By Low Ka Wei
The tiny rotating mechanical cage that mesmerises watch afficionadoes used to put them in a conundrum: how to properly carry such a complication, which normally adds bulk to a watch, in a formal setting. Thankfully, slimming down the tourbillon is a preoccupation of fine watchmakers who, apart from addressing a need, are also keen to showcase their craft through such an endeavour. Here are five of the thinnest tourbillons that are popular.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon (Height: 5mm)
If you want the absolute thinnest you can stop right here. Bulgari started designing the watch around the tourbillon cage which, at 1.95mm, is in fact the same height as the movement. To shave off precious millimetres, pivots are replaced with ball bearings.
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra Thin Automatic Ref. 5377 (Height: 7mm)
The Bulgari is handwound; for an automatic you’d have to step up to this Breguet. And you’d be picking up something of pedigree, as it was Abraham-Louis Breguet who invented the tourbillon in the late 1700s. Available in rose gold or platinum.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon (Height: 8.65mm)
A relative newcomer to haute horology, this Swiss watchmaker has been punching above its weight. This model in particular boasts the thinnest self-winding microrotor flying tourbillon movement. It is beautifully executed, with exquisite finishes for the dial such as black jade in this particular example.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin Tourbillon (Height: 8.85mm)
It’s surprising how easily the crash diet and unfussy dial have turned this sports watch into something that feels completely at home at a gala dinner. Despite its athletic image, AP has in fact a long tradition in creating flat tourbillons, starting with a 5mm-thick automatic, an all-time record holder, back in 1986. This one is manually wound, though.
Piaget Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Ultra-Thin (Height: 10mm)
A round-up of anorexic tourbillons cannot be complete without a mention of Piaget, the self-styled master of ultra-thin. This model is the flagship of a brand that’s also well-known for its dress watches, and is a safe choice; for an even greater impact, opt for the openworked version.
Low Ka Wei – Singapore
Low Ka Wei is a freelance editor and writer. He cut his teeth at men’s lifestyle magazines NewMan and Arena and last helmed luxury lifestyle title The Peak where he was editor from 2009 to 2014.