In many ways, high-end watchmaking is a lot like Formula One. Just as the cutting edge technology developed for high-speed racing eventually filters down to mainstream production, so too do the mind-blowing concepts explored in the world of haute horology. For example Cartier’s ID One and Two concept pieces, both inspired by the desire to make mechanical watches more efficient, have resulted in improvements that have or soon will find their way into the brand’s various product lines.
Still, as impressive as the advancements made by Cartier are, they almost pale in comparison to what Tag Heuer has been working on. I am of course referring to the MikrotourbillonS, a mechanical timepiece so advanced it will make your head spin – though nowhere near as fast as the actual tourbillon itself (it’s the world’s fastest in case you didn’t know). That’s not even the most impressive part though, try wrapping your head around this: the MikrotourbillonS is the first ever tourbillon on a 1/100th of a second chronograph that can be started and stopped. Check out the video below courtesy of Alex Doak to see what I’m talking about (it’s a bit shaky but you get the idea):
So How Does It Work?
Extremely good question, although without an advanced degree in micro-engineering I would suggest that your guess is as good as mine. Fortunately, Tag Heuer has been kind enough to share some of the secrets behind its latest masterpiece.
The first thing you will note is that there are two rotating tourbillon mechanisms visible on the dial, one for time telling and one for timekeeping. The top one beats at a standard 4 hertz — 28,800 beats per hour — and controls the watch; its hand sweeps the dial at a standard tourbillon speed of once a minute. The lower one however, is something else altogether. This is the fabled ‘world’s fastest tourbillon’ and controls the 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph. According to the brand it is dynamically compensated to run at 50 hertz, meaning it beats at 360,000 beats per hour and rotates at five seconds per revolution, or 12 times a minute. This tourbillon has no cage and can be started and stopped thanks to its dual chain architecture, a complex system I’m not even going to attempt to explain.
To house the incredibly complex MikrotoubillonS chose their best-selling Carrera case. This particular variant is 45mm in diameter and is constructed from highly corrosive-resistant Tantalum with rose gold horns, pushers and crown. The anthracite dial features côte de Genève finishings and has two sub-dials, a chronograph minutes counter at 3 o’clock and a chronograph second counter at 6 o’clock. There is also a power reserve indicator for the chronograph at 12 o’clock. Of course with two tourbillons taking up half the dial, chances are you aren’t going to spend too much time look at the other details.
The once-a-second central flying hand displays 1/10th and 1/100th increments. A single crown at 3 o’clock winds the watch and the chronograph — the rotor winds the barrel on the watch movement, while the chronograph is manually wound, providing 45 hours of stored power. In total, there are 439 components in the movement, many of which are patent pending and all but the two hairsprings have been built in-house at TAG Heuer’s manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Pricing is about US$275,000 and what I really like is the fact that Tag has resisted the temptation to go down the “limited edition” path.
The Final Word
For me the MikrotourbillonS represents another example of what can achieved when some of the brightest minds in watchmaking are given the opportunity (and the budget) to really push the boundaries of what’s considered possible. The practical application of this particular development in more mainstream (accessible?) models is still to be seen but I am sure it will only be a matter of time (no pun intended.)
For more information please visit the official Tag Heuer website: www.tagheuer.com
Category: Wow Watch Wednesday