Event

Polo Tourbillon Relatif dedicated to Venice

A one-of-a-kind creation dedicated to the Torre dell’Orologio
in Venice

The Watch Quote™ - January 29th, 2007



The Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget and the City of the Doges have established close ties. As a patron and an active player in the renovation of the Torre dell’Orologio overlooking St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Piaget has contributed through its traditional know-how to restoring this monument to its former glory. Inaugurated last year after 10 years of meticulous restoration work, the tower and its clock are once again on view for the millions of visitors who come yearly to admire this remarkable symbol of the city’s architectural history.



To commemorate this restoration, the Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget is presenting a one-of-a-kind edition of its Polo Tourbillon Relatif watch. Through this exceptional creation, the watchmaker once again expresses its consistent determination to place technique in the service of aesthetics. Offering a stunning vision and reflecting the magic of perfect equilibrium, this unique model assembled by a single watchmaker marks off the time to the rhythm of the Manufacture-made Calibre 608P, a mechanical hand-wound flying tourbillon movement.

  Enamelling & Engraving


Suspended from the tip of the minute hand, the flying tourbillon carriage appears to be visually disconnected from the base mechanism driving it, naturally concealed beneath the dial. The hours are read off by means of a central disc, while the minute hand takes the carriage spinning with it in its hourly rotation around the dial.

  Closing Up

In an eloquent demonstration of virtuosity and extreme complexity, this mechanism has been adorned in a manner worthy of its noble stature. The white case crafted in white gold – including the bezel, the back and the sides – as well as the dial are decorated with grand feu enamelling. This procedure requires a specific and high level of know-how. Using the champlevé technique, the enamel specialist hand engraves the white gold elements, leaving out only the motifs – the lion, stars, “Pièce unique” signature – that will appear in white gold at the end of the process. The engraved hollows thus become receptacles for the enamel, composed of crushed pigments applied in successive layers with a fine brush and repeatedly fired in an oven heated to over 800°C. Each step entails a risk of seeing the work wiped out by a flaw in the material or a mistake in execution. Once completed, the delicate operations continue with a fine engraving of the white gold motifs – such as the lion – that could not have withstood the firing processes. Hence the necessity of working on a piece that is already enamelled, which implies a further risk of damaging the precious object.
Drawing inspiration from the colour blue and the motifs on the Torre dell’Orologio, the case of this one-of-a-kind creation reveals Piaget’s historical know-how in the art of enamelling. Like the Venetian tower itself, the white gold stars sparkle against a blue sky,the crown is adorned with a stylised sun. On the side of the case, the famous winged lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the city, is engraved in white gold.

This model is a one-of-a-kind creation and an authentic collector's delight.

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Piaget Polo Tourbillon Relatif dedicated to Venice

ref.: G0A31164


Large model
Ref. :G0A31164
18-carat white gold case with grand feu enamelling according to the champlevé technique
Manufacture Piaget 608P mechanical hand-wound tourbillon movement
Movement thickness:3.28 mm
Movement thickness including hand fitting:9.14 mm
Casing diameter:11 1/2''' (ø 25.60 mm)v
Number of jewels:27v
Cadence:21,600 vph
Oscillating organ - diameter of balance:7.75 mm
Approximately 70-hour power reserve
Flying tourbillon:the minute hand, which has its centre of rotation at the centre of the watch, performs one complete rotation per hour. The tourbillon carriage, suspended from the minute hand, spins once per minute on its own axis.
Tourbillon carriage:3 titanium bridges
Weight of the tourbillon carriage:0.2 g
Mainplate, bridges and carriage bevelled and drawn out by hand with a file
Finishing:circular Côtes de Genève, blued screws
18-carat white gold and blue enamelled case-back with “Unique Piece” engraving
Blue alligator leather strap
18-carat white gold folding clasp

Torre dell’orologio in Venice
Piaget patron of the restoration of St. Mark’s Square Tower Clock

The present-day clock left its tower in May, 1997, after 240 years of loyal service. Overseen by the Piaget Manufacture, its restoration was supervised by a Restoration Committee.

