I’ve finally gotten a chance to spend some time with what I believe is now the most affordable Swiss Made tourbillon watch on the market. Thomas Baillod’s BA111OD Watches introduced a tourbillon-based timepiece as the basis of its “Chapter 4” collection in 2021. Like the brand’s other watches, the goal was to challenge the traditional value proposition of an actually Swiss Made tourbillon by offering a price point unmatched by others. While there are even cheaper prices available with Chinese-made tourbillons, The BA111OD Chapter 4 Tourbillon series is a wonderful achievement, a fun watch, and a great story to tell on your wrist. With a price under 5,000 Swiss Francs, let’s look deeper into the BA111OD Chapter 4.1 T.V.D timepiece.
Most of the pizazz in the watch comes in the form of the skeletonized caliber BA.01 manually wound tourbillon movement. According to BA111OD, the movement was developed in collaboration with watchmaker Olivier Mory, who was tasked with making both a beautiful and functional tourbillon that could satisfy requirements to be branded as “Swiss Made.” The watch very much exceeds the requirements, but the claim that the watch was Swiss Made and priced at this level did cause some stir in Switzerland. Thomas Baillod told me a story of how some “complaints” to a local Swiss newspaper led to a reporter reaching out and trying to investigate the claim about where the watch was made. The reporter did, indeed, carry out an investigation and drafted a subsequent article. The result was not only a validation of the BA111OD brand claims of the mechanical movement being produced in the Swiss Jura and according to Swiss Made standards, but also a healthy boost in sales. In fact, many of today’s current BA111OD brand customers are from in and around Switzerland’s watchmaking community. That’s a pretty serious endorsement of the new brand, even if the founder has watchmakers in his family going back generations.
The BA.01 movement is indeed quite stunning for the price. It isn’t the smallest or thinnest architecture, but it does a good job of impressive onlookers with a three-dimensional view, dramatic curved bridges, and lots of interesting details such as small text areas that say things like “The Veblen Dilemma” (which is a concept that Mr. Baillod often likes to discuss in relation to why and how people like modern luxury watches). The movement operates at 3Hz with 105 hours of power reserve. In the Chapter 4.1 watch, the movement is mounted at a slight angle so that the crown is at 4 o’clock and the tourbillon is shifted over to 7 o’clock. The movement features just the time and a nice open look at the tourbillon mounted under the blue-toned tourbillon bridge.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Chapter 4.1 Tourbillon presents a modern design that like a lot of contemporary architecture, eschews classic symmetry for asymmetric display. In addition to the off-centered tourbillon and crown, the entire caliber BA.01 movement is an exercise in playing with modern mechanical movement sensibilities, including valuing a sense of depth over thinness, and including a myriad of shapes, polishes, and finishes into one overall composition. For the watch intelligentsia in Switzerland, such an artistic exercise in an otherwise affordable (relatively speaking) timepiece package is hip and interesting. Others who are not part of this community might wonder why BA111OD didn’t opt for a more symmetrical and classic design for this price-leading Swiss tourbillon. They certainly have a point. Thomas Baillod could have easily made money selling a generic-looking dressy tourbillon at this price point given the compelling story about its affordable price. Instead, he decided to also push for an edgy design that is going to keep the Chapter 4.1 T.V.D watch niche by default. This is just a signal of who BA111OD watches is meant to impress: not the half-informed aspirational consumers out there, but rather the very lifeblood of the Swiss watch industry, which has the culture and sophistication to understand what Mr. Baillod has attempted to do here (and succeeded).
While the design of the skeletonized BA.01 tourbillon movement feels frenetic to me when viewed from some angles, it is spirited, detailed, and well done. The 44mm-wide titanium case it is paired to is a good match and helps keep the watch from being too heavy. For this version of the Chapter 4 watch, BA111OD gives the movement a “gunmetal anthracite DLC treatment,” which matches the finishing of the movement. Some light gold and blue tones otherwise accentuate the dial. The entire face of the watch appears a bit dark, and I would have liked for the hands to pop out a bit more. That said, the most prominent visual element of the dial is the tourbillon, which calls attention to itself visually, and through the light “tick tick ticking,” you can hear emitting from the case while the movement is running. The case is about 11mm-thick and water-resistant to 50 meters.
Despite the harder-to-see hands, they are given Super-LumiNova luminant and move across a full hour and minute scale on the dial. Over them is a dome sapphire crystal that does have some glare (despite AR-coating) to it given the slight curvature. The sapphire crystal also has a neat trick up its sleeves in the form of including a discreet NFC function. This means that when next to an applicable receiver, the crystal can store some information that can help authenticate the watch. This isn’t the first watch with an NFC-enabled (near-field communication) crystal, but it is rare. More so, given that radio signals cannot easily penetrate metal, something like a watch’s sapphire crystal could be an ideal location for NFC technology to exist in a traditional timepiece.
Attached to the Chapter 4.1 T.V.D watch case is an Italian leather strap in blue with a canvas-style texture. The strap is fitted to a foldover deployant clasp. The overall style isn’t exactly sporty, but is certainly a hip watch to go with business-casual and other slightly formal attire. You might call this look “Swiss casual.” Even though the Chapter 4 Tourbillon watches are a major story for the BA111OD brand, they don’t represent the totality of what the company is good at. Nevertheless, it is an impressive title to be crowned as the most affordable Swiss Made tourbillon watch on the market. It doesn’t necessarily replace the grace, decoration, and thinness of some of the much more expensive tourbillons on the market, but the BA111OD Chapter 4.1 Tourbillon offers a rewarding experience in a real Swiss Made package. Price is $5,580 USD.
>Model: Chapter 4.1 T.V.D
>Price: $5,580 USD
>Size: 44mm-wide, 11mm-thick, 52mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: A great watch to wear around timepiece lovers because of the novelty, noteworthiness, and bravado it shows in the face of much more expensive products.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Avid lover of European tourbillons who wants the visual delight of an authentic Swiss Made tourbillon at a price that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.
>Best characteristic of watch: Manages not only to be an affordable Swiss Made tourbillon, but an interesting and original artistic composition with a personality all its own.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Watch case is a bit bland when compared to the movement and dial. Movement is on the thicker side and has audible ticks. Slight glare on the crystal and harder to view the hands on the dial in some lighting scenarios.