Glashütte Original celebrates the 100th anniversary of Alfred Helwig’s sophisticated flying tourbillon. In true understated Glashütte Original style, the tourbillon is positioned on the reverse of the movement. A watch for connoisseurs, the only hint that there is a tourbillon escapement on the watch is the word ‘tourbillon’ inscribed in the small seconds counter of this remarkably elegant and sober dial. Limited to 25 pieces in 18k rose gold, the final assembly of the watch has been performed by specialists from the Historic Workshop of Glashütte Original housed in the German Watchmaking School of Glashütte.
Alfred Helwig’s Flying Tourbillon
The Saxon town of Glashütte is the cradle of the finest tradition of German watchmaking, and home to the renowned German Watchmaking School founded in 1878. Alfred Helwig (1886-1974) completed his training and taught at the German Watchmaking School of Glashütte for 41 years (the school bears his name). An inspiring teacher, Helwig is the man behind the creation of the flying tourbillon. Abraham-Louis Breguet’s tourbillon escapement, invented around 1781 and patented in 1801, was designed to counter the effects of gravity on the movement of a pocket watch by housing the balance and escapement in a rotating carriage.
In 1920, Helwig produced a spectacular ‘flying’ version of the tourbillon. Unlike a regular tourbillion, which is anchored at both the top and bottom, Helwig developed a cantilevered mechanism anchored on one side only. This meant that the top bridge could be dispensed with and the rotations of the tourbillon admired in all their mesmerising beauty. Known as ‘rotary gear watches’ at the time, Helwig’s flying tourbillons were tested by the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg and achieved excellent results.
Elegance and restraint
Three years ago, Glashütte Original produced a limited edition from the Senator collection dedicated to Alfred Helwig with his flying tourbillon exposed in a prominent aperture at 6 o’clock. This refined 100th-anniversary edition is clearly a watch for connoisseurs and hides the flying tourbillon on the reverse of the movement, a design choice that matches the historic models of Helwig’s era.
The 40mm rose gold case has a slim height of 11.6mm and features an onion crown reminiscent of the crowns you might find on a pocket watch. The stepped bezel frames an exquisitely subtle dial made from solid gold that has been silver-plated by friction. With its classic black railroad minutes chapter ring on the perimeter, the other elements of the dial are ‘lighter’ than other Senator models with their Roman numerals and stylized hands. Baton-style hands and the applied ‘rod’ indices – both crafted in rose gold – lend the watch a refined and restrained elegance.
The small seconds counter at 6 o’clock is slightly recessed and also features a black railroad chapter ring with markings every 10 seconds. A blued steel hand lands squarely on the track, and the only hint that there is more than meets the eye is the inscription ‘tourbillon’ inside the counter.
Turning the watch over reveals the spectacle of the flying tourbillon of manual-winding calibre 54-01. The flying tourbillon is situated below the three-quarter plate with nothing in its immediate vicinity to distract from the spectacle of the balance and escapement revolving around their own axis at 360⁰ per minute. With only a single anchor on the underside (it is “cantilevered”), it appears to be flying in its cage. Decorated with hallmark Glashütte stripes on the three-quarter plate, the overall finishes are impeccable and include blued screws and screw-mounted gold chatons, a sunburst decoration on the barrel as well as polished and bevelled edges. Equipped with the Glashütte Original manufacture manual-winding calibre 54-01, the movement can store a phenomenal 100 hours of power reserve.
The final assembly has been performed by specialists from the Historic Workshop of Glashütte Original who share their premises with the German Watchmaking School, the original site where Alfred Helwig’s taught and pursued his watchmaking dreams.
Availability and price
The Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 comes with a handsome brown Louisiana alligator strap and rose gold pin buckle. It is a limited edition of 25 pieces and retails for EUR 116,970 (incl. VAT).
For more information, please visit glashuette-original.com.