Roger Dubuis Introduces the “Orbis in Machina” Central Tourbillon

A refined calibre with sophisticated mechanics.

No stranger to extravagant timepieces, Roger Dubuis’ brand of “Hyper Horology” is apparent in its bold design language and intricate, showy movements. For Watches & Wonders 2024 the manufacture presents the Roger Dubuis Orbis In Machina Central Monotourbillon, a central tourbillon with an expectedly classical movement.

Initial thoughts

The way Roger Dubuis carries itself now is very different from the brand’s early, classically styled pieces. The current house style is centred on mechanical aesthetics, angular shapes, and large cases with proprietary triple lugs. The Orbis in Machina sticks to that familiar style, although the front appears more subdued and technical than the average Roger Dubuis complication. Despite the layered and open-worked dial, the technicality of the piece is mostly concealed.

Orbis in Machina still carries a few embellishments, resulting in a design that is clearly opulent in a hyper-mechanical sort of way. Seemingly sitting at the top of a stack of moving parts on the dial, the tourbillon regulator serves as the centrepiece.

Paradoxically, the more restrained composition on the outside contrasts with the interesting and sophisticated mechanics within. The movement fills up the large case, creating a sense of visual density.

This is more evident on the back, which tells a whole different story compared to the front. The display back reveals an intricate and exquisitely finished movement. Stylistically, the RD115 movement is also an unusual and appealing juxtaposition: the calibre looks modern in its entirety, although the individual parts are traditionally styled and finished.

The RD115 has an interesting execution because the movement architecture was adapted to the central position of the tourbillon. This dictates the peripheral hands, which require planetary gears that call for a more intricate gearing than a conventional going train.

More than a tourbillon

Roger Dubuis has a strong foundation in watchmaking – it was one of the first independent brands to build integrated manufacture – with a strong emphasis on in-house movements, most of them incorporating tourbillons. This watch is a “Monotourbillon” because Roger Dubuis has numerous double tourbillon watches in its catalogue.

At the same time, all Roger Dubuis calibres are hallmarked with the Poinçon de Genève, the Geneva seal of quality. Qualifying for the seal does beyond just a well finished movement, but also requires specific requirements regarding the architecture and key components. As a result, calibres bearing the Poinçon de Genève are usually developed from the beginning with these criteria in mind.

The Poinçon de Genève is discreetly stamped on the dial at three o’clock

Illustrating both Roger Dubuis’ manufacturing ability and Poinçon de Genève quality, the RD115 has been found in past models, including the Knights of the Round Table Monotourbillon. Here the movement arguably has more presence with the more restrained dial aesthetics.

While most other Roger Dubuis tourbillons are skeletonised, the Monotourbillon has virtually no dial – only three concentric disks. The watch doesn’t feature a conventional handset either. Instead small peripheral hands, driven by planetary gearing, indicate the time against the concentric discs. The outermost disc is for the hours, followed by the minutes, and finally the running seconds are indicated by the centrally mounted tourbillon.

The flying tourbillon cage revolves once a minute (which is why it can double as the seconds hand). The visible upper half of the cage is a mirror-polished cobalt-chrome alloy, while the lower half is titanium. These materials leave it light but sturdy, useful properties for a flying tourbillon, which has only one anchoring point on its base, unlike classic tourbillons that are pivoted on both sides.

The 3 Hz balance inside the cage features a flat balance and pin regulator. Considering the high-end nature of the rest of the movement, an overcoil hairspring and free-sprung balance would have been more appropriate.  

The movement runs for 72 hours on a full wind – remarkable considering the power intensive tourbillon and peripheral time display.  

The view on the back clearly draws from the brand’s origins in classical watches and movements. Most of the brand adopt a the traditional finger-like shape, as found in classical pocket watch movements coming from the French-speaking regions of Switzerland.

In keeping with the requirements of the Geneva Seal, the widely spaced bridges are each striped and angled, with chamfered slots for the screws and jewels. The screw heads and gear pivots are all mirror polished and create a uniform look with the rhodium-plated bridges. The baseplate is generously finished with perlage decoration and features deep cutouts to the dial side. 

Though a less important aspect of the movement, the rocker-type keyless works are an interesting choice and illustrate the thought put into its construction.

This allows for a function-selector crown, where the setting and winding functions are engaged by a pusher cleverly concealed in the upper crown guard. This does away with the need to pull the crown to set the time. And built into the setting mechanism is patent-pending safety device that prevents the user from damaging the watch during time setting, a necessary due to the unusual peripheral handset and central tourbillon.

The case is typical Roger Dubuis Excalibur style. It’s in 18k pink gold and is a broad 45 mm in diameter. For ergonomics, the lugs curve generously downwards.

The notched bezel is aggressively angular and sculpted, which continues with the crown, crown guards, and lugs with broad bevels. Like most recent Roger Dubuis watches, the case has distinctive triple lugs, but unlike earlier versions, this has a concealed system for easily changing the straps.

Key facts and price

Roger Dubuis Orbis In Machina Central Monotourbillon
Ref. RDDBEX1119

Diameter: 45 mm
Height: 14.41 mm
Material: 18k pink gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. RD115
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Winding: Manual
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Calf leather strap with matching 18K pink gold clasp

Limited edition: 88 pieces
Availability: Exclusively at Roger Dubuis boutiques
Price: CHF180,000

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The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Goes Luxe in 18k Rose Gold

A precious sailing chronograph.