The Restoration of the Clock

May 1997 - October 1998

The Restoration Committee is composed of:

M. Yves PIAGETPresident of PIAGET INTERNATIONAL
Mr. Gabriel PIAGETManaging Director of COMPLICATIONS SA, PIAGET La Côte-aux-Fées
Mr. Giandomenico ROMANELLIDirector of the Venice Museums
Mrs. Daniela ANDREOZZIArchitect to the Venice Museums
Mr. Giuseppe BRUSAArt Historian specialist of ancient clocks
Mr. Alberto GORLAMetalcraftsman specialist in ancient clock-Restoration.




Piaget extends its heartfelt gratitude to the Mayor of Venice, M. Massimo Cacciari, for his enthusiastic patronage and support.
The work guidelines were specified in a technical file, a veritable bible of repair operations, prepared by the Piaget Manufacture and the Restoration Committee.
This document describes the condition of the mechanical parts, the repair works to be performed and the mechanical parts to be replaced.
The general aim of this project was to carry out restoration or preservation works, without removing or adding functions to the current system, inherited from its last restoration in 1858.
However, in relation to the power reserve (functioning time), the decision was taken to automate the weight raising system, without affecting the normal functioning of the clock.



These basic principles thus determined restoration choices, and interventions can be broken down briefly into six groups:
  1. Parts which only needed brushing as a surface treatment.
  2. Parts which needed polishing, such as axes and pivots.
  3. Parts which needed repairing, especially worn levers and toothing.
  4. Parts which neededreplacing (of all bearings, runners, intermediate wheels, barrel pinion cylinders).
  5. Existing systems where a study and new operations were required: the digital time mechanism command, and the escapement and suspension of the pendulum wheel.
  6. New systems, i.e. automation of the upward motion of the weights.
The weights are no longer connected to cables, but to chains which pass over modified drums.
They transmit the energy necessary for the clock to function by resting on a chain wheel. The motors are mounted inside the weights. When in neutral position, they descend with them, acting as driving forces. During operation, they sink the chains, always acting as the driving force.
The problem of temporary energy during the rewinding is solved and the chain circuit is simple.




Clock fact sheet

Inventors
  • 1499 clock: Gian Paolo Rainieri
  • 1759 clock: Bartolomeo Ferracina

    Dimensions (cm)
  • main mechanism: 156 x 200 x 280
  • time switcher, zodiac and moon: 240 (diameter)
  • the Magi mechanism: 90 x 79, 5 x 140

    Functions
  • Analog time
  • digital time
  • digital minute
  • phase of the moon
  • sign of the zodiac
  • Alternate striking work, by two hammers
  • hour chiming repeater mechanism
  • 132 strokes mechanism before midday and before midnight (system deactivated in 1916)
  • procession of the 3 Wise Men

    South facade displays
  • hour hand, 24-hour rotation
  • digital hours, changing per hour
  • digital minutes, changing every 5 min.
  • zodiac, phase of the moon

    North facade displays
  • hour hand, 24-hour rotation

    Construction
  • 4 bodies of vertical type, arranged in the shape of a cross

    Driving energy
  • lead weights
  • height of drop of around 15 meters
    (the mass of the weights is determined by calculating density x volume)
  • time mechanism: ~40 [kg]
  • 1st Moor striking mechanism: ~80 [kg]
  • 2nd Moor striking mechanism: ~70 [kg]
  • numerical hours mechanism: ~25 [kg]
  • Magi mechanism: ~100 [kg]
  • 132 strokes mechanism: deactivated

    Power reserve
  • 22 hours for the time movement
  • 20 hours for the Moor striking mechanism
  • 1 ring for the 132 strokes mechanism
  • 1 day for the numerical hours
  • 1 exit for the 3 Wise Men mechanism

    Temporary energy
  • stone on lever fastened to drum toothing

    Escapement
  • cylindrical pin-pallet escapement, rounded impulse surfaces

    Period of 4 [s]
  • Pendulum wheel

    Suspension
  • knife type

    Functioning conditions
  • temperature: between 10 and 30ºC
  • humidity: between 40 and 90%

  • Brief history of the Tower’s successive clocks


    The tower has always housed a clock, the various mechanisms of which were kept in good running order by the “keepers” who resided there.

