Interest in legendary Brazilian Formula 1 driver Aryton Senna continues 30 years after his death during a driving accident at a Grand Prix race in 1994. During his life, he was a TAG Heuer watch brand ambassador, but posthumously, he has been the subject of watches from other brands. This very high-end watch, called the AS-01 Tourbillon, comes from the newer niche timepiece maker Lorige, which was originally founded in 2018. The AS-01 Tourbillon is its most upscale product yet, and it includes a case produced from mostly car brake carbon, along with an interesting central tourbillon mechanical movement developed for Lorige in collaboration with Dominique Renaud and his late partner at Timeless Pierre Favre.

In this form, the Lorige AS-01 Tourbillon is part of a limited edition of just eight pieces. This limitation is due to the small amount of material the company has to work with (it could only acquire a limited number of brake pads. You see, the cases are primarily made from carbon brake material taken from the actual brake pad stock of Aryton Senna’s 1993 McLaren MP4/8. Lorige was able to acquire this material and decided it would be great as a watch case material. Some pictures of that brake pad material are shown with the watch, and it takes a full brake pad to machine a single case.  What they did not realize is that, unlike some of the carbons used for watch cases, the carbon taken from the brake pads is not water-resistant enough for wristwatch purposes. Therefore, Lorige claims to have spent about three years studying how to compress and treat the authentic Senna McLaren brake pad carbon to use as a watch case material. The resulting watch AS-01 Tourbillon watch is water resistant to 50 meters — not bad, especially with the square-shaped sapphire crystals.

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Lorige refers to the carbon brake case material as “reprocessed” for the purpose of the watch case. The case also has 18k white gold elements in the form of the bezel and crown sections. Pieces of machined titanium are also used in parts such as the strap connection system on the rear of the case. On the wrist, the Lorige AS-01 Tourbillon is 46.15mm wide (with the crown), 12.55mm thick, and it has a 50mm long lug-to-lug distance. Lots of love also went into the complicated black and yellow rubber strap design that closed with a titanium deployant that includes a micro-adjust system for comfort.

In addition to the story about the AS-01 Tourbillon’s carbon case and the connection with Aryton Senna, there is an entirely different story to tell about the exclusive movement. Dominique Renaud is the co-founder of the movement-making firm Renaud & Papi (later Audemars Piguet, Renaud & Papi, or “APRP”) and later went on to found Timeless. He specializes in inventing new movements and creating highly exotic mechanisms. Often, he has spent his efforts making other people’s designs work, and more recently Renaud simply hand-chooses the projects that he likes, as far as I understand it. What, then, is so special about the caliber LOR-TC01 manually wound movement that is inside the AS-01 Tourbillon watch?

Performance-wise, the movement operates at 3Hz with 92 hours of power reserve between two mainspring barrels. It indicates just the time with minutes and hours indicated by hands placed on turning rings. In the middle of the dial is a centrally mounted flying 60-second tourbillon that also doubles as a seconds indicator. This makes for a cool dial layout, but what is special about this system?

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Most important is the use of ball-bearing-mounted elements, such as the time-telling rings upon which are placed the hour and minute hands. Turning pieces like these rings used to use a lot of power and were subject to a lot of friction. That basically means that if you wanted to use discs as hands, you’d often face very negative effects on timing results because of the size and weight of the hands. To solve this issue, Renaud and Favre developed a system of reducing the work necessary to move the hands by mounting them on tracks with ball bearings. According to Lorige, the caliber LOR-TC01 movement comprises 323 total parts, 79 of them being used in the tourbillon assembly, alone. At the least, despite how exotic the concept of the movement is, reading the time is both simple and traditional.

A final interesting point about the LOR-TC01 movement is that it uses tie-rod connectors to secure it to the case. You can see these on the lower part of the dial in the movement near the 4 and 8 o’clock positions on the AS-01 Tourbillon watch case. Comfortable on the wrist, sporty, and exotic, the AS-01 Tourbillon feels more confident in its skin than you might expect given how exclusive a timepiece like this needs to be. Indeed, it is a strange watch, but it is well-engineered and conceived, and wearing it is very enjoyable — even if you aren’t a Formula 1 or Ayrton Senna buff. Lorige will probably find new ideas for watches to feature its LOR-TC01 in the near future, as the AS-01 Tourbillon is part of a limited edition of just eight pieces. Price for the reference AS-01/TC01 Lorige AS-01 Tourbillon is 393,000 Euros (before taxes). Learn more at the Lorige website.

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