Watches containing the big hitters in the complication category used to be put in a safe, or buried in the sock drawer, only to be brought out on very select occasions. If this year’s Baselworld is to be believed, this is not the case any more. Now you can complicate your everyday wrist wear thanks to brands putting their more technical movements into cases made of durable materials such as titanium and carbon fibre rather than keeping things precious with gold or platinum.
Obviously TAG Heuer’s incredibly democratic £12,100 tourbillon was created with more relaxed scenarios in mind. Bulgari was also bandying the term “weekend wear” around in reference to its Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater in titanium; though at £180,000 it’s probably not what most people call a casual wearer.
Somewhere in the middle there’s replica Zenith’s El Primero Tourbillon Skeleton, a limited edition version of Zenith’s classic El Primero chronograph, which will be priced at around £36,000 and out later this year.
The El Primero is a Zenith icon. When it was launched onto the market back in 1969, it was, arguably some might say, the first Swiss-made, fully integrated automatic chronograph. It was an impressive show of Zenith’s horological mastery boasting, as it did and still does, a column wheel chronograph and whirring away at a higher than average 36,000vph.
There are many iterations of this design and this skeletonised update with added tourbillon is a future classic.
For starters there’s the minimalistic take on colour – namely there isn’t any at all bar the red on the chronograph hands. It’s a risky strategy that could have rendered the replica watch flat, however the shades of grey actually work together to create a sense of depth, which is enhanced further by the raised lettering used to spell out Zenith and El Primero on opposite sides of the dial.
The absence of colour or extraneous decoration also allows the tourbillon replica watch to take centre, or rather off-centre, stage. Placing it at 11 o’clock rather than 6 o’clock is a bold move, but one that pays off, giving a sense of balance.
The pierced rubber strap highlights the more sporty nature of the design, emphasising that although this is a tourbillon, it is not one to be paired with a dinner suit and bow tie.
The overall effect is Bruce Wayne off duty. It’s the sort of thing he might even take spelunking; should he do such a thing on his weekends off.