News October 2006

Westminster Tourbillon

Harry Winston once again strikes an exceptional note…

The Watch Quote™ - October 15th, 2006

Harry Winston opens its new salon in the British capital. To mark this exceptional event and as a playful nod to its new host country, Harry Winston has created an exceptional model issued as a special edition within the Ocean collection: the Westminster Tourbillon. As implied by its name, this watch combines two of the greatest horological complications: the tourbillon and the minute repeater, which chimes the same notes as the clock tower on the Westminster Cathedral.

Encased emotion...

The traditional case of the Ocean collection has been adapted to serve as a resonance chamber for the four cathedral gongs reproducing the Westminster chimes. The case-maker needed to achieve exactly the right thickness for the walls of the case, shaping them to within the nearest millimeter to ensure that the vibration is “correctly” transmitted. It is simply a matter of undulatory physics, although the operation itself is anything but simple. Contrary to a loudspeaker, in which the rendition of a sound is determined by precise criteria, the resonance of a watch gong depends on the internal structure of the timepiece itself, even if the gong sounds perfect on the workbench. Moreover, the transmission of the sound depends on the vibratory properties of the material used - in this case gold, which guarantees excellent sound transmission.
The watchmakers and case-makers therefore needed to combine their skills to ensure an optimal result for the Westminster Tourbillon.

The cathedral gongs of the Westminster Tourbillon

An “ordinary” gong circles the movement just once. The cathedral gong in the Westiminster Tourbillon is wrapped twice around. The longer resonance thus achieved strikes an answering chord in the hearts of connoisseurs and collectors the world over.

The gongs are crafted from Sandvik steel, traditionally chosen by master-watchmakers for its suppleness, its water resistance and its excellent sound transmission properties. The metal rod is drawn out and curved using a special tool. The watchmaker than meticulously shapes it by hand, making sure not to disturb the direction of the atoms. This is a delicate operation, in that any inadvertent slip or undue pressure on the file may destroy the beauty of the gong. This technique thus calls for years of experience and considerable dexterity.

The Westminster Tourbillon houses four cathedral gongs for the four notes in the tune of the Westminster chime. They are fixed around the movement and welded to gong heels. In the case of the Westminster Tourbillon, one of them is directly in contact with the sapphire crystal at 9 o'clock, in order to amplify the sound. In a subtle allusion to the unique function of the watch, this particular gong heel is adorned with a G clef note. When the repeater mechanism is triggered, its four hammers spring into action and strike each quarter exactly like the chime that inspired it.

First quarter: mi do re sol
Half-hour: mi do re sol sol re mi do
Third quarter: mi do re sol sol re mi do mi re do sol
Hour: do mi re sol do re mi do mi do re sol sol re mi do

Cathedral gongs are few and far between today, since they call for a rare degree of mastery and also depend, albeit to a lesser extent, on carefully guarded manufacturing secrets...

A flying tourbillon

Within such a prestigious model as the Westminster Tourbillon, Harry Winston naturally wished to offer an exceptional tourbillon movement. The watch features a “flying” tourbillon, meaning it is not fixed to the plate by a bridge like classic tourbillons. The effect is truly striking, since the carriage appears to be floating above the plates. An unmistakable House symbol, the diamond fixed at the centre of the carriage adds an additional touch of refinement. In addition to being endowed with a 70-hour power reserve, the movement is entirely visible, allowing the wearer to admire the plates and gears, but also and above all the four hammers striking the gongs in time with the passing hours. Finally, the central bridge above the tourbillon is adorned with a cut-out HW logo.

Delivered in an exclusive burr oak presentation box featuring a cover displaying the notes of the first quarter of the chime, the Westminster Tourbillon has been produced in a limited series of eight watches in rose gold, the first of which will be presented at the inauguration of the Harry Winston salon in London, as well as one diamond-set version.

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Tachnical specifications

Name:Westminster Tourbillon, special edition of 8 pieces
Ref. of the model pictured:400/MMTWR45RL
Movement:Mechanical flying tourbillon with Westminster minute repeater,
34 rubies, power reserve of 70 hours, manual winding,
21'600 vibrations/hour
Functions:Hours, minutes, tourbillon, minute repeater with Westminster carillon
Case:Rose gold, diameter 45mm, Sapphire case back
Bracelet:Black alligator strap
Water-resistance:3 ATM (30 meters)

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