There are only a handful of watchmakers who perform their art in the oldest and most traditional way, meaning by hand. Beat Haldimann and his team are among the few who still make watches without the help of CNC machines. Haldimann’s collection of timepieces focuses on centrally positioned regulating organs, like the H11 and H12 that we showed you last year. Today we’re going to take a closer look at a unique execution of Haldimann’s first wristwatch, the H1 Flying Central Tourbillon.
I always thought a tourbillon should be a discreet complication, not visible for others, a secret pleasure for the owner of the watch in question. Holes in dials just didn’t appeal to me. That is until Karsten Fräßdorf asked me to ‘test’ his Calibre 360 Spirograph, an oversized wristwatch with a (very) large tourbillon that is visible through a large hole in the dial. After a day on the wrist, I was converted and loved that large hole in the dial staging the massive tourbillon. I loved it and enjoy every moment I lay my eyes on it. This experience made it possible for me to properly enjoy the visual exuberance of the Haldimann H1 Central Tourbillon. Now I’m smitten by the incredible beauty of the huge centrally positioned tourbillon that is finished to perfection by Beat Haldimann.
Beat Haldimann introduced the H1 Flying Central Tourbillon in 2002. Although Haldimann’s H1 Flying Central Tourbillon was not the first wristwatch to present its regulating organ at the centre of the dial (Omega was first, already in 1947 with a one-off, and later as of 1994 with normal production models), it came to the market at the right time.
At that time, only 16 years ago, the market for high-end watches was very different from today. Tourbillon watches, like other complicated mechanical watches, were slowly gaining more interest. After the devastating punch that the arrival of quartz technology caused to the industry, the demand for mechanical watches was low during the late 1970s and 1980s and slowly started gaining more interest in the 1990s. In the years until the 2008 financial crisis, tourbillon watches and other highly complicated watches have become more popular than ever before.
The Haldimann H1 Flying Central Tourbillon
It’s impossible to ignore that large tourbillon, as it gets centre stage in Beat Haldimann’s striking creation. The tourbillon itself has a diameter of 17.8 mm; it would easily befit a large pocket watch. Positioned directly under the tourbillon is an oversized balance wheel measuring 14.5mm in diameter. The entire carriage frame, supported by ball bearings, measures no less than 31.58mm in diameter.
The tourbillon cage, shaped like a lyre, is crafted in stainless steel and finished by hand. Since the cage itself is rather fragile, the hand finishing can only be done by a very experienced watchmaker as a tiny bit of pressure would already change its shape.
With its central position, the tourbillon also serves as a central seconds hand. The hour and minute hands are adorned with a brilliant-cut diamond, hovering over the matte black dial. Usually, watchmakers (and brands) try and keep hands as light as possible for minimal wear and tear and less friction in the gears that drive the hands. The diamonds, close to the tip of both the hour and minute hand certainly add some brilliance to the watch and improve legibility, however, they are also an extra challenge for the watchmaker.
The hands only hover over the outer circumference, and I guess it goes without saying that the shorter hand indicates the hours, while the long hand indicates the minutes.
The flying tourbillon’s oversized balance wheel has a large rotational inertia and swings at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour. It’s important to note that a flying tourbillon requires more energy than a tourbillon with a bridge, let alone a conventional regulating organ. Haldimann’s H1 is equipped with an ingenious triple barrel mechanism to drive the movement. The two horizontally opposed barrels (see photo above) are connected, by gear trains, to either side of the fourth pinion that rises through the centre of the tourbillon; this balances out the lateral forces. The third barrel, positioned opposite the crown, powers the hands.
This construction of three barrels – two to drive the tourbillon and one to drive the hands – is, of course, connected via a clutch. The power delivered to the gear trains is very stable and that ensures optimized inertia.
The three barrels are snailed and the movement’s full plate is frosted. Engraved into the frosted plate is Haldimann’s name and logo, “Flying Central Tourbillon” and the calibre’s name H-ZEN-A.
Haldimann is not your average independent watchmaker. He and his team have a strong focus on traditional watchmaking, there’s a complete absence of CNC machines, and all movement parts are handmade and hand-finished. There are only a handful of watchmakers able to work this way, and knowledgeable and skilled enough to actually craft their watches in such a traditional manner.
All Haldimann’s wristwatches feature a central regulating organ, whether it be a flying central tourbillon, a flying double central escapement (Flying Resonance) hovering over the dial, or the ‘simple’ central regulating organ of H11 and H12. This unique approach and the recognizable style of case, hands, and hour makers set Haldimann’s watches apart. Everything is simply superb, the finishing, the proportions, and despite the exuberant centrally positioned large tourbillon, the style still feels rather discreet.
The Haldimann H1 feels very comfortable on the wrist and this is in large part due to its size, measuring 39mm in diameter and 10mm in height. Due to the toned-down dark grey dial with pitch-black Roman numerals the central flying tourbillon gets the full attention, but as we mentioned, it’s not ostentatious or over-the-top. In some strange way, it still looks sort of low-key and discreet. For comparison, the large tourbillon in my Montres-KF Spirograph, which is not raised above the dial and does not take centre stage, attracts more attention. Beat Haldimann did a splendid job, not only in the flawless execution, the striking finishing but also in finding a way to keep things moderate in the face of complexity. Bravo!
More information through www.haldimann.swiss.