Monochrome Watches
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The Ultra-Complex Jacob & Co Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

An innovative double retrograde chronograph paired with twin-flying tourbillon regulators

| By Xavier Markl | 6 min read |

Jacob Arabo, Founder and Chairman of Jacob & Co., has formed a vision on watchmaking that is truly unique. His watches are often polarizing designs. But the brand has also the capacity to bring to life some of the most disruptive and impressive developments in the industry. A case in point, the brand’s latest creation in the frame of its partnership with Bugatti is exceptional in many respects. The Jean Bugatti relies on a super-complex technical concept. It is also a new design direction for the brand.

Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron Sapphire Crystal

Announced at Baselworld 2019, the partnership between Bugatti and Jacob & co has already given birth to some spectacular watches based on the Epic X Chrono, the Twin Turbo or the Twin Turbo Furious. And naturally, there is the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. This tribute to the eponymous Supercar, inspired by its flowing lines, stages a captivating and animated engine block under its sapphire crystal. Designed to reproduce the Bugatti 16-cylinder engine, the Chiron is regulated by a 30º inclined tourbillon. Push the right-hand crown of the timepiece and the engine comes to life – its crankshaft turns and the 16 pistons pump up and down, just like a true engine…

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Jean Bugatti succeeded his father Ettore as the Head of Bugatti and designed some of the brand’s legendary cars such as the Type 57S Atlantic.

Created to honour Jean Bugatti, the latest watch to emerge from this partnership is no less spectacular. The Jacob & Co Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph relies on an impressive technical concept, much more complex than it might appear at first glance. Naturally, it is a double tourbillon and chronograph, which is far from being common. It is presented in a (relatively-speaking) traditional, conservative design – at least for Jacob. But as said, there is much more than meets the eyes…

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

First and foremost, its chronograph display is radically different from anything we’ve seen so far. Gone are the traditional small registers that often make the reading of elapsed time a bit difficult. Instead, the chronograph indications can be read in a unique way providing exceptional legibility while aptly reminding of a dashboard counter. 

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

The elapsed seconds of the chronograph are shown by a pair of retrograde hands at the centre of the dial showing respectively the tens and units. As explained by Jacob & Co: “When the start/stop pusher is activated, the first hand starts moving from 0 to 10. As it reaches 10, it jumps backwards to 0 and starts its course anew while the other hand has jumped forward, from 00 to 01.”

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

The elapsed minutes are displayed digitally on a jumping disc via an aperture between the two tourbillons. In relation to this unique central, double retrograde chronograph display, the indication of the time of the day is relegated at the periphery of the dial with two travelling red pointers.

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

To achieve this feat, the movement of the Jacob & Co Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph relies on two different, dissociated timekeeping bases: one for the chronograph, one for the time indication (such a dual architecture is not new, having been seen for instance TAG Heuer, Montblanc or Zenith). The first one, dedicated to the chronograph, is paced by a high-frequency 5-hertz balance wheel and driven by its own dedicated barrel (2 hours of power reserve). The second one drives the peripheral time indications. It relies on twin-flying tourbillons with a dedicated mechanism averaging their rates (as seen in previous Jacob watches such as the Twin Turbo or the recent Batman-themed ‘Gotham City’). Each tourbillon is driven by its own barrel to ensure 48 hours of power reserve. The three barrels are stacked one next to the other, sharing access to the winding crown. Of course, this is complex and rare enough… but with its revolutionary display, the chronograph mechanism is really the highlight of the Jean Bugatti. It involved a complete redesign of traditional chronograph functions.

The chronograph mechanism of the Jacob & Co Jean Bugatti

To begin with, as the chronograph is a completely independent mechanism. When the chronograph is engaged, a finger blocking the 10th of the second wheel is released to start the mechanism. The start/stop function then consists in blocking the balance wheel driving the chronograph (just like with a stop-second).

The reset function was the main challenge in relation with the retrograde display. After the chronograph is stopped, it consists in resetting the minute disc and second tens hand using traditional heart-shaped cams. The retrograde second unit hand cannot jump backwards regardless of the position it has stopped at. In order to execute the reset, the balance wheel is released for it to slowly continue its course to its final position, and then make its retrograde leap back to the zero position. Once the jump completed, the mechanism is stopped by a finger. Last, the start of the chronograph will propel the mechanism free again.

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

Overall, the hand-wound Jacob & Co. calibre JCFM09 is a large 41.55mm movement that keeps relatively thin at 8.92mm for such a complex movement. It comprises no fewer than 470 components including 92 jewels. The exhibition case back allows discovering the intricate, three-dimensional, open-worked movement, and more specifically the chronograph mechanism with its high-frequency oscillator. In a forest of wheels, springs and levers, the column-wheel and a star-shaped wheel driving the jump of the 30-minute counter disc are visible. So are the long and thin springs stemming symmetrically from each side of the openworked balance bridge that accumulates the energy needed to snap the retrograde hands back to their ‘zero’ position at the appropriate time. 

Jacob & Co. Jean Bugatti Tourbillon Chronograph

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, altogether the styling is striking but the design language is quite different from anything we have seen from Jacob & Co. so far. The Jean Bugatti is relatively speaking more traditional or conservative and comes with a certain retro feel. Unlike the uncategorizable Chiron or Twin Turbo cases, the Jean is presented in a round (46mm) case with a rounded bezel, pump-style pushers and short lugs. Its dial is said to have been inspired by the overall appearance of a 1930s Bugatti roadster grille and headlights. The chronograph display clearly reminds me of a dashboard counter. The red Bugatti logo is emblazoned just above the twin-tourbillons.

The Bugatti Jean by Jacob & Co is presented in two colourways, white dial and rose gold, or blue dial and white gold. It is worn on an alligator leather strap fitted with a gold folding buckle. It is released in two limited editions of 57 watches each. At USD 250,000, it will be out of reach for most of us… but it is less than what we had imagined for such a complex development. We are really looking forward to being able to go hands-on with it and take a look at it in the metal.

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1 response

  1. Fascinating! As amazing as its chronographic interface is how it offers hours and minutes.


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