While you might not have been paying attention, watch brand Cecil Purnell has had some serious internal changes and has rebranded to be just “Purnell.” For the time being, aBlogtoWatch is going to keep the two brands under the same label, but it is important to make it clear that Cecil Purnell and Purnell are distinct from each other. What has remained, however, is that Purnell is a “tourbillon-only” brand, meaning that its timepiece products are designed to, at the very least, include one tourbillon. The Purnell Escape II watches actually include double spherical tourbillons. Today we go hands-on with two versions of the Purnell Escape II watches.
The watches in this article include the Purnell Escape II Black Gold and also the Escape II Rose Gold Rainbow. My understanding is that even the black-colored segments of the “Black Gold” case are PVD-coated gold, so both of the watches here have 18k rose gold cases. Purnell also makes the Escape II in either a 44mm- or 48mm-wide case size (water-resistant to 30 meters), and I believe these are both the 48mm-wide models. They are big watches, to be sure, but wearing comfort is actually quite high, and these are supposed to be “statement watches” if nothing else.
Much of the appeal of this product is the caliber P03 movement, which is exclusive to Purnell and rather cool, actually. One really needs to see this product in action to appreciate it given how the dual tourbillon systems are designed to work. The movement includes two “Spherion” tourbillons that sit adjacent to each other on the bottom of the dial. Each Spherion is a spherically shaped tourbillon assembly that rotates on not one, but three axis points. More so, the Spherions are designed so that the tourbillon spinning directions move at different rates. Accordingly, the innermost tourbillon cage spins once each eight seconds, followed by the middle cage, which spins once each 16 seconds, and then finally an outer tourbillon cage that spins once each 30 seconds. To put things into perspective, most single-axis tourbillons make one full rotation each 60 seconds. That means the Spherions are designed to not only feature lots of animated movement, but rapid animation for a fun viewing experience.
All of this comes at the cost of power efficiency. The only way this system works is with the inclusion of four total mainspring barrels. Two of the barrels include two springs, which means that the Escape II movement includes six total mainspring barrels. You can see two of the mainspring barrels (the other two are stacked under them) on the dial in the space opposite the spinning Spherions. The manually wound movement is extremely power-hungry and, despite all the power available in the movement, the fully wound movement only provides 32 hours of power reserve. Good thing the time only (with tourbillons) dial also features a small power reserve indicator hand located at roughly the 9 o’clock position on the face.
Who is responsible for this interesting movement? Master of the gyro-tourbillon himself, Mr. Eric Coudray. His work is best known for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon watches, as well as some products from Cabestan. All of this experience saw Eric creating multiple axis tourbillons that spin around each other. So, that makes him the ideal candidate to both imagine and construct something as seemingly challenging to assemble as the movements in the Purnell Escape II. (The Purnell Escape One is more or less the same watch but with one, and not two “Spherions.”)
The watch face itself is mostly made up of the skeletonized P03 movement, which has an opening near the bottom allowing you to see through the watch and a smaller dial to indicate the time positioned at 12 o’clock. Legibility is still pretty good given that the actual dial includes a sapphire crystal with hour markers applied on it, as well as relatively easy-to-read hands.
Between the two models pictured here, you can see how Purnell can have some fun with the Escape II product when comparing the Black Gold with the Rose Gold Rainbow models. The Black Gold mixes rose gold and black colors for a mostly masculine, sporty look that emphasizes the watch’s main lines and technical componentry. Alternatively, the Escape II Rose Gold Rainbow is another story as it features 1.04 carats of rainbow-colored assorted facet-cut precious stones as the hour markers, along with additional rainbow-colored stones actually set in the spherical tourbillon case itself (that’s not something you see everyday, for sure).
For seeing the movement and spinning Spherion tourbillons more easily, the Escape II case has side windows in sapphire crystal to help complete a more dynamic view of what is inside the watch itself. The product as a whole is meant to be a comfortable-wearing frame for the visual fascination inside. The entire presentation is also modern and sporty, as opposed to classic and subdued. Features like a rubber ring around the crown emphasize ergonomics and practicality more so than high design. That said, the overall composition is rather cool in a gear-head kind of way. Not that I’m in Purnell pricing territory, but if I had the means, this would be a very cool watch to wear with an appreciable niche appeal and real horological merit. Price for the Purnell Escape II Black Gold watch is 450,000 Swiss Francs, and price for the 18k Rose Gold Rainbow is 475,000 Swiss Francs (with diamonds on the case; not photographed) is 1,200,000 Swiss Francs). Learn more at the Purnell watches website here.