High-end watch brand Arnold & Son has earned an enviable reputation thanks to its complex, in-house movements and superb finishing. It’s become common knowledge amongst watch aficionados that the brand does not compromise on anything, including price. Now for those who have a few hundred thousand in the bank to spend on an exceptional Constant Force Tourbillon this is obviously not an issue. For the rest of us though it has meant that the more technical pieces from Arnold & Son have largely been out of reach. That was until the brand introduced the Nebula at Baselworld earlier this year. Today we’re taking a hands-on look at this game-changer.
Arnold & Son timepieces are broadly divided into two collections; the Royal Collection and the Instrument Collection. The Nebula belongs to the former, which can be described as modern interpretation of classic English watch-making. Some of the notable pieces within this collection include the TBTE Tourbillon, the HM Double Hemisphere Perpetual Moon and of course the Constant Force Tourbillon. Of these, the Nebula is arguably most close in construction and design to the Constant Force Tourbillon, although as we will see there are some major differences, especially in terms of price.
Offered in your choice of either 18-carat red gold or stainless steel, the 41.5mm (D) x 8.73mm (H) case of the Nebula feels very light and comfortable on the wrist. This is due, at least in part, to the clever case design, which means that although the bezel with crown measures 41.5mm in diameter this tapers down to a caseback that is actually closer to 39mm. As a result the watch literally ‘feels’ smaller on the wrist than it looks. Pair this with a very slim profile of just 8.73mm and you realise just how discreet the Nebula is on the wrist. At least it would be, if it weren’t for its incredible dial architecture.
For those familiar with Arnold & Son the first thing that probably sprung to mind when you saw the Nebula was the TB88. This was one of the first models from the brand that really made collectors sit up and take notice thanks to its complex construction and symmetrical design. Aesthetic similarities aside however the Nebula features a completely new movement – the A&S5101 – created in-house specifically for this timepiece. For us, this is where things start to get really interesting.
The symmetrical, hand-wound movement measures 31.5mm in diameter and boasts a thickness of just 4.04mm. It features two mainspring barrels – visible on the dial side – which combine to offer an impressive 90 hours of power, although unfortunately there’s no power reserve indicator. The movement beats at a slightly slower 3 Hz / 21,600 vph, so you can really enjoy the action of the screwed balance wheel visible at 4 o’clock on the dial side. Opposite is the small seconds indicator, whilst the hours and minutes are shown on the main dial via gold or rhodium-plated faceted hands, depending on which metal you choose.
As you can see from the photos the A&S5101 is fully skeletonized. Hold it up to the light and you can clearly see through from one side to the other. On the wrist though, it’s another matter altogether. Typically speaking one of the obvious drawbacks with skeletonized watches is that, depending on how hairy the wrist underneath, they don’t always look that attractive on. That’s the reason why Arnold & Son put a smoked sapphire crystal back on its much-adored Time Pyramid back in 2015. With the Nebula however there’s no such issue. Although it’s obvious on or off the wrist that this is a skeletonized movement, the well-thought out design means that when it’s on the wrist you can barely see any of the skin beneath. A minor detail perhaps but one that makes a pretty major difference in our humble opinion.
Best of all though, as with all Arnold & Son pieces, is the level of finishing; NAC-treated bridges, black ADLC-treated main plate (stainless steel model) or palladium-treated bridges and NAC-treated main plate (red gold model), chamfered bridges with polished edges and brushed surfaces, chamfered wheels with A&S three-spoke design and polished edges, gold chatons, screws with bevelled and mirror-polished head. Despite the lower price point no compromises have been made in this regard and so this offers an excellent opportunity to add a piece to your collection with true haute horology finishing, even if it doesn’t feature any complications.
Neither version is a limited edition as such but given Arnold & Son’s small annual production, not too many will be made each year in either metal. Pricing is set CHF 13,500 Swiss Francs / 14,500 USD for the stainless steel edition and CHF 24,800 Swiss Francs / 25,750 USD for the red gold edition. Both are available now. www.arnoldandson.com
Specifications of the Arnold & Son Nebula
- Case: 41.5mm in diameter by 8.73mm tick – stainless steel or 18k red gold – unidirectional rotating bezel – sapphire crystal on both sides (front with double anti-reflective coating) – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Manufacture Arnold & Son calibre A&S5101, fully skeletonized and symmetrical, hand-wound, 24 jewels, two mainspring barrels, screwed balance wheel, power reserve 90 h, 21,600 vph (3Hz), adjusted to 5 position.
- Movement decoration: NAC-treated bridges and black ADLC-treated main plate (stainless steel model) or palladium-treated bridges and NAC-treated main plate (red gold model) with haute horlogerie finishing, chamfered bridges with polished edges and brushed surfaces, chamfered wheels with A&S three-spoke design and polished edges, gold chatons, screws with bevelled and mirror-polished head
- Strap: hand-aged anthracite calf leather (stainless steel model), hand-stitched brown or black alligator leather (red gold model)
- Reference: Ref. 1NEAR.S01A.D135A (red gold) and Ref. 1NEAS.B01A.D134A (steel model)