January 19, 2012
by Ariel Adams
As SIHH each year Jaeger-LeCoultre is on my short list of brands that I am very excited to see. Their booth isn’t design by people who work at Universal Studios, and their watches are cool creations that real people might actually wear. This applies to both their reasonably priced pieces and more exotic fare like this new version of the Duometre called the Spherotourbillon. For us Americans I have removed the assortment of accents marks in the words which add in that Frenchy flavor you get when JLC themselves to pronounce the name for you.
As a tourbillon there are two main differences here that make the Spherotourbillon unique. It was hard to name this watch because there isn’t anything really spherical about the tourbillon. What you have is a tourbillon that moves around in a special motion similar to that of those spotlight clubs rent to point into the night sky so that people flock there. It is a cool motion to watch in its gentle gyration. The tourbillon itself has a balance spring that isn’t flat, but rather cylinder shaped. It looks very cool in operation and is similar to conical balance wheels that I have seen before. I got to check out the piece operating under a microscope and was pleasantly delighted.
Taking pictures of this watch proved irritating. Not because of the watch but because JLC has some protective plastic over the front and back that made it hard to focus and the piece not look at soon. So forgive the ill photography but the piece is quite lovely in person and on the wrist. The base movement is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s dual-wing concept that uses two mainspring barrels. Each has a different purpose as one is meant to power the regulation system of the watch (the tourbillon in this case), and the other is meant to power the functionality of the watch. This concept helps reduce amplitude errors and is meant to make the watch more accurate over time.
The open tourbillon window looks like two wings to showcase the concept. On the rear of the watch you can clearly see the two barrels that are nicely labeled for your understanding. The movement and the dial are sort of separated into distinct zones. JLC is really a brand mostly run by watch makers and engineers – and it shows very much so in their design.
For the Duometre Tourbillon JLC created the Caliber 382 movement. It has a power reserve of 50 hours and is comprised of 460 parts. The movement finishing is beautiful and on part with what we have come to expect from not just high-end JLC, but most of their watches which exhibit great finishing and detailing.
Functionally the Caliber 382 has a lot of features. Note that this version is a prototype and some small details will be enhanced for the final retail version (for instance the font used for the date will be larger). The watch has an off-centered time display, the date, power reserve indicators for both barrels, a second time zone in 24 hour format, and a unique stop-seconds function.
That latter function uses a pusher at 2pm to stop and reset the subsidiary seconds display for the time. It is used for more precise setting of the time and works similar to how a chronograph resets itself. While not super necessary it is a cool function that will help prove that playing with the watch will be more interesting. The functions on the dial are easy to read but also attractive. You’ll notice that the dial texture and color are what I would call egg shell.
For this watch JLC chose a 42mm wide case in 18k pink gold case. This feels like a proper size for a watch with this type of complication. JLC also has a range of popular Duometre style watch that are a bit smaller at 40.5mm wide. Even though this is an exotic watch it is comfortable on the wrist and very simple to read. Very few brands are able to accomplish this while also being technically exciting.
Jaeger-LeCoultre will produce the Duometre Spherotourbillon as a production model without limitation for likely a few years. I anticipate that a white gold version will also be available soon. Steel? Not so likely. Price for this special new watch will be about $200,000 when it is released a bit later this year. Certainly a highlight of SIHH 2012.
Duomètre à Sphérotourbillon -Technical specifications from JLC:
• Mechanical manually-wound Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 382, crafted, assembled and decorated by hand, nickel silver bridges and mainplate
• 2 barrels
• 50-hour power reserve
• 460 parts
• 55 jewels
• 10.45 mm thick
• 33.70 mm in diameter
• 105 parts
• Tourbillon carriage: grade 5 titanium
• Total rotation speed: 30 seconds for a complete revolution
• 2 combined movements. Carriage axis rotation speed: 15 seconds for a complete revolution. Carriage rotation speed: 30 seconds for a complete revolution
• Carriage inclination: 20°
• Carriage diameter: 11.50 mm
• Carriage mass: 0.518 grams
• 14-carat gold balance with eccentric inertia blocks in 14-carat gold, inertia = 12.5 mg.cm2 , 21,600 vibrations per hour
• Cylindrical balance-spring
• Hours (travel time), minutes and small seconds with flyback function
• Power reserves (indications and movement)
• Pointer-type date display
• 24-hour reference time-zone
• 18-carat pink gold
• Diameter: 42 mm
• Thickness: 14.1 mm (including the sapphire crystal)
• Polished and satin-brushed finish
• Domed glareproofed front and back sapphire crystals, hardness n°9
• Water resistance : 5 bars
• Crystalline grained
• pink gold appliques
• Hours and minutes: “leaf” type
• Small seconds: baton type with pear-shaped counterweight, blued steel
• One crown to wind the watch, set the time (travel time-zone), adjust the date and adjust the travel time-zone
• One push-piece at 2 o’clock to activate the small seconds flyback mechanism
• Hand-sewn crocodile leather, 18-carat pink gold pin buckle
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