Three months after the first images of the TAG Heuer MikrotourbillonS leaked out at Baselworld, we can show you detailed photos of the final watch: the first Tourbillon- in fact a double tourbillon- produced by Heuer/ TAG Heuer.
The MikrotourbillonS (as TAG Heuer insist on spelling the name to emphasis that the watch has two tourbillons) movement is yet another development of the high-precision “Mikro” platform that powers the range of ultra-high frequency Chronographs, ranging from the 1/ 100th second Mikrograph through to the 2/ 10,000th Mikrogirder. The Mikro platform is a dual-frequency movement with two barrels- one for the watch and one for the Chronograph.
We have seen that TAG Heuer has experimented with a range of technologies to regulate the Mikro movements, for example the small vibrating metal beams in the Mikrogirder. This time, TAG Heuer regulates the movement with one of the most famous complications of all- the tourbillon. For a quick refresher on what a tourbillon is, click here.
While the movement inside the MikrotourbillonS is quite radical, the watch itself is relatively conventional- a 45mm Carrera case finished in Rose Gold. Adding contrast to the Rose Gold is a black metal called Tantalum- an exotic metal used in the capacitors of many modern electronics. Tantalum is mainly found in Western Australia and is highly resistant to corrosion.
The dial consists of two halves- the right side is finished in an anthracite Côtes de Genève pattern, and houses the sub-dials and power reserve indicator, while the left side is dedicated to the two tourbillons.
- 3 o’clock: Chronograph minutes
- 6 o’clock: Chronograph seconds
- 12 o’clock: Power reserve indicator
The Central flying hand (shown below) displays 1/10th and 1/100th second increments.
A further feature of the MikrotourbillonS is the crown, which charges both the watch and the Chronograph, depending on the direction that it is wound.
Like the other Mikro movements, the escapement for the watch vibrates at a conventional 28,000 vibrations per hour (4hz). The regulation for the watch is provided by a tourbillon which rotates once every minute.
The Chronograph escapement vibrates at 360,000 vibrations per hour (50hz) and is regulated by a tourbillon that rotates once every 5 seconds (making it the fastest tourbillon in the world), allowing a precision of 1/ 100th second. Power reserve is 45 hours for the watch and 60 minutes for the Chronograph.
And who makes this movement? TAG Heuer say that there are 439 components in the MikrotourbillonS movement, with 437 of them being made in-house. The only components purchased are the two hairsprings. Below are shots of the 50hz Wheel from the Chronograph and one of the Bridges from the watch.
The MikrotourbillonS has been developed by TAG Heuer’s engineers and watchmakers, a team that is now 40-people strong. The Haute Horlogerie team now hand-make the following watches at La Chaux-de-Fonds:
- Monaco V4
- Monaco Twenty-Four
- Formula 1 Lady Yin Yang
To commemorate the launch of the MikrotourbillonS, TAG Heuer released a series of photos highlighting different aspects of its Haute Horlogerie range, which you see below.
“Micro-blade” regulator from Mikrogirder
Assembling the Mikrotimer
A Glorious Irrelevance?
One of the questions that will be asked about the Mikrotourbillon is this: What’s the point? Why go to the trouble of designing a tourbillon, which has huge complexity and cost, for little real-world benefit in terms of regulating a movement? Why offer a Chronograph with 1/ 100th second precsion? Who will use that?
To me, these questions miss the point. If practical was all you needed, then none of us would own a watch, because we’d just use a mobile phone. Haute Horology is about pushing the boundaries of watch-making and showing what’s possible with a little imagination. Think of the MikrotourbillonS as the Bugatti Veyron for your wrist- a “glorious irrelevance” (as the Veyron was called) if you like. And just like a Veyron, a small number of well-heeled buyers will be able to own one.
TAG Heuer’s clear ambition is to prove itself as the brand for high-precision, innovative Chronographs- and the range that has been launched over the last 18 months- Mikrograph, Mikrotimer, Mikrogirder and now MikrotourbillonS- is quite staggering for both its ambition and speed of development.
Will any of this R&D find its way into mainstream watches? Perhaps not directly, but it does build TAG Heuer’s in-house watchmaking capability. We’ll get a chance to see what this skill means for mainstream movements when the Calibre 1888 is launched at Basel 2013.
Price and Availability- TAG Heuer MikrotourbillonS
During last month’s exclusive interview with Jean-Christophe Babin, we discovered that the MikrotourbillonS will go on sale in Q4 2012, with an expected price of around CHF220,000. Despite this lofty price, more than 20 were ordered during Baselworld back in March.
If you had have asked most watch collectors even five years ago whether TAG Heuer was capable of making a tourbillon, the answer would have been a clear “no”. Now, most of us are asking “What’s Next?”