One of the biggest surprises this year came in a small package: the new UTTE Tourbillon from Arnold & Son, which is currently –as far as we have been able to determine –the thinnest hand-wound tourbillon in the world. The UTTE Tourbillon was not, according to Arnold & Son, specifically designed to be a record-breaker –rather, the very thin dimensions of the movement were designed to emphasize the architecture of the tourbillon carriage. Nevertheless, it’s something of a miracle of miniaturization as well, and one of the surprise hits of Basel 2013.
Arnold & Son has considerable technical resources at its disposal –movement manufacturing takes place at La Joux-Perret in La Chaux de Fonds, and both companies, via their holding company, Prothor, were purchased in April 2012 by Citizen, which, among other things, gives Arnold & Son access to enormous financial resources, as well as access to the Asian giant’s technical capacity in making balance springs. The UTTE is one of the first new timepieces to be released by Arnold & Son since the company was acquired and if it’s any indication, the next few years should be very interesting ones for Arnold & Son.
The UTTE is built around a brand new movement, the A&S8200, which measures only 2.97mm thick. The thinnest tourbillon ever made, of course, was created by Audemars Piguet back in 1986 –the AP calibre 2870, which had a movement only 2.5mm high and a total cased thickness of 5mm. That watch, however, used a very radical design solution to shave off height, which was to use the actual watch case back as the movement plate; such a design would probably be considered too risky today. The UTTE has a more conventional construction, using a fairly standard ¾ plate architecture, very nicely decorated with sunray Geneva stripes (or as the company prefers to call them, côtes de Genève rayonnates) but what held our attention were the technical features. For one thing the UTTE manages to squeeze 80 hours of power reserve out of its two mainspring barrels, and the going train is a little unusual as well –normally, the carriage of a tourbillon is driven by the third wheel, and revolves around a fixed fourth wheel. The UTTE has four wheels before the carriage and the third has an unusual double-toothed configuration. The movement is in nickel-silver (maillechort.)
The tourbillon itself is conventional in basic set up as well, but its architecture is quite unusual. It’s a flying tourbillon –there’s no upper bridge –and it’s been designed with a very pleasing subtle curvature to its components that gives it a graceful, three dimensionality that contrasts beautifully with the extremely svelte measurements of the rest of the movement. (For purists, we note that this is a carousel flying tourbillon, specifically, as the balance is not on the same axis as the central axis of the cage –and yes, that’s still a “real tourbillon.”)
Now, about that “world’s thinnest” –that’s what the company states; the movement is indeed 2.97mm thick but as we’ve mentioned, that’s not including the height of the tourbillon carriage above the movement plate. However, we think it’s reasonable to go along with them on this one. We’ve looked closely at the movement and there’s really nothing stopping them from making the 2.81mm thick tourbillon cage flush with the rest of the movement –in fact, that’s how the caliber was originally designed. We asked Arnold & Son about it and here’s what they told us:
“2.97 correspond to the height of the movement without the cage. For aesthetic reasons the cage has been taken out of the movement. If the cage would be put back again into the movement, and some minor adjustments made, it would be 2.97 including the tourbillon cage (it was conceived to be this way). This is possible because the cage is 2.81 high INCLUDING all relevant elements (pivoting, etc.), which mean that it just perfectly fits into a 2.97 movement. ”
And we’re actually on the same page with Arnold & Son when it comes to world’s records –whether the watch holds any particular record is less important than whether or not it’s successful as a watch, and in that respect they’ve really hit a home run with this one. It’s extremely elegant on the wrist but offers the kind of architectural visual pleasure you can usually only get with a much larger watch; the movement construction and finish are certainly very good (the lower tourbillon bridge has some especially nice, geometric-motif hand engraving on it that contrasts nicely with the radial Geneva stripes on the rest of the movement plate) and the dial is very finely done; the hands in particular are wonderfully delicate and light. The entire watch, for that matter, is a triumph of good taste over ostentation and given the lovely way its engineering, decoration, and finish have succeeded, we think it deserves to be appreciated not for an abstract set of numbers, but for how beautifully it comes together in reality.
(For our full coverage of, at the time of this writing, the world’s thinnest self-winding tourbillon by Breguet, including live shots, pricing and specifications, click here.)
The Arnold & Son UTTE is available in either red gold or palladium; 50 of each will be produced. Case, 42mm in diameter and 8.34mm thick. Movement, calibre A&S8200, extra-flat flying tourbillon, 2.97mm thick with raised tourbillon cage 2.81mm thick; 80 hour power reserve. Domed crystal with sapphire see-through case-back. Offered in gold at $70,185; in palladium, $61,075.