    1 4 9 9

    The first clock, dating from 1499, was built by Gian Paolo Rainieri and his son Gian Carlo. The clock and its bell tower were built at the same time. This particular example is what is known as an astronomical clock, because on the main face, the moon together with five planets, represented by small golden globes, revolve around the earth. This system, in which the earth is at the centre of the universe, corresponds to the model calculated by the Alexandrian astronomer, Ptolemy.
    This first clock possessed a verge escapement and like all constructions of this type, it necessitated enormous weights to ensure its functioning. Rumour has it that in 1549, in other words 50 years later, the keeper of the clock sold pieces of the mechanism, which caused it to stop, although it is more probable that the clock stopped due to wear on the mechanism (thus corresponding to the normal working life of a clock of that period).

    1 5 5 1

    In 1551, Giuseppe Mazzoleni returned the clock to working order. He carried out large-scale restoration works, or perhaps even installed a new clock. Due to the quality of his work, the clock functioned continuously for over two hundred years.

    1 7 5 9

    Between 1750 and 1759 a new clock was created by Bartolomeo Ferracina. The planets were replaced by the current lunar disc. The crown wheel escapement and folio regulator systems were also replaced by a pendulum oscillator and probably by a Graham escapement (since the pin-pallet escapement was invented by Lepaute in 1753, it is unlikely that Ferracina would have been able to include it in his construction).
    The astronomic signs disappeared, since the know-how of the time would certainly have shown them to be imprecise, to be replaced by the phases of the moon.
    A 132-stroke mechanism at midday and midnight was also installed.
    The Magi mechanism was completely restored.

    1 8 5 8

    In 1858, when the clock was undergoing large-scale repair work, Louis de Lucia:
    • installed a pin-pallet escapement, changed the pendulum, changed the pendulum suspension and changed the ticking frequency
    • created a new mechanism which he placed above the clock and which enabled the hours and minutes to be displayed numerically by means of drums.
    In retrospect, these changes may be judged as less than positive, some even illogical and ineffective.
    The digital display was a novelty for Venice and its inhabitants, and was to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the facade facing St. Marc’s Square.


    Architecture and symbolic chimes

    The present-day clock was installed in Venice’s St. Marc’s square bell tower in 1759, by Bartoloméo Ferracina. He replaced the former astronomical mechanism with a clock that he built, in all likelihood with a “Graham” escapement, which, in turn, was replaced with a pin-pallet escapement one century later.

    The architecture of this clock is exceptional and quite original, for it was built in the shape of a cross.
    Viewed from above, the clock resembles a pendant.
    The impression given is due to the supporting structure of the clockwork mechanism, further reinforced by the positioning of the drums, enormous cylinders also laid out in the shape of a cross.
    It is this double cross construction that lends the mechanism its strength and unique character.

    One has only to study the symbolism to understand what actually inspired the clock-maker at that time. A more classic arrangement, in which the drums are aligned, is easier to build and provides greater access to the mechanism for assembly and maintenance operations. It would appear that a Christianity-inspired aestheticism was the driving force behind Ferracina’s decision to arrange the clock’s elements in the shape of a cross.

    Ferracina also installed an additional mechanism, which strikes 132 times before midday and before midnight. These chimes are symbolic in their attempt to remind us of the work of the two Moors, over the last 12 hours.
    Ferracina was aware that the face readings and the hour chimes solely indicated the moment, thus defining the present. It appears likely that he then attempted to symbolise the passing of time through the chiming mechanism repeater. Using sound, he symbolically captured a fraction of eternity, through a space within which time and work come together.

    The Tower and its displays


    Located in St. Marc’s square, the tower’s lower level forms the obligatory passageway between the harbour and the “Merceria”, and the shortest route through to the Rialto district, underlining the importance of this site.
    Oriented south-north, the southern facade of the tower gives onto St. Marc’s square, while the northern facade faces the Rialto district.
    The southern facade is subdivided into three large panels, the lower being fully occupied by the 4.5 metre diameter face, composed of four concentric sections:

    1. on the outer panel can be seen the hour indications, in Roman numerals from I to XXIIII, in front of which a solar disc traces a 24-hour revolution.
    2. working inwards, the next panel represents a sidereal day, with a crown on which figures the twelve signs of the zodiac.
    3. inside the zodiac crown, there is a disk of approximately 1.5 metres in diameter, representing a lunar day. On this disk there is a sphere, half-gold and half-black, which revolves around its axis, tracing a lunar month, thus representing the phases of the moon.
    4. at the centre of the face is a golden globe symbolising the earth.
    On the panel above the face, a statue of the Virgin Mary sits with the infant Jesus on her lap. There are two doors, one to the left and one to the right of the statue. It is through these doors that the Magi enter to salute the Virgin and Child they can be replaced by two shutters, the one on the right indicating the time in Roman numerals, the one on the left the minutes in Arabic numbers.

