The market for really expensive toys isn’t what it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, that market for luxury play things comes and goes, but these days it is hard to promote a several hundred thousand dollar watch from a newer brand that looks like it was meant to appeal to fans of traditional watch making who are also weekend militia members. That is the case for this sportier version of the Cecil Purnell La Grand Date Tourbillon watch called the “Pit Lane V12.”
Cecil Purnell is a brand that is really trying to legitimize itself, but they only probably need to sell a handful of watches each year to stay alive. According to them they ONLY make tourbillon-based watches, and subscribe to the “true values of haute horlogerie.” Now that sounds like a BS marketing statement if I ever heard one. To be honest, I would take them much more seriously if their marketing copy didn’t sound like it came from a kid who was really desperate to fit in on the playground.
Cecil Purnell’s website is a joke and a mess (Ed. note: one year later it is better). It was painfully difficult to find out the model names of their watches, and there is next to no technical information available about the cases and little about their movements. For a small brand, their movement family appears appealing on paper. They have tourbillons, tourbillons with big date mechanisms, and tourbillons with minute repeaters. They do something interesting actually and claim to have a policy of total transparency when it comes to what suppliers make the parts of their movements. If you have good sleuthing skills, you can find this diagram on their website. Only problem is that the chart does not indicate who produces their balance wheels and escapement assemblies. Murmurs on the internet point to the fact that the balance wheel is produced in China. Not a huge deal to some, and it actually doesn’t negate their ability to call the watch “Swiss Made.” Though it does come across as a very curious omission given their little policy.
The watches shown here each contain the brand’s caliber CP-V12 manually wound tourbillon movement. It has the time, tourbillon (of course), and big date complication. The movement has a 55 hour power reserve. Graphically, the exposed movements look nice, and I overall think that the design firm(s) Cecil Purnell used for their movements and cases aren’t half bad. As I mentioned above, the racing/Rambo inspired sport watch is called the Pit Lane. It has a rather un-sexy name and looks to be inspired by brands such as Paul Picot, Concord, Hublot, and others. It is fun looking, but probably not $200,000 fun-looking.
The Pit Lane is offered in a range of materials, and is seen here in what I believe is titanium and 18k rose gold, mixed with rubber, other metal, and perhaps some other materials. The most classic looking piece which contains the CP-V12 movement is the La Croix. Available in 18k white or rose gold, the case opening is meant to look like a cross. There are going to be some regretful pious Catholic Spaniards who are upset that their current economic situation will prevent them from buying one of these. Perhaps they can ask the Italians, no wait. Maybe the Brazilians? I actually have no idea whether or not Cecil Purnell ordained the La Croix watch to have any religious symbolism to it – but with the design and name, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Whether intentionally or not, Cecil Purnell makes less than 50 watches per year. Their marketing and promotional materials is that of a brand that hasn’t figured itself out yet. They don’t know their own strengths and weakness at this time, and are trying hard to find a client base. I applaud the efforts, but would caution them against sounding too desperate in their own materials. Oh, and to please make their website passably navigable with information people may actually be looking for.