TAG Heuer is launching an upmarket of its sailing chronograph at Watches & Wonders 2024: the Carrera Chronograph Skipper in 18k rose gold is essentially the same as the steel iteration released in 2023, save for the precious metal case.

Employing the well received “Glassbox” case, the Skipper has the signature domed dial flange that acts as an inner bezel, accentuated by a domed sapphire crystal. Unique to the Skipper model are the teal sub-dial at nine and the tri-colour register at three, both modelled on the vintage original.

Initial Thoughts

I am a fan of the Carrera Glassbox. It’s a surprisingly versatile model – some variants have a no-nonsense style that bring to mind the original racing chronographs of the 1960s, while others like the Skipper are strikingly coloured. Most variants nonetheless are inspired by the vintage Carrera in all its flavours.

None of the other Carrera models come close to the Skipper’s sunburst blue dial with teal accents; it looks quite splendid under the sun. Not to mention that the Skipper happens to be very wearable at 39 mm.

Whether the gold version is an appealing proposition is another questions altogether. Most would opt for the steel Skipper just as a matter of budget. That said, the rose gold Skipper at CHF 21,000, is an acceptable value proposition as solid-gold chronographs go.

Its competitive advantage lies in the appealing, historically-inspired design and in-house column wheel chronograph movement – there are lots of similar offers in the same price same but few get the whole package right like the Carrera “Glassbox” does.

The Skipper in stainless steel with the same distinctive look and more affordable

A nod to history

The Carrera Chronograph Skipper is based on the Skipper ref. 7754 of 1968 – which had the same coloured registers – although it is far from merely a vintage re-issue. The “Glassbox” case, for one, is a new design that adopts elements of the original but still manages to look modern.

The lugs have the same form as the vintage original, but are wider and more prominent. The case does away with the bezel. Instead the flange around the dial is raised and domed to echo the “box” sapphire crystal.

To match the case, the indices are gold plate and applied, as is the frame for the date window at six. The hands are similarly gold plated and filled with white Super-Luminova.

Visible through the sapphire case back is the in-house TH20-06. It’s a a column wheel chronograph movement with a vertical clutch and 80 hours of power reserve. Shaped like the TAG Heuer shield emblem, the rotor winds bidirectionally.

Key facts and price

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Skipper 
Ref. CBS2241.FN8023

Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 13.9 mm
Material: 18K Rose Gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. Heuer 02 (Ref. TH20-06)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Blue fabric strap with pin buckle

Limited edition: No
Available in TAG Heuer boutiques and retailers starting April 2024
Price: CHF21,000

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Zenith Revives the Defy A3648 Diver

Retro in flavourful orange.

Zenith has return to one of its most striking vintage watches with the Defy Revival A3648. A re-issue of the A3648 of 1969, the latest Defy Revival shares the same angular, 37 mm case and distinctive fourteen-sided bezel. While the newly released model shares the styling of the original – as well as the 600 m depth rating – it has been upgraded with modern materials, like a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal insert.

Initial thoughts

From the Defy Revival A3691 to the Chronomaster Revival, Zenith has frequently turned to its vintage watches for reissues. The brand’s approach to reissues is straightforward: maintain the original aesthetics as much as possible while upgrading them technically modern movements, superior materials, and more robust bracelets. While not a creative formula in any sense, it is an effective one, particularly with interesting and appealing vintage models.

This same formula has been applied to the Defy Revival A3648. It is a byproduct of analysing historical blueprints, thereby staying faithful to the original in most aspects, including design and the 600 m depth rating.

Priced at CHF7400, the Defy Revival A3648 is a decent value proposition, though not quite to the level that Zenith was historically known for. It’s a faithful vintage re-issue of a distinctive design that’s been updated with modern materials and quality that results in robustness and reliability superior to the vintage original.

Tasty Orange

The defining characteristics of the Revival A3648 are the orange accents on the bezel and dial, both defining features of the original. Both the dial and hands are painted in Super-Luminova that appears a clean white in the light and glows green in the dark.

Although the case is only 37 mm in diameter – like the vintage original – it is a chunky watch due to the 15.5 mm thickness. Besides its dimensions, the Defy Revival A3648 also retains the same 600 m of water resistance of the original, an unusually substantial depth rating for such a compact watch as modern-day dive watches tend to be oversized.

As with Zenith’s other Revival models, the A3648 remake also retains the same bracelet design but with modern build quality. Based on the Gay Frères’s bracelet of the original, it’s a five-link stainless steel bracelet that incorporates an extension to fit over a wet suit.

In contrast to the original, the Revival has a sapphire display back that offers a view of the Elite 670 calibre, which delivers 50 hours of power reserve and beats at 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz).

Key facts and price

Zenith Defy Revival A3648
Ref. 03.A3648.670/21.M3648

Diameter: 37 mm
Height: 15.5 mm
Material: Stainless Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 600 m

Movement: Elite 670
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Metal bracelet with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
Available in Zenith physical and online boutiques starting April 2024
Price: CHF7,400

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In Depth: Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers “The Berkley” Grand Complication

A record-setting 63 complications, including a Chinese perpetual calendar.

