By Jason Heaton
Arnold & Son carries forward its namesake’s legacy of innovation with four new timepieces.
Watchmaking is all about overcoming challenges. Some of these are of a practical nature, such as the effect of gravity on a watch’s accuracy. Others are more aesthetic, like pushing the boundaries of dimensions and materials. The UTTE Skeleton succeeds in both areas.
UTTE, an acronym for Ultra-Thin Tourbillon Escapement, encapsulates much of what’s special about this watch. The tourbillon was invented in the late 1700s to average out the effects of gravity on a watch movement by slowly rotating the entire escapement. They were originally developed for pocket watches, which sat vertically in a man’s waistcoat pocket, but watchmakers continue to incorporate them into wristwatches as an example of their prowess, as well as for the mechanism’s mesmerizing beauty.
Creating a tourbillon is difficult enough; to put one in an ultra-thin, skeletonized watch increases that challenge by orders of magnitude. A tourbillon requires the addition of several complex components and its cage must be sturdy enough to support the additional torque of the rotating “whirlwind.” This is at direct odds with the making of a skeleton watch, whose main aim is the removal of material to expose as much of the movement as possible. But Arnold & Son not only built a skeletonized tourbillon watch, it created the thinnest of its kind. The movement is only 3.3mm thick and once it’s in the case, the finished watch is a mere 8.34mm in height.
Technical accomplishments aside, the UTTE Skeleton is a beautiful watch to behold. Its 42mm rose gold case is well proportioned and provides a handsome showcase for aesthetics inspired by the marine chronometers built by the company’s namesake founder in the late 18th century.
That same nautical heritage is also found in the Eight Day Royal Navy, which places legibility at the fore with its broad hands and oversized seconds counter. A power reserve dial prominently displays the mainspring’s prodigious eight-day autonomy, allowing the wearer to maintain a sufficient level of power to optimize chronometric precision.
The Nebula represents another example of Arnold & Son’s open-working expertise. Instead of removing material from an existing movement, which is how many skeletons are created, the Nebula was designed from the beginning to be a skeleton. This intent is apparent in its harmonized design, which uses the movement bridges themselves as dial elements to conjure an appealing symmetry.
One more challenge accepted and overcome by Arnold & Son’s watchmakers is the design of an accurate moon phase display. The results are found in the HM Double Hemisphere Perpetual Moon, which has a lacquered blue dial that shows the phase of the Moon, in great detail, as it is seen in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. This function will remain accurate for 122 years, at which time the single push of a button will reset it for another 122 years.
An ultra-thin skeleton tourbillon, an eight-day power reserve, and a highly accurate moon phase may seem like the pinnacle of achievement, but for Arnold & Son, rising to new challenges is business as usual.