Three tourbillonsrevolveon their axis, positioned on a plate which is also revolving,all driven by a triple planetary differential: with his “Tourbillon des Tourbillons”, presented at the 2015 Baselworld, Antoine Preziuso invites us to marvel at a genuine work of mechanical choreography.
Questions might be clearlyraised about the usefulness of this technical prowess and of piling up complications in this way. What is the point of multiplying tourbillons?Let’s be honest, the answer is simple: for the sheer beauty of it. “Take cars,” exclaims Antoine Preziuso, all Latin brio and enthusiasm, mixed with a hint of mischief. “The first cars were single-cylinder engines and then people asked why not two, three or more?”In defending his creation, he pronouncesa genuine declaration of love for this legendary complication: “The tourbillon is a watchmaking wonder, the quintessence of expertise, perfection itself!” In creating this timepiece, he was driven far more by a love of art than a quest for greater precision; he is well aware that mechanics can no longer compete with even the cheapest smartphone that synchronises itself constantly in its owner’s pocket. Further proof that precision,even if impeccable,is subordinated to poetry in this watchlies in the fact that neither the dial nor thebezel havehour-markers.
The Tourbillon des Tourbillons is thus an artisan’s dream, a sort of ode to watchmaking mastery, a piece that has been more than 10 years in the making, protected by three patents, and initially forgotten in a drawer after the first prototype in 2004, before beingresuscitated by his son Florian andproduced at long last.A watch that the press kit modestly proclaimsto be”the greatest invention of the last century”! And yet there is not the slightest pretension about the Geneva watchmaker, who welcomes us into his workshop at the heart of the Genevan countryside. Nothing but an all-consuming passion for his art and a burning desire to talk about this fascinating watch in great detail.
A multi-faceted life
The idea was born over 10 years ago, on the banks of the Red Sea, whenAntoine Preziusowas looking at the rides on a beach merry-go-roundone day. They were revolving by themselves, attached to a platform that was also turning. Sitting on the sand in this corner of Egypt, he began to doodle his first drafts. “It was the early 2000s, the tourbillon years! I wanted to make a double or triple regulator that would revolve on its own axis,” he recalls. In2004, he filed his patent requests, which were only obtained in 2011, and the first prototype was born. Three tourbillons turning in a carriage at 6 o’clock, housed in an impressive 52 mm case. He christened it the 3volution in a nod to Frank Muller, with whom he’d trainedatwatchmaking school and who had just launched his Evolution 3 with itstri-axial tourbillon.Yet he found the case too big and began to think of moving the mechanism to the centre of the dial. But for this he needed a differential:”That was the most difficult part-how to constantly distribute energy from the double barrel to the three tourbillonsso that all three receive the same energy at the same time from the centre.”In the same year (2004), he created the first models of his future differential using a 3D printer.
Retracing the genesis of the timepiece, he dots around his computer screen which displays a creative mishmash of the many aspects of his multifaceted life: a 3D view of his triple tourbillon,a photo of water damage in his bathroom that he still needs to send to his insurance company, decorative sketches for a bridge and a balance, and photos of his son Florian, with whom he loves to work. “There’s nothing more difficult than designing a differential,” he says.”It’s a huge number of calculations, a mixture of algebra and physics, and we haven’t found a computer program capable of generating an animation.”Toying with a model whose components were produced on a CNC machine, he demonstrates the complexity involved: “We had to calculate the rotation speeds and make sure one tourbillon could stop without affecting the two others.”He found solutions to each problem one by one, even housingwhat he claims to be the smallest ball bearing in the world – barely 1.6 mm in diameter – insidethe differential. The watch has a total of six ballbearings, including an immense one that drives the plate all the way around the 45 mm case.
Each tourbillon revolves on its axis every 60 seconds and does so in harmony with the others, all oscillating at a stable and identical frequency, while the plate itself carries out a complete revolution every 10 minutes. Antoine Preziuso would have preferred 3 minutes to make the mechanical ballet even more visible, but the power reserve – currently around 50 hours – would have suffered too much. Sometimes, you simply have to compromise when chasing your dreams.
Article published in WtheJournal.com