Vacheron Constantin presents the world’s most complicated watch once again, surpassing its own record set by the Reference 57260 in 2015. Commissioned by the same American collector who owns the 57260, the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers “The Berkley” Grand Complication boasts many of the complications found in its predecessor but gains a world first, a perpetual Chinese calendar. 

Made by the elite three-man team responsible for the 57260, the Berkley is a unique mechanical achievement with over two faces and over 60 complications.

It joins a major collection of pocket watches that includes not only the 57260 but also the King Farouk I grand complication made by Vacheron Constantin for the Egyptian monarch in the 1930s.

Initial thoughts

Named after its owner, the Berkley cannot be compared to commonplace high horology. Instead it sits among the historical greats – which happen to all be pocket watches – like the the Breguet Marie Antoinette, Leroy 01, and of course the Patek Philippe duo of the the Graves Super Complication and Calibre 89.

But now the Berkley trumps them all, having pushed the boundaries of possibility to sit at the zenith of watchmaking. The owner of the Berkley, insurance tycoon William R. Berkley, evidently has a keen appreciation of mechanical excellence.

The watch is a masterpiece in the extreme art of micro engineering. But not only is it exceptionally complicated, it boasts a first in watchmaking – a perpetual Chinese calendar complication.

The Chinese calendar on the front

Understandably, the unique complication takes centerstage with the front dial showing the Chinese calendar indications, but it does so against a backdrop of many other complications – a staggering 63 to be precise. 

The reverse dial with a conventional Gregorian calendar

The Chinese calendar

If modelling the Gregorian calendar into a mechanical watch presents a challenge – particularly on a secular basis – then doing the same with the Chinese calendar is exponentially more complex.

Because the leap year cycles of the Gregorian calendar are straightforward repeating patterns, they don’t require substantial computation. The Chinese calendar, however, has many more irregularities and includes a number of variables, making for a very complex and layered system. That’s because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, where the celestial movements of the Sun and Moon determine the lengths of months and years. 

For example, the months are calculated from the new moon and are based on the lunation periods. As a result, a lunar year is 11 days shorter than a solar year, meaning an additional “embolismic” month is inserted every two to three years.

The Berkley’s Chinese calendar indications

The units of time in the Chinese calendar are numbered based on an association of two series of signs (10 celestial stems and 12 earthly branches) making for a total of 60 possible combinations. This is known as the sexagesimal cycle and can be employed in marking the passage of years, moths or days. The famous Chinese zodiac symbols are part of the sexagesimal cycle.

The layers and subtleties of the Chinese calendar go much deeper than this and listing them all would be a treatise in itself. However, it’s worth noting the complexity of the lunisolar calendar system and the consequent effort required to accommodate all its irregularities in a mechanical device. 

The various face indications, from Chinese calendar to chronograph

The calendar layers

Boasting a record-setting 63 complications, the cal. 3752 comprises of 2,877 components, plus a staggering 245 jewels, 31 hands, and 9 information-showing disks. It was constructed on the same ebauche used for the Reference 57260.

Apart from the world-first Chinese perpetual calendar, the Berkley lives up to the grande complication designation by incorporating a split-seconds chronograph, grande sonnerie with Westminster carillon, an alarm, and various other astronomic indications.

Structurally, the movement can be split up in modules, an architecture that is advantageous for ultra complications. Closest to the front is the Chinese perpetual calendar module. In order the accommodate all the irregularities of the lunisolar calendar and the derived cycles, Vacheron Constantin watchmakers had to first simulate and adapt various algorithms, then devise a suitable mechanical analogue. 

The Chinese calendar plate; Vacheron Constantin’s motto is discreetly engraved on the module

The result is a unique and specialised module with three different control units, each driving separate calendar indications. The module is programmed to be accurate up to the year 2200.

Notably, it can even display the date of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which varies from year to year. The Lunar New Year display remains current for 20 years, at which point the display disc needs to be replaced due to the variations of the calendar cycle. The watch will be delivered with eight additional discs that last till the year 2200.

Compared to the Chinese perpetual calendar module, the Gregorian perpetual calendar module, situated just below the reverse dial, is simpler and more familiar. The week of the year is also displayed, a rarity among perpetual calendars.

The Gregorian perpetual calendar plate

The astronomic complications module, which sits atop the Gregorian perpetual calendar plate

The Gregorian calendar display on the reverse dial is combined with various astronomical indications. The date is indicated with a retrograde gold hand and the date scale half-encircles a sky chart, which shows in real time the stars and constellations as seen from Shanghai. The celestial disk makes one rotation in one sidereal day for being as accurate as possible.

Underneath can be found a running equation of time indication, which shows the difference between the true (solar) day and the mean civil day of 24 hours. The difference is null only four times around the year. 

Also visible on the reverse is the tourbillon, which is flanked by a pair of fan-shaped displays indicating sunrise and sunset times in Shanghai.

The back side indications

The chiming mechanism

The grande sonnerie and minute repeater form the deeper levels and base movement of the cal. 3752. Vacheron Constantin has equipped the Berkley with a Westminster carillon with five hammers and five gongs, allowing it to chime the same five-note tune sounded by Big Ben in London’s Houses of Parliament.

