May 21, 2023
by Mike Razak
The race that seems to be dominating luxury watches isn’t any longer about complications or accuracy, but about materials. The bleeding edge of horological material sciences is occupied by things like braided carbon, diamond, and of course, sapphire. While you may be more familiar with the sapphire watches of Hublot or Bell & Ross, Swiss brand ArtyA has pushed the envelope—as it does with everything—with sapphire, with a proprietary color-changing sapphire that it’s recently introduced into its Tiny Purity Tourbillon models.
ArtyA has always struck a balance across its offerings between weird and elegant, though everything it makes is impressive. The Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon falls on the elegant side, without a doubt. The models in this line build on the brand’s existing Purity Tourbillon, a solid sapphire model with a minimalist in-house tourbillon movement. That original model (which itself later received color-changing sapphire case options) was sized at 46mm, and it was hard to understand why; the movement had space on every single side, almost floating aimlessly in the case. The Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon gets the benefit of the bicolor case and an appropriate resizing, bringing it to a far more wearable 39mm. What was once a behemoth on the wrist now sits easily without sacrificing the effect of the case or the movement for the wearer.
The true marvel here isn’t the shape or the measurements of the case—heck, it doesn’t really even matter if the watch wears well. This watch has some tricks. The movement-cum-dial notwithstanding, the main event here is the case’s construction. Made entirely of colorized sapphire, save for the sapphire crystals on the front and back, this proprietary case changes colors. While the colors and the shift aren’t quite as dramatic in real-life situations as in the highly controlled conditions under which the above photos were taken, it’s still quite the visual effect. More accurately, the case (and crown!) is made of what ArtyA refers to as Nano-Sapphire, a unique glass material that allows for the case to change color. In natural light, the case remains amber, but in artificial light (6500K+), it turns a vibrant green. A knock-on effect of a sapphire case (of any kind) means you get to see all the nuts and bolts, and even some of the inner workings through the case itself.
But seeing it through the case isn’t quite as mesmerizing as getting a straight-on look through the front or back, as one can do easily with the ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon. The minimalist, highly skeletonized movement is what makes up the dial, and it’s finished exceptionally well. As mentioned, the previous 46mm version had a much more spread-out movement, which gave everything a bit of breathing room, but also led to its massive size. The gearing and tourbillon have all been condensed for the 39mm case, and while you may not be able to appreciate each element as discretely as on the larger case, the effect isn’t lost. On the left is the massive 17mm 60-second flying tourbillon, while on the right are the dauphine minute and hour hands. In fact, I prefer this layout, as the offset hour and minute hands add a bit of extra flair to the watch. The movement itself impresses with a blend of sandblasting, diamond coating, and hand-beveled anglage. The contrast between the black diamond-coated bridge and the silver tone of the rest of the movement ensures that the mechanics aren’t lost and can be more easily enjoyed. That said, telling the time still takes an expert eye, as there are no reference points for any hours or minutes.
The movement itself was developed in collaboration with Franck Orny (who designed the caliber for the Harry Winston Opus 14, among others). Its double barrel design affords 72 hours of power reserve at 28,800 vph. It’s hand-wound via the sapphire crown and is on full display through the edge-to-edge sapphire on the caseback. Much like with its larger predecessor, its architecture provides near-perfect horizontal symmetry, affording an attractive display through both sides of the watch. The only branding on the entire watch is on a small plate under the keyless works, which has the ArtyA logo, the edition numbering, and the obligatory “Swiss Made” text.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon represents one of the tamest designs in the brand’s catalog. When you sell watches with tobacco leaves, bullets, and butterfly wings in them, color-changing sapphire doesn’t seem that wild. But put up against other brands that are experimenting with case materials, this watch can truly boast of something unique, with an impressive movement to boot. The ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon is priced at $163,500 USD. Per the brand, all of the Nano-Sapphire models are one-offs, and as such, availability is highly limited. If you’re interested, your best bet is to reach out directly to the brand. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.