You have to understand that the effort required to build something like this is intense. Almost every part of the Moon Orbiter Tourbillon is not only custom, but highly unusual. Romain Jerome can’t just go to a case supplier and say, “for this new watch we need a XX mm wide round case,” and then listen to them complain about how it will be for a 25 piece limited edition. Oh no, they need to walk over with some seriously complicated design schematics and say “here you go… Make this work OK?” Sure, the brand’s suppliers are used to this, but if you begin to wonder why timepieces of this ilk are so insanely expensive, that is why.
The movement of course is totally unique. Romain Jerome indicated that it was produced for them by Swiss La Joux-Perret (that also makes Arnold & Son watch movements by the way). The movement is known as the RJ3000-A, and is really one of the key highlights of the Moon Orbiter as a whole. If there are any doubts that the people who designed this watch love sci-fi, it will be cleared up upon observing the movement.
Comprised of a few elements, the mechanical movement offers the time with hour and minutes on an eccentric dial, a large-diameter flying tourbillon (with a bridge that is of course meant to look like the USS Enterprise from Star Trek) to its left, a power reserve indicator toward the bottom of the case in a separate window, as well as automatic winding. The movement further has a power reserve of 42 hours and operates at a modern 4Hz (28,800). I mention this latter element because I like it when I see tourbillons that operate at 4Hz. Most of them operate more slowly, which I think is a shame in a feature that is communicated to be all about accuracy. So kudos to Romain Jerome for having the movement built with that in mind.
RJ further designed the Moon Orbiter Tourbillon with voyeurism in mind. The case has a total of five sapphire crystal windows. That is, three on the dial side, one on the side of the case offering another view of the flying tourbillon, and of course, a caseback sapphire crystal. This means that three of the crystals offer a clear view into the movement so Romain Jerome of course needed to make it interesting. Automatic rotor assembly appears unique with an intentionally industrial feel to it. The rear plate of the movement is decorated with a “cosmic” pattern that is seen on the dial side as well. The piece very much has quasi retro sci-fi feel to it, but not THAT retro. We are talking the late 1960s forward. Are there specific sci-fi designs or influences in the Moon Orbiter Tourbillon that you notice?
Romain Jerome chose steel as a case material for a few reasons. One of them was probably due to the complexity of making the case. It uses a lot of large parts in odd shapes. Gold would have been too expensive, and RJ doesn’t use gold that much either. Titanium would have been a logical choice as well, but I have a feeling there would have been a machining and production issue once again. Come to think of it I have yet to see a CNC machine that cuts titanium. I will have to ask about that… So steel made the most sense from a logistical perspective.
Another reason for steel is that Romain Jerome once again uses “DNA” from the Apollo 11 space shuttle that went to the moon. Romain Jerome purchased metal from NASA several years ago and melts down a bit to use in many of its space themed watches. I guess that is a cool “bonus” to the ownership experience, but the novelty of trace metal from the space program sort of wore out a while ago for me. I think the reason is, because aside from technically knowing the metal is there, you really can’t see it. Perhaps an actual piece or a label on where the metal is might help, but being melted down and used in a vague case part doesn’t really feel “close enough to make a physical connection” if that makes any sense.
Perhaps the coolest element of the case are the spring-loaded lugs. The lug structures have piston-style mechanisms that have springs in them. The idea is that the straps articulate a bit to wrap around your wrist for added comfort. It does work, and the pistons are spring loaded to ensure the strap doesn’t flop around much. This is another concept that Romain Jerome has toyed with for a while, and I think this particular execution of the movable lugs concept works to the benefit of the wearer, and helps make the piece all that more interesting.
On the wrist, the Moon Orbiter Tourbillon is a sight to behold– and to its credit, the watch is quite legible. It is also unabashedly weird and wonderful at the same time. Most people aren’t prepared to wear something like this. It is the wrist watch equivalent of walking around wearing a velvet purple hat with a long feather in it. It will call attention to it and most people simply aren’t interested in that manner of attention. Then again, some people want that type of attention, and other people are going to be able and pull off the Moon Orbiter watch so well that no one will even bother thinking twice about their choice of timepiece. Limited to just 25 pieces the Romain Jerome Moon Orbiter Tourbillon ref. RJ.M.TO.MO.001.01 retails for $115,000. romainjerome.ch