This article was originally published in September 2003 now updated with new information.
(The beautiful Platinum 2 Tourbillon. The tourbillon cage viewed from the sapphire case-back.)
Before actually seeing the Jaeger-LeCoultre Platinum 2 Tourbillon. I was somewhat skeptical and jotted down my cynicism in my mind like so:
- Why not XGT size? Too lazy to design a new and bigger XGT size Tourbillon?
- In a year of so many Tourbillons, who needs another?
- JLC will actually produce 500 Tourbillons in 2 years, probably more than all the other manufacturers combined, in the same period of time. A disturbing thought.
(Jaeger-LeCoultre Platinum 2 Tourbillon, Tourbillon, Power Reserve with a solid gold movement)
JLC created an exceptional Tourbillon calibre 828 in 1993. They managed to squeeze probably the first rectangular Tourbillon movement into a relatively small Grand Taille Reverso case. At a mere volume of around 3cm3, it is probably the smallest- shaped Tourbillon movement even today and it continues to impress the industry after the now legendary 60eme.
(The 1993 calibre 828, a tourbillon in a rectangular Grande Taille Reverso case!)
Platinum is the hardest precious material to machine, and Jaeger-LeCoultre successfully used this metal to make the complicated Platinum 1 Reverso watch case in 2001, which also featured a white gold skeletonised movement.
Ten Years After, the Platinum 2 Tourbillon this year is a natural product evolution, a Platinum Grand Taille Reverso Tourbillon, featuring the new Calibre 848 with full 18ct solid white gold Bridges and plates (small parts are rhodium plated except for the balance which is gold plated).
(Drawing of the Calibre 848 Tourbillon carriage. The carriage alone is made from some 70 parts, weighs only 0.25g. A technical performance in terms of lightness and shape)
The idea of the Platinum 2 Tourbillon was initiated by the JLC Product Development Division, which was led by Stephan Belmont. After consultation with the design department, the required technical specifications were handed to Technical Design Engineer, Ms. Rachel Torresani.
(Rachel Torresani, another impressive project after Master and Master Compressor Geographic.)
Rachel imagined a movement which had to be in harmony with the case, and the tourbillon cage had to reveal itself in all glory. With the help of Computer Assisted Design, Rachel still works with her skilful hands and manually drew the outlines of this new model, which was launched as a limited edition of 500 pieces.
Initially, Rachel designed the tourbillon with a skeletonized Barrel Bridge and embroidered so that some of the wheels could be seen from the dial (see photo one). The idea was subsequently dropped. The management felt that effort should be put into making a great, understated Tourbillon and there is a need to keep the traditional line purity without the appearance of a conscious effort to over-decorate.
(Original Rachel design, Photo 1.)
At one stage, Chief Designer Janek Deleskiewicz wanted a partially opened dial so that owners could dive into the movement. The wheels and the disc for the power reserve would become visible with the jewels and blued screws sparkling amidst the wheels. The idea was abandoned for the same reason (see Photo 2).
(Partially opened dial as requested by Janek, photo 2.)
One of the significant modifications is Rachel's decision to put the power reserve indicator on the exact centre of the dial and indicated the same way as the hour and minute hands. Rachel solved the problem by putting in an additional intermediate wheel to bring the rotation away from the sector (See Rachel's diagram).
(Additional intermediate wheel for the Power Reserve, Here is Rachels original diagram.)
In the initial stage, the development team also considered putting the Platinum 2 in a bigger and trendier XGT case, which would be more contemporary and perhaps easier to market. The team finally decided to target purist collectors and devotees who are essentially in pursuit of horological accomplishments and beautiful mechanism, rather than the more fashion-conscious accessory- buyer. Furthermore, it is hoped that this will be the first tourbillon suitable for connoisseurs of both genders.
(Drawings of the Calibre 848 tourbillon cage layout. Note in particular the hand- engraving in the case godrons, politely tracing the outline of the carriage.) )
(The 1946 JLC Calibre 170 Torubillon. If you inspect the 2 photos above, you can tell that the equilibrated aesthetics of calibre 848 are inspired by the 1946 MJLC calibre 170.)
