June 11, 2013
by Adi Soon
Step one is to see in your minds eye how a normal gear train is laid out. Step two is to take that picture, fix the fourth wheel in place and add a rotatable cage, and you get a tourbillon. Step three is to add some more gears from the third wheel, placing the cage on a platform that rotates, and then you get a carrousel. Try it and see if you can see this in your mind. It’s all in tracking how the gears connect, and how the power flows through the gear train into the escapement and the balance wheel.
This might sound like too much work for your brain, but let me tell you that it is thoroughly worth it. Your appreciation of the internal mechanisms of a watch becomes more refined, and in the end, these are the little details that make watches so interesting and endearing. The carrousel, as you will discover, requires a more elaborate construction since it needs more parts, and in the world of haute horlogerie, that is good, as more complexity is usually more enjoyable to the watch collector.
Definitions aside, the combination of the two types of regulators is surely something different from the typical double tourbillon where both tourbillons are of the same design. If you enjoy tourbillon watches, double the pleasure with this watch and at the same time be able to perceive the similarities and the differences between the tourbillon and the carrousel on your wrist when you look at this watch.
In fact, the rear view is where all the action is in terms of the underlying parts that define the two types of regulators. The generous view afforded by the open-worked movement is simply stunning, and while aspects of the finish, such as the flinqué decoration surrounding the carousel are beautiful, the undeniable star of the show has to be the two regulators. Here, armed with your new knowledge of their differences, you can pick out the gears and point out what each is responsible for in the movement.
Dial-side, the tourbillon and the carrousel are clearly labeled, with the flying tourbillon at 12 0’clock and the flying carrousel at 6 o’clock, creating a nice symmetry down the middle. Two independent carriages are linked to a differential gear system, which transmits the average rate of the two regulators to the time display. Add to this a seven day power reserve, topped up by barrels and wound simultaneously and equally by an external winding crown. A sapphire case back provides a view of the movement, as well as the power reserve indication marked by the single blued hand.
The new hand-wound Calibre 2322, measuring 35.3mm in diameter and composed of 379 parts is the base upon which the tourbillon and carrousel are mounted and fitted with new silicon balance-springs that promise better performance and stability. Functions include the time, date dial, and power reserve indicator on the rear of the movement. At 44.60mm in diameter and 11.94 mm thick, the case is certainly big enough to showcase the whirling complications that this watch is all about, yet at the same time, not too thick to interfere with your shirt cuff. Finally, it is topped off with an alligator leather strap with alzavel lining fitted with a triple-blade folding clasp.
In the hand this watch is simply stunning and you can see Blancpain’s haute horlogerie credentials on full display here. As a fan of the “whirlwind”, I expect that this is one pricey watch that that the owner will really enjoy having. As a tourbillon masterclass on the wrist, it will help to propel and sustain conversations about tourbillons and high-end watchmaking in general, and as such can be an eye-opening social lubricant.
Kudos as well to Blancpain for highlighting the lesser known carrousel that was invented by Bonniksen in 1892. While some might criticize the carrousel and Blancpain for trying to assert a minor difference, I think that the pleasure of high end watch-making is in these differences, no matter how tiny.
Futhermore, to have Bonniksen’s and Breguet’s inventions celebrated in one watch together, now that is surely a good thing to talk about. Priced at GBP 221,610 (USD pricing not available at press time). blancpain.com