The grande sonnerie has the usual “strike” and “silent” modes, along with a “night” mode that deactivates the chiming works from 10 pm to 8 am.

Additionally, the owner can switch between grande and petite sonnerie – chiming the hours and quarters or just the hours – and also chime the time on-demand with the minute repeater. As is traditional for clockwatches, this power intensive complication runs on its own barrel.

The base movement, with the strike works and timekeeping going train

The sonnerie complication is complemented by an alarm. The alarm is cleverly integrated as a subsystem, using its own barrel and strikework. It is set through a dedicated concealed crown that pops out of the case when a slide is engaged.

Through the hidden crown the owner can wind the alarm and also set the striking mode, as the alarm can either sound with its own hammer or chime via the Westminster carillon. 

Tourbillon and timekeeping

The movement includes a Armillary Sphere tourbillon – a triple-axis regulator – that’s equipped with a spherical hairspring. The regulating organ is a feat on its own, as such an exotic tourbillon is particularly challenging to assemble and regulate. According to Vacheron Constantin, of the 11 years required to develop the movement, one whole year was dedicated to assembly and regulation.

While the chronometric utility of a triple-axis tourbillon is debatable (especially when installed in such a complicated movement) the spherical hairspring performs much better than its flat counterpart.

The movement is hallmarked with the Poinçon de Genève, which dictates not just aesthetics but also accuracy, implying the Berkley is also a precision timekeeper. The movement runs about 60 hours on a full wind – impressing for a timepiece with so many calendar and astronomical indications driven by a single barrel. 

The time display on the front of the watch is regulator style with the hours, minutes and seconds on separate axis, mimicking precision clocks of old. The hour display can be found at 12 o’clock, the minutes in the centre, while the retrograde seconds sit at six o’clock. The time telling hands are in blued steel to differentiate them from the various gilded hands for the Chinese calendar.

A discreet but notable mechanism is the refinement of the retrograde seconds indication. A retrograde indication jumps back to its starting position at a fixed interval. For date indications the jump time is inconsequential, but for a seconds indicator the fraction of a second required to return to zero tends to add up over time and disrupt the display’s accuracy. Vacheron Constantin took extra steps to compensate for the jump time in the display, resulting in a seconds indicator that is always true.

Base movement as seen from the front of the watch

Beyond measuring time for almost eternity, the Berkley can also record times on a much shorter scale with a split-seconds chronograph. The chronograph is started, stopped and reset via a pusher in the crown, while the split time is activated through a dedicated pusher next to the pendant. The chronograph itself is classical and simple, with a horizontal clutch and column wheels.

The chronograph and split-seconds plate

All the complications make the Berkley, like the 57260, a hefty timepiece. It measures 98 mm in diameter and 50.55 mm thick, resulting in a weight of just under one kilogram. The case is 18k white gold and entirely polished, with a number of slides and pushers on the case band.

Despite the size and complexity, the Berkley is finely detailed, with many of the parts made by hand in an artisanal manner in the specialist workshop dedicated to unique creations. Notably, the movement was conceived to be more decorative than that of the 57260, and so features more elegantly shaped bridges and levers, along with more inward angles along the bevelled edges.

Addendum: The 63 complications

Time functions

1.     Regulator-type hours, minutes and seconds for mean solar time
2.     Retrograde second for mean solar time 
3.     Day and night indication for reference city 
4.     Visible spherical armillary tourbillon regulator with spherical balance spring
5.     Armillary sphere tourbillon
6.     World time indication for 24 cities
7.     Second time zone hours and minutes (on 12 hours display)
8.     Second time zone day and night indication
9.     System to display the second time zone for the Northern or Southern

Perpetual Calendar

10.  Gregorian perpetual calendar
11.  Gregorian days of the week
12.  Gregorian months
13.  Gregorian retrograde date     
14.  Leap-year indication and four-year cycle 
15.  Number of the day of the week (ISO 8601 calendar)
16.  Indication for the number of the week within the year (ISO 8601 calendar)

Chinese Perpetual Calendar

17.      Chinese perpetual calendar
18.      Chinese number of the day
19.      Chinese name of the month
20.      Chinese date indication
21.      Chinese zodiac signs
22.      5 elements and 10 celestial stems
23.      6 energies and 12 earthly branches
24.      Chinese year state (common or embolismic)
25.      Month state (small or large)
26.      Indication for the Golden number within the 19-year Metonic cycle
27.      Indication for the date of the Chinese New Year in the Gregorian calendar

Chinese Agricultural Perpetual Calendar

28.      Chinese agricultural perpetual calendar
29.      Indications of seasons, equinoxes and solstices with solar hand

Functions of the Astronomic Calendar

30.      Sky chart (calibrated for Shanghai)
31.      Sidereal hours 
32.      Sidereal minutes
33.      Sunrise time (calibrated for Shanghai)
34.      Sunset time (calibrated for Shanghai)
35.      Equation of time
36.      Length of the day (calibrated for Shanghai)
37.      Length of the night (calibrated for Shanghai)