    The top panel of the tower is adorned with a winged Lion with the Gospel, St. Marc’s symbol of peace.

    On the terrace surmounting the tower, the bronze statues of the two Moors, each 2.7 metres high, alternately strike the hours and the repetition on a bell of 1.5 metres in diameter.

    There is a second face, 4.4 metres in diameter, on the northern facade, boasting two series of twelve Roman numerals, in front of which a solar disc traces a 24-hour revolution.

    Chronology

    Restoration of the clock and its works

    1493
    Gian Paolo Ranieri, from the Reggio Emilia region, and his son Gian Carlo were hired by the Doge of Venice, Agostino Barbarico, to design a clock for installation in Venice’s St Mark’s Square.

    1st February 1499
    The Tower and the Clock were inaugurated. The Ranieri family became its custodian and repairer.

    1549
    Girolamo Ranieri, the son of Giancarlo, left Venice. His successor sold a few pieces of the mechanism and the clock no longer worked.

    1551
    Giuseppe Mazzoleni, from Padua, repaired the clock.

    1757
    A major restoration was done by Bartolomeo Ferracina, from Bassano, who replaced the original deadbeat escapement mechanism with a pinwheel. The clock became a pendulum clock.

    1858
    Luigi De Lucia performed a second major restoration of the clock, adding a major support to the pendulum mechanism, which was adjusted to indicate the exact time. The clock was decreed the official timekeeper for all the clocks in Venice.

    1916
    Emilio Peratoner was named the repairer-custodian of the Tower. A curfew was set for the City of Venice and the 132 tolls of the bell at noon and midnight were stopped. To this day, the mechanism has never been reactivated.

    1936-1945
    Following the death of Emilio Peratoner, his wife Beatrice took over the job of custodian, until her younger son, Giovanni, could return from prison in Poland.

    1945
    Giovanni Peratoner, clock maker and repairer, took over the family responsibility.

    1950
    Giovanni Peratoner perfected the pendulum’s suspension and performed a general revision of the mechanism which lasted several years.

    1986
    At Giovanni's death, his only son, Alberto, Doctor in Philosophy, took on the responsibility as custodian-repairer.

    1996
    The City of Venice decided to perform a general restoration of the clock and chose Piaget as its partner.

    1997
    Piaget sponsored the restoration of the clock’s mechanism. The firm Cav. Alberto Gorla began disassembling the clockwork, and the main machinery was restored.

    1998
    The hour elements were restored as were the enamel faces (the north and south faces of the clock, hour drums, decorated metal doors), the metal elements (the bronze Moors and the bell) and the polychrome wooden sculptures (The Magi and the Angel with the trumpet).

    September 1998
    The executive restoration project of the tower, drafted by the architects Giorgio Gianighian, Matteo Pandolfo and Alberto Torsello, was approved by municipal resolution no. 1570/111793.
    Disputes with the owners of various buildings neighbouring the Tower blocked the project for a long time.

    1st February 1999
    The Tower celebrated its 500 year birthday. The Clock restaured by Piaget was returned to the city,and exhibated in the Doge’s Palace, until 2006, end of the Tower’s restauration.

    June 2003
    The works of the tower were approved once more.

    October 2003
    A new call for tenders was published by the Direzione degi Affari Generali. May 2004 was set as the delivery date for the works and the beginning of the site assembly operations.

    August-September 2004
    Works began with the creation of the site storage behind the clock tower, the removal of paving stones, excavations and the building of the platform.

    October 2004
    The hanging structure was assembled for use as site offices and the temporary structure of the foreign exchange office. Work began to remove the frames.

