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Feature: 5 Dream Watches I Wish I Could Own

Cars, cameras, watches, whatever—I’m pretty certain all of us here have sat down with a fat wallet of imaginary cash and wondered what we’d spend it all on. So, why not make it a million dollars and see what we can get?

F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain

Can you imagine that the first watch in this dream collection might be made by a watchmaker that’s only been around as long as The Matrix? Kind of fitting, really, because F. P. Journe is hardly known for being traditional, the legendary grumpus after which the brand is titled known for approaching watchmaking in a particularly off-kilter fashion.

No better is this demonstrated than in the Tourbillon Souverain, which takes one of watchmaking’s most traditional complications and flips it on its head—quite literally. If you’re not familiar with the tourbillon, the concept is actually surprisingly simple: the regulating organ of a mechanical watch, the balance wheel, is very sensitive to gravity. It spins one way and then the other, and so its position relative to gravity can dramatically change a watch’s accuracy. Its why mechanical watches are usually adjusted to the average of five positions.

This was especially problematic in pocket watches because of the angle the balance wheel is at when they sit in a pocket, and so clever-clogs Abraham-Louis Breguet created a fix: the tourbillon. The tourbillon bundled up the entire escapement into a rotating cage that meant that gravity could be applied evenly all the way around. Think of a hog roast on a spit: keep it turning and the piggy gets an even blast of heat.

Problem is, wristwatches don’t sit like pocket watches. If the fire was in front of the piggy’s snout, rotating the spit wouldn’t stop it getting burnt. So, François-Paul Journe thought, why not move the spit as well, point the pig upwards like some kind of bacon-based rocket ship? And that’s the $250,000 solution in the Tourbillon Souverain’s calibre 1519, to flip the tourbillon so its angle of rotation becomes relative to gravity once more, offering an unusual display framed by a mirrored band to be enjoyed from every angle.

Patek Philippe Grand Complications 5270G-001

Every dream collection has to have a Patek Philippe of some sort. It’s just the rules. It would be like a car collection without Ferrari or a camera collection without Leica. More obvious than a billboard with the word “obvious” written on it, for sure, but them’s the rules and I don’t make ‘em.

And if you’re going to have a Patek Philippe, you’ve got to make it one worthy of the name. This is a watchmaker who’s titular partners were brought together over an innovation that literally changed watchmaking forever, that every watch continues to wear to this day: the winding and setting crown.

Think of this Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5270G like a buffet. There isn’t any one standout feature like we had with the F. P. Journe; you get a flavour of everything in equal measure. Now, I usually avoid any kind of buffet restaurant that claims it can accurately realise cuisine from seven different contents like it is actually going to give me the plague, but in the case of the 5270G, you’re in safe hands.

The calibre CH 29-535 PS Q serves up a five-course meal fit to bursting, with each course exquisitely memorable. To start we have the time, of course, elegantly displayed with large leaf hands and a smaller running seconds. To spice things up a bit we then get a chronograph, fully visible in the rear thanks to the lack of automatic winding, feature-rich with the instant-change minute mechanism. As a palate cleanser we get the date, not as a window but a pointer, very traditional. Then we face the complexity of the calendar, two windows up top for day and month, two windows lower down for day/night and leap year. That’s all rounded off by the visual treat that is the moonphase, peeking up above the date hand. At $30,000 a course, that’s a meal to remember!

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst 730.048

So far, we’ve enjoyed watches that celebrate the budget-free bliss of untethered mechanicals, but for our next entrant, the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst, we’re going to see what happens when you spend some of that money on massively labour-intensive, painstaking artistry.

Maybe you’re already familiar with A. Lange & Söhne’s 1815 Tourbillon, a $150,000 display of the finest German watchmaking, very much in keeping with fellow-countryman AMG’s propensity for sticking massive engines in small chassis. What you get is a watch from the svelte and delicate 1815 collection crammed fit to bursting with a zero-reset tourbillon so big and so bulging you half expect the watch to admonish you with a curt, “My hands are up here.”

