Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix "Pietersite"
Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix ”Pietersite”
- Alligator leather strap
- 42 mm case
- Limited edition
- 30 meters water resistance
Arnold & Son Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix
The stone behind the legend
By merging mineral with myth, Arnold & Son is adding a new dimension to its thinnest tourbillon. The five versions of the Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix, each released as an edition of five pieces, feature dials made from rarely used varieties of hardstone. Their structure, colour and richness serve as a backdrop for the two legendary creatures as they dance around their prized pearl.
Off-centred dials can be found on several models from the Arnold & Son collections. This arrangement is both the historical heritage of the marine chronometers created by John Arnold in the 18th century and a consequence of the mechanical structure of Arnold & Son’s manufacture calibres. A fortunate consequence of this arrangement is that it naturally lends itself to artistic expression. Arnold & Son has produced a series of 25 pieces, based on its Ultrathin Tourbillon model, that pair figures from Chinese mythology with the best Swiss expertise.
Miniature works of art
Arnold & Son references the myth of the Dragon and the Phoenix. These fantastic creatures were neighbours who decided to make a pearl together, one using its talons, the other its teeth. The jewel was the extraordinary product of their equally impressive magic powers. Stolen by the mother of the Jade Emperor, it fell down from the heavens and the animals rushed to catch it in mid-air. This pearl of wisdom and fertility is the essence of the Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix tale. The two beasts are depicted by two expressive, precious finely worked miniature sculptures curled up on either side of the dial. Complete with scales, feathers, spurs, teeth, beak and mane, they are entirely crafted from solid rose gold and engraved by hand. In the dragon’s claws is the pearl, made from mother-of-pearl. The level of detail is extraordinary, all the more so as these two animals are only around 2 cm long. In the background, Arnold & Son introduces colour and substance: the stone.
Products of geology
Each of the five Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix models features a dial made from a different hardstone. Bronzite, Eudialyte, Marcassite, Pietersite and Verdite are coloured minerals with deep surface effects, but are little known and rarely used in watchmaking. Arnold & Son chose these varieties of hardstone for their evocative properties. In Bronzite, pearlescent, red and black inclusions stand out against predominant beige tones. Black and grey Marcassite is scattered with outgrowths like stones emerging from a flat landscape. The deep blue grey of Pietersite is crossed by expansive iridescent clouds. Verdite, meanwhile, reveals a bright, shifting green. Lastly, intense Eudialyte contains gradients of purple opposing mottled white veins.
Each of these versions comes with a large-scaled alligator skin strap that matches the dial, paired with 18-carat gold thread topstitching. The strap attaches to a 5N red gold case measuring 42 mm in diameter and 8.60 mm thick. This thinness is all the more remarkable as the Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix models incorporate a tourbillon calibre. It simultaneously offers accurate timekeeping, a refined skeletonised structure, mechanical nobility and, for good measure, a symmetrical architecture. The symmetry of the pieces even extends to the domed sections: the skeletonised tourbillon bridge slightly protrudes from the dial, level with the off-centred dial, which is also domed. Meanwhile the mythical creatures carved from gold balance out the design horizontally. The precise proportions, the dynamics and the composition are the product of a keen aesthetic and mechanical sense.
Beneath the rare stone dials lies the A&S8200 calibre. Measuring 2.97 mm thick, it is one of the thinnest to be regulated by a tourbillon. Like all the movements used by Arnold & Son, the A&S8200 calibre was entirely developed, produced, decorated, assembled, adjusted and cased up within the walls of the brand's manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds. This calibre is based on a large barrel with an oscillation frequency of 3 Hz, giving a 90-hour power reserve that is extremely rare for a tourbillon, especially given its thinness. The structure is refined further still by the skeletonised tourbillon bridge and hand engraving on the rear tourbillon bridge. As the light passes through the Ultrathin Tourbillon Dragon & Phoenix, it illuminates the mythological scene and brings the mechanical lacework into the mineral landscape.
