Vacheron Constantin Introduces the Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton

Reimagining a low-key tourbillon sports watch.

A hidden gem amongst Vacheron Constantin’s sports watches, the Overseas Tourbillon is thin, understated, and good value as such things go. Now it receives a thorough makeover.

Gone is the dial and excess metal from the bridges, creating the new Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton. Available in two metals, the titanium variant is particularly intriguing as it’s a metal that is rarely used by the haute horlogerie watchmaker.

Titanium with blue accents

Initial thoughts

Though polar opposites aesthetically, the Skeleton is every bit as handsome as the standard Overseas Tourbillon. In terms of finishing, aesthetics and watchmaking, the Tourbillon Skeleton is top of its class not only in the luxury-sports category but even among the brand’s other offerings.

A reason for this is the well proportioned case that measures 42.5 mm wide and only 10.39 mm tall. This results in elegant, flat-and-wide proportions that defines the most desirable luxury sports watches. These proportions gives the watch a sporty aesthetic that is further enhanced by the blackened, skeletonised movement. In comparison, the base Overseas model is smaller in diameter but slightly thicker.

 

It’s also thinner than a open-worked Royal Oak and Laureato tourbillon

The movement within is notable for balancing simplicity and complexity, which tends to be a challenge for skeletonised movements. In comparison, I find the latest Royal Oak Openworked Tourbillon too nuanced and the GP Laureato Openworked Tourbillon too clean.

The titanium model is about 25% more expensive than the steel variant. While affordability is relative, the Tourbillon Skeleton represents fairly good value as there are few comparables at this price point. Even within the brand’s own catalogue, open-worked wristwatches are mostly much more expensive.

Skeleton

The watch is powered by the cal. 2169 SQ, a movement that’s based on the cal. 2160 found in the standard model. As a derivative of the cal. 2160, the movement is attractive due to the tourbillon bridges visible on the front and back.

A few thoughtful details are incorporated in the movement, such as a tourbillon cage shaped like a Maltese cross as well as a barrel cover shaped like a compass rose.

A crucial but underrated feature is the peripheral winding rotor made of a narrow band of 22k gold. It oscillates on the circumference of the movement so as not to obstruct the view.

Beautiful curves with numerous inner angles

And like the brand’s other skeleton movements, the finishing is elaborate and impeccable. Take for instance the bevelling of the bridges, which is done the traditional way with pith wood. This technique allows for more refined mirror polishing and curvature on bevelled edges.


Key Facts and Price

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Skeleton
Ref. 6000V/110R-B934 (titanium)
Ref. 6000V/110T-B935 (pink gold)

Diameter: 42.5 mm
Height: 10.39 mm
Material: Titanium or 18k pink gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance:
 50 m

Movement: Cal. 2169 SQ
Functions: Hours, minutes, and tourbillon
Winding: Automatic
Frequency:
18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve:
 80 hours

Strap: Matching bracelet and additional strap in rubber and leather with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
Availability:
Titanium model only at boutiques
Price:
Titanium – US$146,000, or 226,000 Singapore dollars
Pink gold – US$170,000, or 263,000 Singapore dollars

For more, visit vacheronconstantin.com


 

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Rolex Introduces the Revamped Air King Ref. 126900

Sharpened, refined, and with crown guards in a first.

In a teaser before Watches & Wonders 2022, Rolex published a partial image of a watch with a smooth, fixed bezel and crown guards – a combination of features found in no current model at the time.

It was the all-new Air King ref. 126900 that gained a redesigned case and dial as well as a new bracelet and an upgraded movement. In other words, an entirely different watch, yet one that has the same spirit as its predecessor.

Initial thoughts

Conceptually, the Air-King is very novel for Rolex (just like the left-handed GMT-Master II) since it is the first Rolex to combine both a smooth bezel and crown guards. But it is still typically Rolex in its substantive upgrades meant to improve practicality and wearability. For instance, removing the soft iron inner cage means the case is flatter and sits better on the wrist.

The new reference is powered by the cal. 3230 equipped by Rolex’s proprietary blue Parachrom hairspring. This increases magnetism resistance while helping boost power reserve to about 70 hours, an upgrade from the 48 hours of the cal. 3131 found in the outgoing model.

Overall, the revamp of the Air-King is more practical than aesthetic since the look largely remains intact, although the watch does feel a bit more sculpted and refined. Having had the opportunity to experience the actual watch, it looks and feels excellent on the wrist.

Thoroughly updated

All of the design tweaks to the Air-King serve to make it more sporty.

The highlight is certainly the crown guards matched with a new case profile. Rather than the rounded, convex flanks of an Oyster case, the case has flat and vertical sides that are reminiscent of the brand’s other modern-day sports models like the Explorer II.