Lunar Calendar

38.      Phases and age of the moon, one correction every 1027 years

Functions of the 3 column-wheel chronograph

39.      Fifths of a second chronograph (1 column wheel)
40.      Fifths of a second split-second chronograph (1 column wheel)
41.      12-hour counter (1 column wheel)
42.      60-minute counter


43.      Progressive alarm with single gong and hammer striking
44.      Alarm strike / silence indicator
45.      Choice of normal alarm or carillon striking alarm indicator
46.      Alarm mechanism coupled to the carillon striking mechanism
47.      Alarm striking with choice of grande or petite sonnerie
48.      Alarm power-reserve indication
49.      System to disengage the alarm barrel when fully wound

Westminster Carillon Striking Functions

50.      Carillon Westminster chiming with 5 gongs and 5 hammers
51.      Grande sonnerie passing strike
52.      Petite sonnerie passing strike
53.      Minute repeating
54.      Night silence feature (between 22.00 and 08.00 hours – hours chosen by the owner)
55.      System to disengage the striking barrel when fully wound
56.      Indication for grande or petite sonnerie modes
57.      Indication for silence / striking / night modes

Further functions

58.      Power-reserve indication for the going train
59.      Power-reserve indication for the striking train
60.      Winding crown position indicator
61.      Winding system for the double barrels
62.      Hand-setting system with two positions and two directions 
63.      Concealed flush-fit winding crown for the alarm mechanism

Key facts and price

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers “The Berkley” Grand Complication
Ref. 9901C/000G-B472

Diameter: 98 mm
Height: 50.55 mm
Material: 18k white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: Moisture protected

Movement: Cal. 3752
Functions: Grande complication with 63 functions, including a Chinese perpetual calendar
: Manual wind
Frequency: 18,000 vibrations per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 60 hours

Limited edition: Single-piece edition
Availability: Client commission and not available
Price: Undisclosed

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TAG Heuer Introduces the Monaco Split Seconds Chronograph

Premium, Vaucher-powered, and pricey.

TAG Heuer’s flagship launch at Watches & Wonders 2024 is the Monaco Split Seconds Chronograph, the brand’s first-ever mechanical split-seconds chronograph wristwatch. Initially launched as a piece unique for the postponed 2023 edition of Only Watch, the Monaco Split Seconds now enters regular production in red and blue liveries.

Titanium inside and out with an integrated movement developed by Vaucher – the movement bridges and plates are titanium – the Monaco Split Seconds is a premium product with a premium price that puts the brand in the haute horlogerie segment, which also communicates a mixed message given the brand’s focus on affordable chronographs.

Initial thoughts

While sports timekeeping is core to TAG Heuer’s DNA, the brand’s only wrist-worn split seconds chronographs to date were of the quartz and digital variety. And given the delayed sale of the Only Watch example, the Monaco Split Seconds will be TAG Heuer’s first mechanical split-seconds chronograph sold publicly, enhancing the collector appeal.

One of the most iconic square watches in history – and probably the only recognisable sports chronograph with a form case – the Monaco has proven adaptable to both retro and futuristic designs over the years; the Split Seconds is of course the latter.

While I find the overall styling a bit over the top, especially the X-shaped braces that form part of the dial, I can’t help but admire many of the details, such as the stepped box sapphire crystal and the way the design of the split seconds pusher at nine o’clock provides visual balance. In other words, it’s futuristic design done well.

Thought it is a large watch, it is notably lightweight thanks to the extensive use of titanium, so it should wear well despite the generous dimensions. That said, the size arguably works better with a square case, as opposed to a round case of comparable dimensions.

The execution of the design is also impressive, with details like the clear sapphire chapter ring on the front and the all-titanium movement reflecting the attention to detail in the execution. The hand finishing on the movement is also impressive, it is clearly Vaucher quality rather than the typical decoration found on TAG Heuer’s affordable chronographs.

The fact that the calibre comes courtesy of Vaucher is a good thing. The movement a high-spec calibre that has a high-frequency escapement, integrated chronograph construction, and automatic winding – a relatively unique combination of features even in the rarefied world of high-end rattrapante chronographs.

With a retail price of CHF135,000, the Monaco Split Seconds is priced comparably to other watches with the same movement, namely the Parmigiani Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph.

However, the pricing sends a mixed message to the market. Just a few years ago, TAG Heuer embarked on a mission to make exotic complications more affordable, most notably with the Carrera 02T Tourbillon Chronograph which is still in the catalog listed at US$22,500 in its basis format. And its recent speciality is smart variants of the Carrera chronograph with clever, simple complications like the Chronosprint. Impressive as the Monaco Split Seconds, it’s hard to see how the Monaco Split Seconds fits into that strategy.

A familiar movement

Available in natural or black DLC-coated titanium, the Monaco Split Seconds weighs just 85 grams despite substantial dimensions of 47.9 mm lug-to-lug and 15.2 mm in height.

A good part of the weight savings come from the movement, which has titanium bridges and plates. While having Carole Forestier-Kasapi at the helm of its technical department means TAG Heuer is capable of developing a split seconds chronograph in-house – in fact it would not be surprising to see an in-house calibre in the future – the brand opted to partner with Vaucher for the split-seconds movement.

As a result, much of what we see is familiar. From the 5 Hz beat rate and 65-hour power reserve to the recognisable one-piece reset hammer and free-sprung balance, it’s clear that a lot of the mechanics are tried-and-tested Vaucher designs.