Continuing its tradition of launching a limited edition complication annually is a conscious choice by JLC to bring together the talents of its craftsmen each year. This is in order to rise to a challenge which will then take shape within a Limited Series, delivered over a one to two year period, depending on production constraints.
Having played with and worn the prototype for more than a week, all faults are forgiven and I am now blinded only by the positive attributes of this watch. Let me count the ways:
(Testing the Platinum 2 prototype. My dream job.)
Since 1991, Jaeger-LeCoultre is still the only brand that has successfully mastered the art of making solid gold movement. JLC combined their knowledge of metallurgy, gentle heat treatment & cooling process and unique cleaning procedure to be the only one still able to make a reliable solid 18ct gold movement out of this very soft precious metal.
A newly developed Angled Anchor is used in calibre 848 pivoting the balance-wheel. The anchor and escape-wheel form an angle of 80 degrees. This innovative layout allows more space and ensures that the balance axis is at the tourbillon axis while supporting the seconds hand.
(A regular anchor.)
(An angled anchor.)
The tourbillon carriage houses a balance-wheel with 18 screws, following the purist's tradition. The even number of screws ensures a perfect equilibrium. Four cuttings with threading of only 0.075mm, equivalent to the size of a single hair symmetrically complete the balance-wheel in order to be able to house complementary screws to increase the inertia when necessary.
(The balance-wheel. Note the labelled thread cuttings.)
The calibre 848 with 204 pars and weighing a mere 23g is a genuine gem of craftsmanship. The new "cotes Soleillees" pattern radiating around the tourbillon carriage is a sight to behold. This exquisite movement finishing was never seen in a JLC before. I can safely declare that it is now a Tourbillon finished to the top level and still with a JLC sticker price.
I also like the movement engravings with ink finish, not a particular technical challenge, but pleasantly complementary to the movement aesthetic.
The pointer-type power-reserve display in the centre of the dial is unconventional and initially, a little awkward- looking. It can be hidden behind the minute or even the hour hand at times. It took me just 3 minutes to realize that this power-reserve position is exceedingly rare for a tourbillon. The look does grow on you eventually.
The two-tone ruthenium-grey and silvered shade solid gold dial is also of exceptional quality. Understated, but classy.
Two tests were carried out on all Platinum 2s. The first one guarantees that the carriage is balanced when in all 6 different positions (4 vertical and 2 horizontal), simulating regular wear and tear. The second test ensures that the tourbillon cage will run smoothly and completes one rotation in exactly 60 seconds. This test is performed in 2 horizontal and one vertical positions.
The most impressive aspect of this watch is its ability to be as humble as you like it when wearing the dial up, which has the appearance of a basic watch or to show the movement side with the amazing, fully- decorated tourbillon cage.
(All plates, bridges and dials in solid 18k white gold, all non- gold screws and gears are rhodium- plated, except for the yellow gold- plated balance wheel, to highlight the Tourbillon carriage. Blued steel screws, ink- finished engraving, 21600vph frequency, power reserve of 45 hours, external dimension of 28.64mm x 23.2mm x 4.9mm.)
The fine additional touch is the delivery of the watch presented in a varnished tulip wood case, internally lined with suede lambskin and complete with watchmaker's loupe and gloves!
In summary, this is an exceptionally beautiful watch with top- class finished movement, a classic looking and understated basic watch when worn dial-up, with a solid (beating) heart of gold (movement) and I have no doubt all skeptics will change their minds when they hold one in their hands.
I leave you with this photo I snapped at one of the Channel News Asia filming sessions, where my favourite TV Presenter Lisa Ang was seen wearing a Platinum 2 Tourbillon. Lisa Ang is a popular, versatile and prolific presenter who has achieved celebrity status in most part of Asia and Middle East.
I include this photograph only because I feel the watch looks great on her. It is not meant to imply that Lisa is directly or indirectly endorsing the Platinum 2 or any other watches.