Last year in 2014, the boutique watch company Ateliers DeMonaco releases their new newest model, the Tourbillon Oculus Petite Minute watch with a version in 18k rose gold and one in 18k white gold – each has titanium in the case as well. It also represents one of their most cost-effective tourbillon-based watches, and one that is both attractive and accurate, according the brand. I go hands-on to take a look at this rare Swiss/Monegasque timepiece.
Pim Koeslag wears many hats. In addition to being the technical director of Frederique Constant and Alpina, he also runs Ateliers DeMonaco. You might recall when I spent time with Pim at Frederique Constant in Geneva in 2013, when he taught a fellow aBlogtoWatch audience member and myself how to build a watch. I last covered a few DeMonaco Tourbillon watches here, which, you’ll notice, cost significantly more than the DeMonaco Tourbillon Oculus Petite Minute collection.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the “Xtreme Precision” part of the Oculus’ name. Well, the technical full name of the watch is the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute – as though the name weren’t long enough. Why not just “Oculus XP Tourbillon?” Is the rest of that title all necessary? Anyhow, according to DeMonaco, the watch is partially the result of Pim’s great desire to produce a tourbillon that is both beautiful and accurate. In fact, precision is arguably the wrong term as “accuracy” is more what the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute watch is going for. What I really like is that rather than just make a claim about the accuracy of the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute, the brand goes so far as to make a specific claim.
According to the company, the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute watch has an average rate of plus or minus two seconds per day. That is not only within chronometric COSC standards, but is also extremely good for a tourbillon. The myth of tourbillons is that because their original concept was to be more accurate compared to standard regulators in clocks back in the late 18th century, that they make for more accurate timepieces. That simply isn’t true. To have a tourbillon that performs as well as a well regulated standard balance wheel is impressive. To have one that performs a bit better is very rare. Just do a search of COSC certified tourbillon watches and see how many you come up with.
What is the source of the “extreme precision” in the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute watch? Well, it isn’t magic, just hard work. DeMonaco claims that the 80 piece tourbillon assembly is perfectly balanced for optimal weight distribution, and some important parts are produced from silicon – such as the escapement wheel and lever. The one minute tourbillon further operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) and is mounted in an AR-coated sapphire crystal bridge. DeMonaco even takes the time to hand-engrave the upper part of the tourbillon assembly. Topping it all off is the fact that the movement is an automatic.
It is difficult not to want an automatic Ateliers DeMonaco watch because of the lovely two-tone hand-engraved automatic rotors they produce in Monaco. These are stunning, and visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. The movement is the in-house made caliber XP 1, and the automatic winding mechanism winds the watch when the rotor swings in either direction. For whatever reason, DeMonaco hasn’t published the power reserve of the XP 1 movement, but I imagine it is about two days or so. On the dial side, the indicators are limited to the off-centered (and rather legible) display for the time as well as the visible tourbillon.
While the dial of the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute can seem minimal at first, I appreciate its balance as well as symmetry. The face is decorated with a sort of sunburst-style Cote de Geneve striping, while the subdial for the time, with its dauphine-style hands, exists on a higher level than the rest of the watch. In designs such as this, the more depth a dial has, the better. I also like the symmetrical blued-steel screws used on the case, which are an elegant yet functional detail.
At 43mm wide, the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute wears well on the wrist, with the brand’s welcome signature case that actually uses 33 different parts. The inner case is titanium, with either 18k rose or white gold elements such as the bezel, side flanks, and lugs. Attached to the case is a fitted black alligator strap and matching gold buckle. Finishing is impressive, and the overall presentation is great.
With even less annual production than Arnold & Son, for me, Ateliers DeMonaco is one of those rare brands that integrates old and new concepts together in an extremely satisfying way. These watches feel classic, but also have a contemporary appeal to them, which I personally look for in watches. I also feel that many of today’s more enterprising watch collectors feel the same way. Given Pim’s duties at the larger Frederique Constant company, Ateliers DeMonaco is more than likely going to remain a boutique brand that serves a few select clients each year. Then again, there is nothing wrong with that. Of course, DeMonaco will outfit the Ateliers DeMonaco Grand Tourbillon Xtreme Precision Oculus Petite Minute with precious stones if you like, but prices start at what feels like a reasonable $73,600 in rose gold and $77,400 in white gold. ateliers-demonaco.com