Movement architecture is the first thing I look at in any watch, and it’s why I appreciate the Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière so much. I look for new approaches to old problems, shortcuts not taken, and innovative techniques. This watch is a retrofuturistic museum display case on your wrist, showcasing a beautiful one-minute flying tourbillon. The tourbillon is on full display, nothing is hidden, and (almost) everything is done right.
The tourbillon was invented to compensate for the effects of gravity on a watch. Rotating the balance wheel as it oscillates averages out the negative effects of Earth’s gravity on the hairspring, giving a more even timekeeping rate. It was a novel invention that worked well, but it was difficult to build and assemble, meaning it was only used in a small amount of watches through the years. Today, a tourbillon is mostly unnecessary because we wear watches on our wrist. The wristwatch is constantly being moved through different positions during the day, unlike the pocket watches the tourbillon was invented for. Now, the tourbillon is an exercise in watchmaking virtuosity – the exact type of thing you may want to put in a display case to be admired.
The watch is named aptly. The amount of light (lumière in French) it lets in is incredible; every detail of the tourbillon is visible as it rotates once per minute. Viewing the tourbillon from the side reveals the elevation of the components that comprise the tourbillon. This rarely seen view is fascinating; the Breguet overcoil hairspring can be seen clearly doing its job, supplying the restoring force to the balance wheel at each vibration. Below the balance wheel, we can see the pallet fork locking and unlocking on the escape wheel, whose pinion is meshing with the fixed fourth wheel. This view shows the complexity of the tourbillon in an easy to understand way.
To arrange the movement so that the tourbillon could be displayed without any distractions means that the winding stem and crown had to be relocated to the left side of the watch. This is a bit weird to get used to, but totally worth the final result. The movement is finished in a decidedly non-traditional way. Laser engraved lines give everything an art deco feel, and the ratchet wheels look almost damaskeened. The rest of the finishing is very well done, with circular graining, black polishing, and anglage where appropriate. The dead seconds mechanism is clearly visible in the center of the movement.
With the large viewing windows, it is very difficult to hide any imperfections. Unfortunately there were a few. The tourbillon carriage wheel had visible debris on its rim. In addition, the support post that holds the bottom pivot of the flying tourbillon was not finished to the same quality level as tourbillon. The tourbillon carriage had several locations where sharp internal corners could have been cut, but they were instead rounded. The rounded internal corners do match the the circular aesthetic of other areas in the movement though. It is important to note that the watch I reviewed was a prototype. I am confident that some of these issues will be worked out in the final production models.
There are always issues surrounding revitalizing an old brand for a new watch. The Angelus website is full of marketing trying to link this watch to the old (and great) Angelus watch company. It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I just don’t care. From a technical perspective this watch is crazy, and I love it.