The Gyrotourbillon 1 was first introduced by Jaeger LeCoultre in 2004 as what would be the first of a series of multi-axis tourbillon wristwatches, the theoretical goal of which was to create variations on the tourbillon suitable for a wristwatch rather than a pocket watch.  Each of the Gyrotourbillon wristwatches has a different configuration of the multi-axis tourbillon; the Gyrotourbillon 1 has an inner cage that rotates once every 24 seconds and an outer cage that rotates once per minute.  This year, a spectacular variation of this groundbreaking wristwatch appeared as part of the Hybris Artistica collection: the Master Gyrotourbillon 1 with a skeletonized, extremely complex aventurine dial.

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The watch retains all its original complexity, with indications for the time, a power reserve, an equation of time marchant, perpetual calendar with retrogade indication of the date, month, and leap year, and a spherical tourbillon.  With the aventurine dial it seems, however, an entirely different watch; the original Gyrotourbillon 1 was a technical marvel and is an historically important early mult-axis tourbillon wristwatch, but the transformation it’s undergone with an aventurine dial is Cinderella-like.

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The inspiration for the structure of the dial was, according to Jaeger LeCoultre, the stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals, and the transparency and iridescence of the dial, with its celestial blue color and star-like gold inclusions, emphasizes the character of the Gyrotourbillon 1 as a strongly astronomically oriented watch beautifully –it’s in many respects the definitive Gyrotourbillon 1 model.

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The dial was extremely technically demanding as well, as the openworking is very fine and as a result the dial is extremely delicate.  Any mishandling during final assembly by the watchmaker can result in the loss of the entire dial (and probably the watchmaker having to buy a very, very irritated lapidary craftsman a couple of extra beers at lunch.)

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It’s always great to have a mechanical watch that revels in its machine-ness and offers striking and original creative solutions but watchmaking, especially at this level, is at its most interesting and its most successful when aesthetics and mechanics are on the same continuum conceptually and at the same level in terms of ingenuity and craft, and this is a breathtaking example of just how powerful a really effective synthesis of the two can be.  It’s difficult to extend the decorative idioms of watchmaking in a really original and tasteful way, but the Hybris Mechanica Gyrotourbillon 1 is living proof it can be done.

Thanks to Manufacture Jaeger LeCoultre for the opportunity to photograph this watch “in residence” in Le Sentier, Switzerland.  Visit the Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Artistica Virtual Museum for more information.

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