And the bracelet is also sportier in style with wider links and an Oysterlock safety clasp, both of which were absent in the prior reference.

The dial has also been reworked, with “5” replaced by “05”, giving the dial better balance and symmetry since all minute numerals are now two digits.

The Arabic numerals for the quarters are solid gold appliqués filled with Chromalight, providing greater legibility in the dark as they were not “lumed” in the previous model.


Key facts and price

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King
Ref. 126900

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Oystersteel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 3230
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding
: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Oystersteel bracelet

Availability: At Rolex retailers
Price: CHF7,000

For more, visit rolex.com.


 

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Gently facelifted, but a latest-generation movement.

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Grand Seiko Reveals the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon SLGT003

Bringing a concept watch to life.

Unveiled in 2020, the Grand Seiko T0 Constant-Force Tourbillon was a surprisingly complicated movement from a watchmaker that has historically focused on no-nonsense, everyday watches.

In interview with us last year, Seiko chief executive Akio Naito promised not to “keep people waiting for too long” and he has kept to his promise. Just two years after the T0 concept was revealed, its commercially available counterpart  version has arrived in the form of the Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon SLGT003.

With a case that’s a mix of platinum and titanium, the SLGT003 has a movement that’s slightly different from the T0 concept. Its cal. 9ST1 retains the all-important constant-force mechanism integrated into the tourbillon cage, though the movement overall has been trimmed down slightly in both size and artistic expression – though it still has an aesthetic that is extreme by Grand Seiko standards.

Initial thoughts

The SLGT003 is a lot of watch: a skeletonised movement combining a tourbillon and a constant-force mechanism accompanied by a dead-beat seconds. And it also has twin barrels and a power reserve indicator.

The SLGT003 is intriguing and impressive is to say the least. The amalgamation of several complications perfectly showcase the brand’s newfound prowess in complicated watchmaking, elevating the brand to another level entirely, one comparable with independent watchmakers. And it also marks a milestone for a watchmaker from Asia.

But the design is over the top, moving away from the understatement and elegance traditionally associated with the Japanese brand. The all-out design is reminiscent of watchmakers like Jacob & Co.. That said, the design is logical if seen from the perspective of making a statement: Grand Seiko is new to this arena and is making a grand entrance.

The winding system and barrels incorporate details from a Swiss grande sonnerie

All in one

While Seiko developed tourbillons in the past, combining that with a constant-force mechanism is a first for the brand. Since both mechanism are classic solutions in chronometry, the combination complements with Grand Seiko’s traditional emphasis on precision timekeeping.

The execution of the concept is unusual. The constant-force mechanism is integrated into the tourbillon, resulting in two carriages under the tourbillon bridge.

The power flows from the barrel to the remontoir cage, which surrounds the tourbillon cage within it. The remontoir cage has a spiral buffer spring which sits directly underneath the tourbillon cage, with enough stored torque to drive the tourbillon cage for about one second.

Subsequently, the tourbillon cage releases the remontoir mechanism after exactly one second, or eight beats (as it has a 4 Hz escapement). The tourbillon cage has a jewel pallet on it that releases a five-toothed ratchet wheel, allowing the remontoir cage to rotate a step forward to recharge the buffer spring.

The process then repeats, which means the torque that tourbillion receives is in equal portion every second, hence the constant-force tourbillon.

All of that complication results in superior timekeeping according to Grand Seiko. The movement is rated to +5/-3 seconds a day in static testing conditions (presumably ones similar to that of a COSC chronometer test), but intriguingly Grand Seiko states that the estimated daily variation is within +5/-1 seconds a day in the course of ordinary daily wear.

The remontoire (left) and tourbillon (right), with the combination in the centre

Compared to the T0 concept, the 9ST1 movement is toned down in its style. The carriages, as well as the hands, are now in uncoloured steel, leaving them the same shade as the rest of the movement, instead of being heat blued.

And the sub-dial for the time has been tweaked for better legibility. Made up of two concentric rings with with 12 baton indices, the sub-dial with its dauphine hands is the only element of the entire watch that is recognisably Grand Seiko.

As for the case, it is a combination of platinum and Brilliant Hard Titanium, a titanium alloy that’s proprietary that can be polished to a finer sheen than conventional titanium.


Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon
Ref. SLGT003

Diameter: 43.8 mm
Height: 12.9 mm
Material: Platinum and Brilliant Hard Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 9ST1
Functions: Hours, minutes, deat-beat seconds, tourbillon, constant-force mechanism 
Winding
: Manual
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Calf strap with platinum folding buckle

Limited edition: 20 pieces
Price
: 44 million Japanese yen, or €370,000

For more, visit grand-seiko.com.


Correction April 3, 2022: The energy flows from the barrel to the remontoir cage, instead of directly to the tourbillon cage as stated in an earlier version of the article. 

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