The most poetic and seductive image to arise from Edward Lorenz’s work on chaos theory is that of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil, leading to a tornado touching down in Texas. In any sensible court of law, such egregious manipulation of causal reasoning would be snortingly dismissed with the appropriately Latinate “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”. Fortunately for poets and watchmakers (and, indirectly, all of us), the lack of imagination shown in jurisprudent processes is no hindrance to creative assays in both literature and horology alike.
One thing the butterfly-tornado image illustrates that cannot be refuted is the interconnectivity of the world as a whole — an interconnectivity that increases exponentially with every new air route opened, Facebook connection made, and undersea data cable laid. The world is getting smaller, and the hapless Kevin Bacon has lost 95 percent of his dinner-party trivia-game equity. A butterfly-faint malcontent flutter on Twitter and a hurricane lands in Tahrir Square. All this to say (in a rather tricky inversion of the small-event-leads-to-big-one trope) that the most perfect watch to have emerged from the Bulgari-Daniel Roth chrysalis at this time is a GMT timepiece: the Papillon Voyageur.
When Bulgari announced the Papillon Chronographe in 2010, there was no small amount of celebration taking place amongst die-hard Daniel Roth enthusiasts who had chewed their nails to the speculations over the maison’s applications of its Daniel Roth acquisitions. The jumping hour was retained, the cool blue twin lozenges remained, as did the iconic case and that deep dial-side smile; it really was the best outcome anyone could have dreamt of. With the Papillon Voyageur, Bulgari has kept the defining elements of the Papillon, made a robust development within the collection, and sent out an encouraging message signifying its committed and respectful adaptation of a master’s work.
The new complication we see in the Papillon Voyageur is, of course, the second time zone, which is represented through a 24-hour disc positioned directly above the lozenge-bearing frame. A teardrop-shaped indicator points to the appropriate hour, and is adjusted back and forth via two pushers, at the 10 o’clock and two o’clock positions. It’s a small thing to implement two pushers instead of one so that the second time zone can be advanced either way, but it’s a feature that will doubtlessly be appreciated by users who would otherwise be faced with clicking the hour forward 23 times when traveling one time zone west. Imagine if your finger spasmed just as you reached your 23rd click, inadvertently clicking you over, and you had to start all over again. These are first-world problems, perhaps. But that’s what you get with a first-grade watch.
Even though they’ve been around for a while, the mysterious twirling lozenges that indicate the minutes are really still the most interesting part of the watch design. Their workings were more easily comprehended in the chronograph — the Voyageur’s second time zone disc obscures the one clue as to how they know just when to tuck themselves away and let the other lozenge get on with it. The answer lies in the humble Geneva cross — one is fixed to the bottom of each lozenge in such a way that the circular frame bearing the lozenges is sandwiched between lozenge and cross. As the frame makes one complete revolution once every two hours, driven by the minute wheel in some nifty under-the-dial action, the Geneva crosses come into contact with two advancing posts (barely visible in the chronograph, but completely hidden by the inner rim of the second time zone disc in the Voyageur) and switches the lozenge over to its correct position. It’s a simple idea, but one that works so smoothly, taking almost no marginal energy over and above what is needed to turn the frame.
The Bulgari Papillon Voyageur is executed in pink gold and comes in a limited edition of 99 pieces. These won’t stay available for long, so some alacrity is recommended in getting hold of one. The same alacrity that we’d recommend in fleeing a hurricane, perhaps. Or — if, instead of cures, prevention is more your kind of thing — in punching the next butterfly you see.