- hours, minutes
Calibre: A&S8200, 1 minute flying tourbillon, manual winding
Diameter: 32.00 mm
Height: 2.97 mm
Power reserve: 90 hours
Frequency: 3 Hz / 21,600 vph
main plate: Côtes de Genève stripes radiating from the centre and hand-engraved tourbillon bridge
bridges: polished and chamfered by hand
wheels: circular satin-finished
screws: blued and chamfered, mirror-polished heads
tourbillon bridge: skeletonised
rear tourbillon bridge: engraved by hand
tourbillon carriage: satin-finished, polished, and chamfered
counter: white opal
phoenix & dragon: 18-carat rose gold (4N), entirely engraved by hand
- pearl: Pinctada maxima
Material: 18-carat red gold (5N)
Diameter: 42.00 mm
Thickness: 8.60 mm (with crystal)
Crystal: domed sapphire with an anti-reflective coating on both sides
Case back: sapphire crystal
- Water-resistance: 30 metres / 3 ATM
Material: alligator leather hand-stitched with 18-carat red gold (5N) thread
Buckle: pin buckle, 18-carat red gold (5N)
- Pietersite: 1UTAR.Z04A
As a contemporary Swiss watch brand, Arnold & Son continuously reinvents its approach to pay homage to the work of John Arnold, a man who provided solutions to the challenges of his era, notably the accuracy and reliability of timepieces. As a renowned watchmaker, he produced some of the most accurate marine chronometers of the 18th century and won several awards from the Bureau des Longitudes, spurring him on in his research into timekeeping. As an inventor, he filed a number of patents, including one for a compensation balance featuring a bimetallic balance-spiral (1775) and another for a helical balance spring with terminal curves (1782). He also produced simplified chronometer design principles that permitted mass production of these timepieces, a number of which were made available to His Majesty’s Royal Navy, making John Arnold one of its principal suppliers. One of his least known but most significant contributions was the modern definition of the term ‘chronometer’, which today refers to a high-precision timepiece driven by a movement that has passed an accuracy inspection carried out by an official neutral body.
A Fine Watchmaking House stands out for its mastery of the classics. Arnold & Son has based its identity on its ability to produce fine watchmaking complications that are linked to the heritage of John Arnold. These include true seconds (or dead-beat seconds) – a function recalling the escapements of pendulum clocks marking out the seconds – and dual time zones driven by twin regulating organs, which hark back to the original method of maritime positioning. The moon-phase displays also illustrate the brand’s mastery of the classics, while revealing a more unconventional side through the use of large moons in sculpted gold. Lastly, the power reserves of up to eight days offered by Arnold & Son pay homage to marine chronometers, which also benefited from an impressive autonomy.
The twenty or so calibres presented to date by Arnold & Son have all been conceived, designed, developed, machined, decorated, assembled and adjusted by its sister Manufacture, La Joux-Perret. This independence and creativity demonstrate the House’s ability to perpetuate John Arnold’s exceptional inventions.
The style of Arnold & Son timepieces is instantly recognisable. The three-dimensional architecture of their movements, the late-18th-century-style cantilever balance-cocks, the George-V-style bridges, the constant quest for multiaxial symmetry and the artfully crafted guilloché dials go hand-in-hand with openworked components, from a single barrel to the full range of grande complication calibres.
Arnold & Son’s remarkably balanced collections are all produced in limited series and distributed around the world through carefully selected points of sale. They are priced fairly, because excellence is bound to honesty.
As Swiss watches with English roots, they stand out without being ostentatious. Arnold & Son timepieces are a delight for the eyes and the mind, and are aimed at customers who are looking for something unique.
Astronomy, Chronometry and World Time
Arnold & Son's three founding principles
Throughout human history, measuring time has always referred to the stars. It was by observing certain stars and understanding their cycle that the first calendars were established with impressive accuracy. It took several millennia before this precision was enclosed in a timepiece like the ones designed by John Arnold.
The golden age of maritime explorations and discoveries ushered this precision into a new technical ideal – determining longitude at sea. Its immediate corollary was the identification of local time, which changed constantly as the observer moved along an east-west axis. Astronomy, chronometry and what we now call world time are thus inextricably linked within one and the same question, to which John Arnold and his son devoted their lives, their art and their genius.
This is how these three dimensions – astronomy, chronometry and world time – have come to be embodied in the House's contemporary timepieces. Echoes of John Arnold's inventions and preoccupations, these pillars represent the foundations on which the Arnold & Son collections are based.
Chronometry: Be accurate
Rate accuracy, which is known as chronometry, is the key requirement of Arnold & Son's contemporary watchmaking. It is the standard of excellence for its collections, the first condition to be met and constantly checked, whether it is at the forefront or in the background of a watch designed by Arnold & Son. It is the most discreet of a movement's characteristics.