For an extra $30,000, A. Lange & Söhne will take that same 1815 Tourbillon to the next level of handcrafted insanity. This is the Handwerkskunst edition, A. Lange & Söhne’s most premium collection of finely decorated watches. Translated directly, Handwerkskunst means “artisanship”—as though that didn’t already apply to the “basic” 1815 Tourbillon.

It’s all in the dial, which starts out as a disk of rose gold. Markers, branding and other details are usually applied to the dial for ease, but here instead A. Lange & Söhne chose to play on hard mode by carving them out from the dial instead, by hand, with a very fine and sharp tool called a burin. Flake by flake they chipped away at each dial to reveal the markings. The whole thing is then rhodium plated which is then scraped away from the raised markers to reveal the colour. There’s a reason they could only find the stamina to make thirty.

Richard Mille RM055 AN TI Bubba Watson Asia Edition

Now, this could be a make-or-break statement here, but I’m going to say it anyway: I like Richard Mille. Ever since I first discovered the brand a decade or so ago, I’ve had a secret hankering for one of those instantly recognisable tonneau-shaped cases. Now, before you reach for your pitchfork and demand my head on a plate, I will caveat that by saying I don’t like all Richard Mille watches. I mean, I don’t like all of any brand’s watches, but I wanted to make that clear specifically for Richard Mille so I could show you one I do like, the RM055 Asia Edition.

Based on the 2011 Bubba Watson edition in white, the Asia Edition gets an all-black look trimmed with a hint of gold to frame the calibre RMUL2. Now, when it comes to watchmaking prowess, compared to the others in this group the RM055 just simply and honestly can’t compete—but that’s not why I like it. Up close, an F1 car is no Rolls Royce. It’s basic and barebones, built with a different goal in mind. That’s what the RM055 is like, and just like in F1, the result of that just isn’t possible to appreciate through a screen.

Wear an RM055 and the first thing you come to realise is just how small and snug it is. The case may measure in at nearly 50mm tall and 43mm wide, but the way the whole thing curves on the wrist makes those dimensions meaningless. It doesn’t sit on your wrist like a Submariner might, it becomes part of your wrist. What really makes this apparent is the weight—or, rather, lack of it.

Richard Mille has gone to extreme lengths to make its most sporting watches as lightweight as possible whilst still being able to withstand a golf swing, tennis hit or 200mph crash. The RM055 uses titanium in the case as well as the movement, which by itself weighs just 4.3g, so it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. The lightest watch ever made by the brand weighs just 19g through the use of exotic materials like aluminium, magnesium and even carbon fibre. The cost of this pursuit of lightness is just as expensive as F1: $350,000.

Credor Eichi II

Last, as they say, but not least. Last, but surprisingly, cheapest. And by a long way, because the Japanese-made Credor Eichi II is a fraction of the price of the others at just $50,000—and in my opinion it’s worth every single penny.

Credor is Seiko’s most luxury arm of watchmaking, sitting above even Grand Seiko. Credor has been a domestic brand for a long time but is unknown elsewhere in the world, and the Eichi II is supposed to be a gentle toe-in-the-water to gauge reaction to such a high price point from a Japanese watchmaker. Back home in Japan you can get mega minute repeater Credor’s but here we’re getting something far simpler. Or so it seems.

That seems like a mammoth task to compete in the West with the likes of Swiss watchmaking greats like Patek Philippe and Philippe Dufour, so how did Credor hope to even begin that mammoth task? By inviting none other than Philippe Dufour himself to help establish the Micro Artist Studio. A team of the finest Japanese craftspeople were assembled, each given a task to accomplish with this watch. Whether its hand painting the enamel dial with a brush of a single hair, or hand finishing the Spring Drive calibre 7R14 with a piece of rare wood, Dufour made sure the studio could create watchmaking that rivalled even his.

Funny story, actually: the wood Dufour recommended for the polishing was non-existent in Japan except at a research laboratory growing it for testing, so that became the source for the Micro Artist Studio.

This watch is true, no-holds-barred watchmaking at the finest level imaginable, and to be honest, even at $50,000 it is an absolute bargain, and a perfectly fitting piece to end our imaginary spend of $1m.

If you had $1m to spend, what would you blow it all on? Would you have one insane watch, five like I’ve picked here or would you build a collection of hundreds, even thousands?

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