Just a few years ago, TAG Heuer shocked the industry with the Carrera Heuer-02T Chronograph, the “cheapest” Swiss tourbillon at the time. Just shy of CHF 15,000, nothing outside of the Asian market could touch it. Borrowing from the Carrera Heuer-01 case, it was sporty and quite controversial. Let’s say a few Swiss giants weren’t too pleased by the low price. Horage, a ten-year-old brand based in Biel, Switzerland, has now undercut TAG Heuer by almost CHF 8,000 with the Tourbillon 1. What is this sorcery, you ask? Let’s take a closer look.
How is it possible to produce a Swiss-made flying tourbillon, with the quality expected from the watchmaking capital, for less than half of what TAG Heuer achieved? Technology, experience and ingenuity, coupled with a clever pre-order campaign. The watches are limited to pre-orders with no stock available afterwards, helping to optimize production while directly funding every piece made – a sort of souscription program. This exclusivity, ability to customize and, of course, price have made it quite popular among watch enthusiasts. Wait, customization? You have the choice of either polished or brushed stainless steel or 18k gold cases, multiple skeletonized dial colours and eight different straps. Not fully bespoke, but still an impressive range of options for such a complex, attainable piece. And that solid 18k gold case adds just CHF 3,500 to the price. Absolutely nothing is “artificially” inflated, which is deliberately the theme here.
The case comes in at 41mm in diameter (including the bezel) and 11.8mm in height. You again have the choice of 904L stainless steel (a Rolex favourite) or 18k gold, polished or brushed, and the domed sapphire crystal has multiple layers of anti-reflective coating. Horage is printed on the underside of the crystal for modern yet subtle branding. The dial is composed of a brushed grid with open and closed “windows” revealing either the skeletonized movement or a recessed bead-blasted texture, and it was inspired by the brand’s logo.
All edges are bevelled at a 30-degree angle and polished. These dial plates are CNC-machined to keep costs in check, but are well-finished and cover both the front and back of the movement. Five colour options include silver, gold, grey, blue PVD or a blue/grey combination. The sword-style hour and minute hands have lume inserts and an outer minute track has applied indices every five minutes. Interestingly (and with a dash of humour), Horage chose to have HAND MADE printed at the bottom of the track instead of SWISS MADE, which is engraved on the rear grid and visible through the exhibition caseback. The case is water-resistant to 100 metres.
The flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock sits within a large 14mm aperture and immediately demands your attention. A clear view of the mainspring at the top acts as a rough power reserve indicator, while various gears peer through the open grid windows. Although Horage produces a movement in-house, the K1, it purchased the Tourbillon 1 calibre from Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The company has vast experience with high-end calibres and tourbillons, and Horage contributed its silicon escapement geometry to the design. In fact, the company was contracted by La Joux-Perret prior to this project to engineer silicon components for its movements. The hand-wound K-TOU Tourbillon calibre has 21 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 72-hour power reserve. Many components were CNC-machined to again keep costs down, but like the dial grids, they’re well-executed and finished. Accuracy is typical of a Swiss tourbillon with chronometer specs, but for an official COSC certification, it’s CHF 300 more to cover preparation and 3rd-party costs.
Eight strap options include seven leather – two textures of black, dark blue, British racing green, russet, brown and white – and a non-leather allure blue. When ordering, you can mix and match dial colours, case materials and finishing, and these eight straps. A relative few will have a Horage Tourbillon 1 due to the limited production and the ones produced will likely differ aesthetically given the range of options. Affordable exclusivity defined. There are two pre-order campaigns with the initial period ending on May 1st. These early-bird orders retail for CHF 6,990, a staggeringly low price for a proper Swiss flying tourbillon. Add CHF 3,500 for an 18k gold case and CHF 300 for COSC certification. The second period starts in June for CHF 7,450. For more information and to place an order, visit the brand’s website.