    November-December 2004
    Bores were made in the plaster, and endoscopies in the pillars of the portico: the pillars of the portico were reinforced and core boring done in the foundation structure. The vault of the portico was reinforced with steel wedges.

    January-March 2005
    Some internal plaster was removed, completed and restored; the floor structure of the fourth storey and the mezzanine were reinforced. The paint was removed from exposed beams of the mechanism mezzanine of the clock and the drums. The masonry was consolidated using structural reinforcements and the scuci-cuci patching method.

    April-June 2005
    Internal plastering was done, and frames reinstalled. A new mezzanine was built on top of the clock mechanism.

    July-September 2005
    The Venetian and Palladian flooring was restored, in brick and wood. Work on the utilities networks began.

    October 2005
    Work to restore the decorated surfaces began with a few samples for cleaning the marble facades.

    October-December 2005
    The cast iron stairway was restored and painted. The stone elements and the mosaic on the North face were restored. The restoration and reassembly of the stone slab coverings on the fourth and fifth floors was begun. Restoration work on the roof continued.

    January-May 2006
    The Madonna and the lion were restored; the roof parapets and mullions were disassembled and reassembled. The lateral facades and the terraces were restored, and a protective coating applied to the surfaces. In February, reassembly work on the clock and related mechanisms began with the transfer of the entire clockwork from the Doge’s Palace to the Tower.

    27 May 2006
    The Clock Tower is restituted to the city. A spectacular event takes place on The St Mark’s Square. Marco Balich ( famous artistic director of JO Turin ) manage the event.

    A new restoration project by Piaget

    The clock of the Ducal Palace



    After 1,070 years of independence, the Republic of Venice was conquered by Napoleon’s armies in 1797. This put an end to the glowing influence of what had become Europe’s most refined and elegant city in the 18th century, exercising a powerful impact on art, architecture and literary. The Ducal Palace, representing the political, administrative and judicial hub of the Republic, was built between 1340 and 1441. The doge or duke who was elected for life from among the greatest noble families had his residential apartments on the first floor. He was assisted and monitored in his management of the Republic by the Grand Council comprising around 2,000 members. Only the richest families in Venice took part in the political life of the State-City.



    The system of time measurement prevailing at that time in Venice was not merely dependent on the ancient Sant’Alipio clock located at the north-eastern corner of the gigantic Torre dell’Orologio, or to the chimes of the Campanile. At the very heart of political power represented by the Ducal Palace, there were plenty of machines for counting out time. During the reconstruction of the palace after the great fires of the 1570s, a large clock endowed with several functions and various dials was installed to serve the political bodies that convened in various rooms of the palace.
    In the 17th century, with the demolition of the so-called “leaden” outer staircase, the architect Bartolomeo Manopola found an extremely interesting solution. He replaced the staircase by a new façade facing the courtyard, which he transformed into a baroque, eclectic and singular stage setting with a clock as its centrepiece. This clock and its bell (nicknamed “death pangs” because of its “agonizingly” slow ringing) measured off time in this kind of open square which was in fact the inner courtyard of the palace.
    This horological machine was a paragon of its kind in terms of simplicity and quality and its counterweights plumbed the mysterious depths of the Palace to skim over the waters of an antique canal that is now buried underground.



    The restoration operations currently being undertaken by Piaget have uncovered the following inscription engraved on one of the bases of the mechanism : “Johan Slim – July 1614 – Aug.”. This is the name of the clocwmaker (probably a German) who built it. The mechanism now being renovated is thus the original one corresponding to the construction period of the façade.
    But the technical characteristics of this mechanism featured shapes and technical solutions reflecting the work of Bartolomeo Ferraccina (the watchmaker behind the mechanism of the clock in the Torre dell’Orologio): this would of course appear to imply that the latter may have been partially modified half way through the 18th century, while retaining the spaces and passages of the original version, and especially respecting the strange cell suspended behind the dial – one of the main reasons behind the fascination still exercised by the courtyard clock.

    The restoration of the courtyard clock of the Ducal Palace thereby represents an opportunity to renew the fruitful cooperation between the City of Venice and the Maison Piaget, which is thus symbolically submitting its candidacy to be regarded as the “Horologer of Venice”.

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