From a reliability and service standpoint, that’s probably a good thing, as chronographs, especially split seconds chronographs are difficult to get right. The base movement features all the bells and whistles one expects from a modern sport chronograph, including a vertical clutch and dual column wheels.

But naturally, TAG Heuer put its own spin on the aesthetics of the movement with titanium plates and bridges. The bridges on the back are finished with a hand applied graté pattern, a chequerboard motif meant to evoke the brand’s racing history. The aesthetics continue on the front with a semi-open worked, stylised main plate visible beneath the sapphire crystal dial.

Key facts and price

TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph
Ref. CBW2181.FC8322 (red)
Ref. CBW2182.FC8339 (blue)

Diameter: 47.9 mm
Height: 15.2 mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Material: Titanium
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: TH81-00
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, and split-seconds chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 65 hours

Strap: Calfskin strap or titanium bracelet

Limited edition: No
June 2024
Price: CHF135,000

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Zenith Introduces the Defy Skyline Chronograph

A familiar genre but done well and affordably.

Amidst the plethora of sports watches with integrated bracelets, the Zenith Defy Skyline stands out for its uncluttered design and relative affordability. Now the lineup is joined by the Defy Skyline Chronograph.

The chronograph maintains many of the signature features of the existing models, such as its octagonal case and star-patterned dial. Debuting in three dial colours, Defy chronograph is amongst Zenith’s sportier offerings. Like other recent launches, it is powered by the second-generation El Primero calibre.

Initial thoughts

The Defy Skyline Chronograph is another option for an enthusiasts seeking a sports chronograph with a contemporary design and integrated bracelet. There are admittedly many, many options in this category, but the Defy chronograph is one of the value-minded offerings. At CHF11,900, the Defy chronograph with its in-house movement is competitively priced compared to other offerings in the sports watch market.

The brand has opted for a conservative design while retaining a modern edge. Though the overall design is familiar, it has incorporates a few unusual details, including a polygonal flange around the dial.

The watch is being launched in only three colours, all simple, easy shades that are well suited to the design, though not exciting. With the limited colours in mind, some might want to wait for subsequent releases that may adopt the colours found in its time-only counterpart.

Zenith’s latest addition

The Defy chronograph joins Zenith’s ever-expanding line of sports watches. At 42 mm, it’s one of Zenith’s largest watches, but the size suits the design.

This shares many design elements of its compatriots in the Defy collection, including an octagonal case with a faceted bezel and matching bracelet, as well as the star-patterned dial. It does, however, have some new design elements. Most notable is the twelve facetted flange for the minute track that echoes the octagonal bezel. 

The star-patterned dial features oversized sub-dials reminiscent of other El Primero chronographs, along with the date between four and five that’s long been part of the El Primero dial. The date disc matches the dial colour, allowing the date display to blend in with the dial.

The chronograph debuts in blue, silver, and black

Inside is the El Primero 3600, the latest generation of Zenith’s signature movement. Featuring a column wheel and vertical clutch, the movement has a power reserve of 60 hours, a high frequency balance oscillating at 5 Hz, and a silicon escapement.

Notably, the El Primero 3600 has a “lightning” seconds, a central seconds hand that completes one revolution every 10 seconds, enabling measurement of elapsed times of up to 1/10th of a second.

Key facts and price

Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph
Ref. 03.9500.3600/51.I001 (blue)
Ref. 03.9500.3600/01.I001 (silver)
Ref. 03.9500.3600/21.I001 (black)

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: El Primero 3600
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 60 hours

Strap: Matching bracelet with a rubber strap option

Limited edition: No
Available in all Zenith boutiques and authorised retailers
Price: CHF11,900

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Vacheron Constantin’s Tourbillon Chronograph Gets All-Platinum Makeover

The latest "Collection Excellence Platine".

Amongst Vacheron Constantin’s novelties at Watches & Wonders is the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph Collection Excellence Platine (CEP), the latest model to receive the monochromatic, all-platinum treatment.

Coming two years after the Traditionelle Split-Seconds Chronograph CEP, this utilises platinum extensively throughout the watch, and even the stitching of the strap, while maintaining many of the standard model’s key characteristics.

Initial thoughts

On its face, the new Tourbillon Chronograph closely resembles the standard model in rose gold. The view from the back is practically identical – which is a good thing given the appeal of the cal. 3200, a recent in-house calibre (and not Lemania based) but one constructed with traditional aesthetics and details.

Nevertheless, being a CEP edition, it embraces a primarily grey palette. This is tastefully complemented by the blue accents, including the blued steel hands, and a single blued screw on the tourbillon cage. It’s a straightforward yet effective combination. 

The formula is the same one applied to past CEP editions, so the similarity between this and the standard model is understandable. However, varying the design more in order to distinguish this from the regular production model would have made it a bit more special. Nevertheless, the CEP possesses a refined charm and is more appealing than its current standard model, albeit with a price tag that is quite a bit more, as is usually the case for CEP editions.

