For over five hundred years, Geneva has been the home of horology. It was there in 1625 that one of the first watch-makers’ guilds was founded. Craftsmen who wanted to try their hand at this new craft had to join the guild. In doing so, they agreed to adhere to strict quality controls.
Among the most intricate and beautiful watches ever made in the city are Tourbillons. The Tourbillon was developed in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet as an ingenious innovation that overcame the negative effects of gravity on a watch’s measurement. This is achieved by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage.
Currently, only one company in Geneva devotes itself to exclusively crafting Tourbillons. Founded in 2006, Cecil Purnell produces only fifty highly-exclusive watches every year. Its timepieces are highly-crafted and extremely beautiful. As well as this, they are 100% Swiss.
However, Cecil Purnell isn’t the only Swiss company producing high-end Tourbillons. Omega produces a small number of examples of certain models every year. Ariel Adams explains this choice in a comprehensive review of the Omega Tourbillons: “[Omega] like to keep the Tourbillon production workshop open to continue part of the brand’s history and offer something special.” The Omega tourbillons retail for around 80,000 Euro each and are seen as collector’s items for brand aficionados.
While the Omega Tourbillons sell for less than the higher-end Cecil Purnell timepieces (they range from 60 to over 200 thousand Euros), one has to take into account the strength of quality, provenance and craftsmanship that comes with an independent, Geneva-based company aligned with famous horologists like Cedric Grandperret. Tourbillons are not a ‘passion project’ for Cecil Purnell, but the result of years of innovation and dedication.
The Calibre CP3888 demonstrates these qualities more than any other timepiece in the collection. The CP3888 glorifies the craft itself by portraying the landscape of the movement with hand-finished precision. It is set in one of the largest Tourbillon cages, which has the effect of emphasizing these inner workings.
Both Omega and Cecil Purnell Tourbillons are high-quality timepieces. However, Cecil Purnell’s dedication to Tourbillons is apparent when reviewing them against Omega’s offering. Most importantly, Cecil Purnell has perfected the central axis Tourbillon set between two bridges. This, along with other careful innovations, demonstrates how low-output passion projects cannot compete with exclusive dedication to one craft.