Sunday, March 18, 2012

Watch in-depth: Perrelet Turbine

This article is all about the Perrelet Turbine.

Perrelet owes its name to the 18th century watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet (who happens to be credited with inventing the modern automatic movement, among other things). The company was revived a few years ago and is now producing a variety of watches.

Despite the historically significant name (complete with "1777" written beneath it) featuring proudly on the front, there's nothing retro or classic about the Turbine. At a glance, the Turbine seems to be quite a basic watch: three hands and no complications other than a gimmicky dial. However, there's more to it than that. Let's start with what's underneath that turbine.

The origins for the turbine lie in Perrelet's Double Rotor. The Double Rotor was designed (or at least patented) seventeen years ago and has become somewhat of a signature complication for the brand. The movement (Calibre P-181) features - as you may have already deduced from the name - two rotors: one at the back and an additional rotor on the front. For the first Turbine model (released in 2009) Perrelet used the Double Rotor principle, but replaced the front rotor with a turbine, consisting of twelve titanium blades. Later on they dissociated the turbine and the back rotor in order to make the effect more visually appealing.

If you get a chance to pick up a Turbine, you'll immediately notice that this is by no means a mere toy. It feels very solid and has a certain vibe of quality about it. The watches are finished with great attention to detail and the same can be said for the movement, visible through the display back. I also quite like the way they've integrated the crown into the case design.

Despite it's relatively recent release date, Perrelet has already released many different versions. The standard models come in a choice of DLC-coated steel, titanium or even rose gold. There are also different colors available for the dial, hands and numbers.

In addition to the regular models, there are a few special editions. First up, there's the America (Ref. A4015/1, 777 pieces), a Turbine XL with stylistic references to the Stars and Stripes. Next there is the 007 License to Play, that has absolutely nothing to do with a certain British spy. Seriously, it hasn't; it's just a Turbine with some gold accents. Maybe the distinct lack of anything James Bond related is why the watch is now know as the Playing with Fire model (Ref. A8008/1, produced in a limited quantity of 888). It doesn't contain actual fire, as that would be impractical and will ultimately effect the watch's longevity. What is does have, is gold. If however, you find the Playing with Fire to be 'not quite gold enough', perhaps the Turbine XL Gold (limited to 77 pieces, Ref. A3030/1) will be to your taste. It features a rose gold case and gold turbine blades.

For those who want a Turbine, but are put off by the lack of playing cards on the dial, the Turbine Poker is the obvious choice. They made three versions (Ref. A4018/1,2 or 3), each with different cards on the dial.

Last but not least, the Erotic (eight versions, limited to 88 pieces each; Ref. A4020/1, 2, 3 or 4 and Ref. A4021/1, 2, 3 or 4). For the Erotic, Perrelet took four hentai images and placed them underneath the turbine. This was meant as an homage to the tradition of watchmakers engraving erotic images on watches. The thing is, these images were usually engraved on the back of an otherwise perfectly normal looking timepiece so only the owner would know it was there. Not stuck on the front of an already very eye catching watch. Since the image is only visible when the blades are spinning, wearing a Turbine Erotic means you have no choice but to keep your arm perfectly still in situations where you might not want to be seen with a piece of hentai strapped to your wrist. Which I guess would be pretty much any situation.

With the standard Turbine measuring in at a measly 44mm (which is still large compared to the impossibly small 41mm Turbine XS), I can understand why Perrelet felt the need to introduce the 50mm Turbine XL. Oddly enough, the bulky case shape and large diameter don't make the Turbine XL uncomfortably big. I wouldn't go as far as saying you barely notice the watch at all when you're wearing it, but it's really not as bad as the figures might suggest. That being said, walking around wearing a 50mm watch with a spinning turbine on the front will certainly attract some attention.

At Baselworld 2012, Perrelet announced the 47.5mm Turbine Diver. Based on the Turbine platform, it features eleven curved blades (like a propellor) spinning over a dial covered entirely in SuperLuminova. Another new feature is a rotating bezel, because let's face it - the regular Turbine didn't feature enough movable parts on the dial. Unfortunately, creating a new case capable of withstanding the pressure at 300m meant they've had to move the crown. It's no longer subtly integrated into the case itself, but quite visible at the 10 'o clock position. I know it's a bit odd criticizing a watch for having a protruding crown, but the way they hide the crown on the regular Turbine is one of its coolest features.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Turbine models. That has a lot to do with the fact that underneath the spinning blades you'll find a very serious watch. Given that in the past three years, they've released three sizes (available in different colors and materials), a diver and five limited editions I'm looking forward to what they're going to come up with next.

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