Now in platinum

The CEP edition is the latest iteration of a model launched in 2020, but equipped with a movement that made its debut in 2015 for the brand’s 260th anniversary

Moreover, it is also the latest addition to the long-running Collection Excellence Platine, a series of limited editions that upgrade specific models with the generous use of platinum. The alloy is used conventionally for the case and clasp, but also more usually for the dial and even the strap stitching, which is done with thread woven from platinum wire and silk).

As is tradition, the dial of the Tourbillon Chronograph is platinum and finished with sandblasting that creates a finely grained appearance. A discreet “PT950” hallmark is printed between four and five o’clock, one of the defining features of the CEP models.

The hour markers and hands are white gold, but the hands for the chronograph and power reserve indicator are blued steel, which add colour to the dial.

The dial design, however, remains identical to the standard model, retaining the distinctive, asymmetrical layout with the tourbillon at 12 o’clock, a 45-minute counter at three, and power reserve indicator at six.

Similarly, the design and dimensions of the case remain unchanged at measuring 42.5 mm in diameter and 11.7 mm high, although the case is in platinum.

Inside is the cal. 3200, an in-house movement featuring a mono-pusher chronograph and tourbillon. Standing just 6.7 mm high, the calibre is impressively thin. The movement is regulated by a one-minute tourbillon with a carriage shaped like a Maltese cross. It has a 65-hour power reserve while the balance beats at a classical frequency of 2.5 Hz. 

But the most appealing aspect of the cal. 3200 is the chronograph mechanism. The aesthetics are decidedly classical with a horizontal coupling and elegantly formed chronograph levers. While the chronograph works have a traditional style, some of the key components were designed to improve the function of the chronograph.

The cal. 3200

The lateral clutch, for example, incorporates an innovative coupling wheel that’s proprietary to Vacheron Constantin. The clutch wheel is actually made up of two superimposed gears: a lower one engages with the going train’s fourth wheel while the one above engages with the chronograph seconds wheel when the chronograph is activated. The two are friction-fitted, allowing them to slip when insufficient force is applied.

As a result, the chronograph is only activated when enough force is applied to the pusher, and once engaged, the chronograph seconds hand starts moving with a smoother motion, without stutter. At the same time, as the tooth profiles of the wheel were designed for optimal meshing, resulting in better efficiency.

Key facts and price

Vacheron Constantin Traditionelle Tourbillon Chronograph “Collection Excellence Platine”
Ref. 5100T/000P-H041

Diameter: 42.5 mm
Height: 11.7 mm
Material: Platinum
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. 3200
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds on tourbillon cage, tourbillon, monopusher chronograph and power reserve indicator
Winding: Hand-wind
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 65 hours

Strap: Alligator with platinum folding clasp

Limited edition: 50 pieces
Only from Vacheron Constantin boutiques

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The Parmigiani Tonda PF Does Away with the Date

Designed for the purist.

At Watches & Wonders 2024, Parmigiani Fleurier is launching the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor No Date, a concise sports watch clearly catered to those who want just two hands. Featuring a “Golden Siena” (or “salmon”) dial in its inaugural guise, the new Tonda PF barely deviates from the design of the original released in 2021, retaining the same case, proportions, and movement, but eliminates the date.

Initial thoughts

Among the sports watches launched during the integrated-bracelet-sports-watch fad, the Tonda PF stood out for its unique aesthetics that are neither boring nor flashy. While many of its competitors were often obvious derivatives of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, the Tonda PF was more original and managed to retain some of the traditional design codes of Parmigiani’s more formal watches.

From a distance, it is challenging to tell the difference between the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor No Date and the original. In fact, the only real difference lies in the dial design and colour. Although the differences are minimal, the salmon dial with a no-date layout offers a more refined aesthetic that will appeal to purists.

At CHF23,500, the watch is priced the same as the date version and like it, is a decent-enough value proposition. Though it seems expensive when compared to more affordable alternatives like the Louis Vuitton Tambour or Moser Streamliner, the Tonda PF is more affordable than the Royal Oak or a Nautilus (which are mostly unobtainable at retail, at least for now).

Golden Siena

Labelled “Golden Siena”, the dial on the new Tonda PF strikes a different tone from the predominantly dark colours found in the rest of the line. The 18k white gold hands, applied indices and logo, as well as barleycorn guilloche are identical to past models. Notably, the dial decoration is traditional guilloche done on a hand-operated straight-line engine.

The rest of the watch remains unchanged from the earlier version and retains the compact dimensions with elegant profile. Inspired by the same bezel found on the Toric, the knurled bezel is platinum, while the case and bracelet are steel.

The arched drop lugs are soldered onto the case, allowing them to be finished separately. As a result, the lugs are mirror polished on the top and brushed on the side, with a polished bevel separating the two. This finish continues on the bracelet, which is naturally integrated into the case.

The PF703 inside is decorated with Côtes de Genève and sports a micro-rotor in platinum that is finished with barley guilloche that echoes the dial decoration. A thin movement with a single barrel, the calibre has 48 hours of power reserve, and beats at 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz).

Key facts and price

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Micro-Rotor No Date
Ref. PFC914-1020021-100182

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 7.8 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: PF703
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Matching bracelet with folding clasp

Limited edition: No
Availability: Starting April at Parmigiani Fleurier boutiques and retailers
Price: CHF23,500

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Cartier Introduces the Pebble Tigre

Is it a zebra, crocodile, or tiger?

