockwise, instead of the more usual clockwise direction. But never mind, there are a great number of other features that render this piece truly special.

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Antoine Martin Tourbillon Astronomique Watch Is $565,000 Watch Releases

On two grey-ish subdials the sunset and sunrise times are indicated for a location of the buyer’s choice, while in the top left corner of the dial is an indication for equation of time. Now, all of these functions are set through the crown, meaning that these astronomical complications of the movement are synchronized. In practice, once the sunrise and sunset times are correctly set – which can be done through the crown using the table that is provided with the watch, they are synchronized with the equation of time and the polar shadow displays. If you suffer from trouble sleeping after a long and tiring day, just try and figure out why and how these are linked and I am certain you’ll be sleeping like a baby in less than two minutes! A more tangible explanation could be the fact that – according to the brand’s founder, Martin Braun – it was him who first created a wristwatch with sunrise and sunset indication, so he must know his way around this complication.

Another one of his inventions is the retrograde moon phase display, a rather interesting concept which was again necessitated by the lack of extra space that is normally required by the rotating disc used for this indication. Instead, in the Tourbillon Astronomique, it is replaced by a semi-transparent shadow that gradually moves across the moon until new moon (i.e. when no crescent is visible). At this point, the disc changes direction and moves the other way until it reaches full moon. The moon phase display indicates whether the shadow is moving towards full moon, i.e. waxing (symbolized by a “+”) or towards new moon, waning (as indicated by a “-“). Completing the list of indications of the dial side is the zodiac and season display, as seen at the 3 o’clock position.

Antoine Martin Tourbillon Astronomique Watch Is $565,000 Watch Releases The case back is – unfortunately – not revealing any parts of the movement, instead it bears two more displays which complete the Masterpiece No.1. The more interesting of the two is the one called “declination display” and it indicates the latitude at which the sun at 12 noon stands 90° above the horizon – or in other words when a stick standing upright in the ground would cast no shadow. The thin red line moves up and down between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in the course of the year; or between 23.5° northern latitude and -23.5° southern latitude. As Antoine Martin explains, “declination is required for navigational purposes and is used with right ascension to locate heavenly bodies”. In reality, it is just really cool to have a map of the world displayed on the back of your watch, with a red line officiously running up and down on it throughout the year. Below it is the indication for the movement’s six days of power reserve, while next to the “map” is a little plaque showing the location to which the mechanism and its astronomical indications were set for.

The Tourbillon Astronomique is a very new concept that strives to be one of the most complex astronomical watches ever and, in fact, it is a piece on which the brand is still working day and night to completely finish for Baselworld 2014. Consequently, they don’t have any additional images of it just yet, although hopefully we will be able to get some hands-on time with it in Basel – given that it is finished on time – and perhaps also have a closer look at the special, 428-part movement inside. What we know for sure is that the Tourbillon Astronomique will be manufactured in extremely limited quantities and will retail for around $565,000. antoinemartin.com

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  • I hate to be nit picking such a nice and complicated piece but…
    My standard moon phase display gripe applies (except for deBethune and Grubel Forsey pieces). Moving a disk over the moon does not accurately display the shape of the moon (except for the full and new moon). For a half million, I would want a more accurate display.
    The sunrise and sunset only being correct at a fixed lat/long. So this only is helpful at home. Not while traveling. Again, for the price, I had hoped for the ability to adjust the latitude and at least a +/- of 7.5 degrees of longitude offset (although some timezones are many, many degrees wider than the standard 15 degrees). 
    I’m not fond of the day of the month display being counterclockwise either.
    I guess the good news is that it seems to be easy to adjust. The bad news is that you have to it 5 times a year.
    For even $100K I’d  be very impressed. For over half a million, I would expect technical perfection. I really want to like this watch, but I have lots of reservations.

  • Ulysses31

    I’ve always been fond of owning a watch that shows the equation…… of time.  The display on the back of the watch is more tricorder than traditional Swiss, but I take that as a good thing.  The dial, however, looks like someone fired at it indiscriminately with the sub-dial shotgun.  It’s just not very harmonious.

  • Morteza Alavizadeh

    Looks like something Greubel Forsey would make 😀

  • omrivm

    This is one of the most beautiful watches ive ever seen!
    I with i could afford it…

  • notofthisearth

    Cool As Hell…

    BillyRay

  • DavidasaurusRex

    It is interesting to see the two extremes AM can go to. On one hand, the Slow Runner was a gorgeous execution of minimal design cues with utility of function. On the other hand, this watch suffers from overcrowding of elements (within a theme) and is too busy for me to enjoy.
    The addition of the tourbillon seems out of place and should have been reserved for a different model to showcase the art and craftsmanship that we know is inherent with the brand.

  • MarkCarson  If I may add to your gripes, methinks that the mechanism to display the sign of the zodiac is the same to display the month of the year.  However, doing so would require adding more parts to make it an annual calendar, for what’s the point of adjusting not only the date but also the month?  I suspect that had the tourbillon been scraped, there’d be room for a watch that pretends to be an astronomical timepiece to also be an annual calendar.  

    Unfortunately, these choices indicate to me that this is a timepiece primarily for showing off.  At least Patek Philippe would provide a super complicated timepiece that actually performed the more mundane functions as well as the more exotic functions.

  • antjay

    does it come in a southern hemisphere version where the seasons match the astrological symbols ? A real deal breaker for me ( that and the fact that it is $563000 over my most optimistic budget ).

  • Fraser Petrick

    Phooey! For $565,000 I could buy 8692 Timex Expeditions. Who’s laughing now, Antoine?

  • marbstiu

    Half a million bucks with no charity benefit?
    please.

  • David Bredan

    antjay  Actually, I can confirm that it is available in a version set up for the southern hemisphere.

  • David Bredan

    MarkCarson While I agree that there are a few aspects that might make this piece look “incomplete”, I still think that to be able to fully judge this achievement we should have a look at the movement – I am told they are just finishing it for Basel, but I really hope at least a rendered view will be available, as it must be a unique-looking movement.
    I believe the reason why only one location has the sunrise-sunset times available is because the control cams are manufactured only when an order has been placed for the watch and the respective sr-ss times have been calculated. I agree that it would be a really interesting and unique feature to be able to reset that, or have two pairs of this indication for two separate locations.
    Anyhow, for such a small brand I think this project must have been a tremendous challenge and they still went the extra mile to make the tourbillon more unique – not to mention all the displays! I do wish that for another model they would go even more mental on astronomical displays and get rid of the tourbillon.

    emenezes Yes, that display just above the center indeed is what the brand calls a “day and night” display, so virtually an am/pm indicator.

  • Love. Yes, drop the pink gold, but other than that, love. So far, I’ve been a big fan of everything branded Antoine Martin.

  • antjay

    David Bredan antjay woohoo!

  • RedCapitalist

    a chinese company could make this watch for $3000

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