Preview: TAG Heuer Mikrotourbillon S

Posted by: Abel Court and DC   |   13 March 2012   |   5 Comments  

Just when you thought that Basel was over, we can tell you today a little about a very special watch coming from TAG Heuer later this year- the TAG Heuer MikrotourbillonS- yes, a Tourbillon (and a double Tourbillon at that). Even better news for a small group of well-heeled collectors is that this is not a concept watch, but one that will be made in small numbers later this year. The watch is yet another development of the TAG Heuer Mikro platform and another complex high-precision Chronograph.

The watch is still being developed and going through the patent process, so we can’t show you any detailed photos just yet. Abel Court sat down with Guy Semon (Director of the R&D Division) yesterday to see the Mikrotourbillon in action and to get the inside scoop on the most ambitious watch ever conceived by TAG Heuer.

What is a Tourbillon?

A Tourbillon (French for “Vortex” or “Whirlwind”) is a method of regulating the movement of a mechanical watch. The regulating mechanism of a movement controls the speed at which a watch “beats” and therefore ensures the consistency of time keeping. There are several ways of regulating a movement, with the vast majority of watches using a balance wheel and spring. There are alternatives, such as the Mikrogirder, which introduced a method of regulating a movement with a network of vibrating micro-beams.

Perhaps the regulating system steeped in the most mythology is the Tourbillon, which places the balance wheel and escapement in a rotating cage- usually. The purpose of this is to compensate for any gravitational variations while the watch is being worn- especially those that impact the hairspring.

Back in the 1800s, the Tourbillon was a real advance in mechanical watchmaking and made the process of regulating a watch much easier- irrespective of the impacts of gravity. Today, there is no need for a Tourbillon to achieve accurate regulation of a watch, but it is still seen as the pinnacle of watch making given the complexity of the system.

While Heuer and TAG Heuer have offered many complications in their mechanical movements over the last 150 years, the company has never made a Tourbillon… until now.

The Mikro Platform

Over the last 12 months, we’ve written several stories on the Mikro watches- Mikrograph, Mikrotimer, Mikrogirder and now Mikrotourbillon. All of these movements have been developed from the same basic movement architecture- the Mikro platform. The photo above shows an exploded view of the Mikrograph (left) and Mikrotimer (right)- as you can see, the basic architecture is the same.

The two key features of the Mikro platform are:

  • Dual chain system- two separate barrels (one for watch function, one for Chronograph) and two independent regulators
  • Modified escapement and balance wheel/spring regulator

TAG Heuer was able to use an evolutionary approach for the systems in the Mikrograph (for example, a balance wheel and hairspring, but with an extra short and ultra rigid spiral), while more radical solutions were developed for the Mikrotimer (no balance wheel) and Mikrogirder.

Over the last 18 months TAG Heuer have demonstrated that the Mikro platform is highly adaptable, both in terms of frequency (which determines the precision of the Chronograph) and form of regulating mechanism. To summarise:

Chronograph Frequency

  • 360,000 beats per hour (Mikrograph and Mikrotourbillon)
  • 3.6 million beats per hour (Mikrotimer)
  • 7.2 million beats per hour (Mikrogirder)

Regulating Mechanism

  • Balance Wheel/ Spring (Mikrograph)
  • Girder system (Mikrogirder)
  • Tourbillon (Mikrotourbillon)
Home » Baselworld 2012, Concept Watches, Mikro Family, Mikrotourbillon