When building an Arnold & Son collection, all the thinking is focused on this chronometry. The manufacture calibres are based on advanced technical fundamentals that are not necessarily the best known. One of them is the choice of small, lightweight balances capable of rapidly returning to their isochronous rate after the latter has been disturbed by inevitable everyday shocks. Another is the routine use of large barrels or even two series-coupled barrels to store the energy required for the movement to function. They consequently provide Arnold & Son's manual winding calibres with above-average power reserves of 90 hours and more. A third is the particular attention paid to manufacturing the gear trains, roller-burnishing the pinions and polishing the gear teeth, as well as the precision of the machining and therefore the relative positions of the moving parts, a key concept in rate accuracy.
The tourbillon (or the fact of putting the regulating organ in rotation on its axis to best adjust the effects of gravity on the balance and its hairspring) was patented after John Arnold's death, but it was undoubtedly at the heart of his chronometric research and discussions with his friend Abraham-Louis Breguet, who incidentally assembled his first tourbillon on a John Arnold pocket watch in homage to this great watchmaker. Nowadays, the tourbillon has become a must in Arnold & Son collections.
While the tourbillon was not a complication in John Arnold's time, constant force underpinned the design of his marine chronometers. The regularity of the rate of the sprung balance relies on the consistency of the energy that it receives. However, this naturally fluctuates due to the circular and spiral nature of the mainspring contained in the barrel. To achieve a perfectly smooth torque, in other words a constant force, Arnold & Son uses a one-second constant-force mechanism. Housed just before the escapement, it stores up a small but always equal amount of energy in a secondary spring, the remontoire. Thus, every second, the sprung balance receives very precisely the same force to power its oscillations. These become more even, thereby creating the conditions for a high-precision rate.
Arnold & Son also works with another of John Arnold's historical chronometry indicators: deadbeat seconds, a mechanism that was indispensable to navigators at the time for calculating longitude. This mechanism advances one step each second, rather than six or eight smaller jumps in sync with the frequency of the balance. Instead of the term deadbeat seconds, Arnold & Son prefers a name whose very sound means accuracy: “true beat second”. Its jump is a signature of John Arnold's marine chronometers and a complication that is still alive and well in the House's collections.
Astronomy: Under the sky
The Pole Star, Southern Cross, astrolabes and sextant: measuring time has relied on the recurrence of astronomical phenomena in order to find long, reliable points of reference there that can be used under any conditions. The fruit of the human ingenuity, patience and dedication of countless observers and astronomers from every culture, these markers of cyclical time are foundational for Arnold & Son watchmaking.
Astronomical complications are a signature of Arnold & Son collections, with the moon as the heavenly body of choice, main subject and major inspiration. The distinctive feature of the Brand's moon phase timepieces is that they feature “astronomical” display precision as a matter of course. This term corresponds to an accumulated one-day deviation in the moon phase display every 122 years. Since setting this complication requires great finesse, the Arnold & Son moons generally have a double display with a secondary indicator on the case back next to the movement. This extremely rare display bears witness to Arnold & Son's involvement in all types of development and reflects its favoured themes, which are as much chronometric as astronomical.
Over and above their precision, Arnold & Son's moon phases attract all the light, either with a large moon opening up over half the dial, or with a 12-mm three-dimensional rotating moon, making it the largest of all moons. Whether in two or three dimensions, the moon is always treated as a small work of artistic craftsmanship, composed of materials that are rare in watchmaking such as marble or Paraíba tourmaline, or delicate such as mother-of-pearl, meteorite or aventurine glass. The Arnold & Son moon also shines at night, often with a subtle addition of luminescent material.
World Time: Here, elsewhere, everywhere
With ocean navigation, humankind divided up the world and invented longitudes, which were calculated by comparing the local time, observed using the sun, and the time at a starting point, kept by an extremely reliable timepiece. John Arnold was one of the leading suppliers of chronometers to the British Navy. He was the one who successfully improved the reliability and simplified the production of these indispensable marine chronometers, so much so that he became a benchmark among great explorers such as James Cook and later Dr David Livingstone. The indication of several time zones is therefore integral to Arnold & Son's watchmaking identity.
As this navigation was itself inseparable from cartography, for this world time complication Arnold & Son has chosen to depict a three-dimensional terrestrial hemisphere, making it possible to tell what time it is at any point.
In parallel to this graphic vision, Arnold & Son has developed a second approach to the time elsewhere in the world: with a double tourbillon featuring two distinct rotating regulating organs, making it possible to follow time zones offset by 15, 30 or 45 minutes compared to a full hour – a freedom in terms of setting that remains extremely rare.
Once again, and because this double display is based on a profoundly chronometric complication, Arnold & Son’s fundamental principles are interwoven. One never advances alone; there are always two – if not three – together. This is how a pillar's strength is measured: it relies on the next one, creating the conditions for a solidity that stands the test of time.