Cartier’s suite of Animal Jewellery watches unveiled at Watches & Wonders 2024 includes the striking Pebble “Tigre”.

Described by its maker as inspired by “an imaginary encounter between zebra and crocodile that… is both graphic and organic”, the watch is essentially a Pebble with a double-layer bezel decorated in lacquer and precious stones. Watch aficionados will be disappointed that it is a traditional jewellery watch – more jewellery than watch – and the movement inside is quartz.

Initial thoughts

Thematically, the new Pebble is similar to the Crash Tigre with its abstract, animal-patterned cased. Though it’s in keeping with Cartier’s tradition of animal-inspired jewellery watches, the new Pebble is nonetheless surprising since it’s a striking departure from the traditional Pebble.

The watch is slightly larger than the conventional Pebble, particularly in terms of thickness, but it’s still relatively compact. But it has instant presence thanks to the extravagant decoration.

It’s unfortunately that the movement is quartz, but that is typical for most of Cartier’s high jewellery watches. This will limit its appeal for mechanical watch enthusiasts, but fans of Cartier’s jewelled form watches will appreciate the design and execution.

The Cartier Crash Tigre

Wild things

The Animal Jewellery collection of 2024 is made up of watches modelled on animals that are a recurring theme in Cartier jewellery, namely panthers, crocodiles, and tigers. Most of the watches are figurative and literal, with cases shaped like a panther’s head or a resting crocodile.

The Pebble Tigre, on the other hand, is abstract. The bezel is inspired by the tail of a crocodile, with the black lacquered stripes – all applied by hand – modelled on a zebra’s hide.

Though similar to the standard Pebble with its round silhouette and lozenge-shaped dial, the Tigre looks different in profile due to the layer bezel formed by the coils of the crocodile’s tail. This allows for several levels of gemstones and lacquered stripes on the bezel that give the case a three-dimensional aspect.

The model is offered in three versions, all sharing the same design with black lacquered stripes but decorated differently (pictured from left to right below).

The first is in pink gold set with rubies and diamonds. The second is in white gold with tsavorite garnets and diamonds. And the last is in yellow gold set with black spinels and diamonds, and fitted with a polished onyx dial.

Key facts and price

Cartier Animal Jewellery Watch “Pebble”
Ref. CRHPI01615 (Yellow gold, black spinels, black lacquer, diamonds)
Ref. CRHPI01616 (Rose gold, rubies, black lacquer, diamonds)
Ref. CRHPI01617 (White gold, tsavorite garnets, black lacquer, diamonds)

Diameter: mm
Height: mm
Material: 18k gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: Not available

Movement: Quartz
Functions: Hours and minutes

Strap: Black calfskin strap, additional strap in alligator

Limited edition:
Availability: Only at Cartier boutiques and retailers

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Lange Marks the Datograph’s 25th Anniversary in White Gold and Blue

A limited edition of 125 pieces.

A. Lange & Söhne is marking 25 years of its landmark chronograph of 1999 with the Datograph Up/Down “25th Anniversary”, a limited edition that’s a subtle but significant variation of the familiar model. The anniversary Datograph sports a dark blue dial matched with a white gold case that contains the much loved L951.6 movement.

Limited to 125 pieces, the new model joins the regular production versions in platinum and pink gold (both with black dials) that remain in the catalogue. And it’s the more affordable of the anniversary editions, with the flagship being the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”.

Initial thoughts

While the anniversary Datograph doesn’t seem like much on the face of it, the colour and material is fairly unique for the model. The Datograph has only ever been offered in platinum, pink or yellow gold, and never before with a blue dial (except on one occasion). Though left unstated in the official announcement, the blue dial is clearly a reference to a unique example of the first-generation Datograph that had a blue dial, something that fans of the brand will appreciate.

Moreover, the Datograph is rarely iterated as a limited edition. This is only the third Datograph limited edition (following the Datograph Lumen of 2019), leaving aside gem-set models.

Consequently, there’s a lot to like about this, with a big caveat. As comparably-priced alternative to the regular production models, this is a compelling proposition. However, the fact that buying Lange watches from a boutique is challenging diminishes some of the appeal.

This is not the only anniversary edition, another is the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold Lumen (left)

A few modest tweaks

The Datograph “25th Anniversary” is a modest variation of the standard model. Instead of a black dial, this has a dark blue dial with silvered sub-dials and white date discs. As is usual for Lange, the dial is a disc of silver that’s treated blue (either with PVD or galvanic coating), while the hands and markers are 18k white gold.

The case is 18k white gold and identical in size, so it is 41 mm wide and 13.1 mm high. It’s large and slightly chunky in the typical Lange style, but finished well.

Likewise, the case back shows off the L951.6, the same calibre found in the regular production version. It’s an evolutionary successor of the L951.1 found in the original Datograph of 1999, but largely identical. The well-known and revered aesthetics remain the centrepiece, particularly the intricate chronograph works that have both depth and texture.

Key facts and price

A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down “25th Anniversary”
Ref. 405.028

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 13.1 mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Material: 18k white gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: L961.6
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, flyback chronograph, and oversized date
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 60 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: 125 watches
Only at A. Lange & Söhne boutiques
Price: Around €125,000 including VAT

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