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  3. Best New Watches of 2012
December 18, 2012updated Dec 20, 2023


By Chris Boyle


The Mikrogirder chronograph is the fruit of discussions begun four years ago on the need to seriously improve chronograph precision,” TAG Heuer Vice President Guy Sémon recently explained of the Mikrogirder, a “concept” chronograph able to mechanically measure time to the nearest 1/2,000th of a second thanks to a “flying” central chronograph hand that makes 20 revolutions per second around the dial.

It is catapulted along its path by an astonishing frequency of 7.2 million vph (1,000 Hz).

To compare, standard timepieces run at a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz). “With the increase in frequency from 2011’s Mikrograph chronograph to 50 Hz, the Mikrotimer to 500 Hz and the Mikrogirder to 1,000 Hz we aim to [increase the precision of times taken to] 1/100th, 1/1,000th, 1/2,000th [of a second]. With the Mikrotimer, we pushed the conventional mechanical balance spring to its limit. To go further in terms of accuracy and with smaller fractions of time, we had to invent a whole new system.”

Sémon refers to the Mikrogirder’s unprecedented escapement system warranting ten patents. “Its principle is based on the oscillation of vibrating beams modeled on D’Alembert’s solution of the wave equation.” Sémon explains that the results they have gotten are encouraging. “We have already achieved the same levels of accuracy as one gets with a conventional balance spring using a system that is actually quite simple and for which the usual problems of gravity, temperature, strain and so on don’t come into play.” This masterpiece of mechanical engineering is housed in an asymmetric case with the crown positioned at 12 o’clock, a look inspired by Heuer stopwatches of the 1920s, while the dial design reveals Sémon’s interesting escapement system at work.

The Richard Mille RM 056 Felipe Massa Sapphire Tourbillon Split-Seconds Competition Chronograph is not just a watch limited to a total of only five pieces; it is an objet d’art: Though it is fully functional and even boasts a split-seconds chronograph, its 50.5 by 42.7 by 19.25mm case is fully crafted in sapphire crystal. This is an incredible feat: The second-hardest material known to man after diamond can only be worked using diamondtipped tools and is a very brittle material. The process of creating the RM 056’s case took more than 1,000 hours—430 of which were used to pre-cut and shape the mineral components and another 350 of which were needed alone for polishing to make the material dynamically transparent. The case is assembled using 20 titanium spline screws (mechanically best for high-torque applications, though not common in watchmaking) and abrasion-resistant washers crafted in 316L stainless steel. Caliber RMCC1 was also modified, which required redesigning 400 individual components to accommodate the skeletonization, making them more transparent and reducing the caliber’s total weight by 20 percent.

TheJaeger-LeCoultreDuomètreSphérotourbillon boasts the dual-wing movement construction of the entire Duomètre line. Inspired by a Jaeger-LeCoultre pocket watch from 1881, its purpose is to combine what should normally be two movements into one.

One side, complete with its own gear train, is for the watch’s functions, while the other side—also outfitted with its own gear train—solely serves the purpose of accuracy: The two linked mechanisms share an escapement. The ballet of mechanical components includes a visible double-axis spherical tourbillon rotating at a speed of 30 seconds and inclined at 20 degrees. Its 18K pink gold case comes in at an incredibly svelte 42 mm in diameter and 14.1 mm in height, meaning that even the slenderest of wrists can wear this beauty comfortably. And the dial has plenty of room to show off the graceful choreography of the tourbillon’s axes at work on the left side.

Stepan Sarpaneva’s signature smirking moon, a caricature of his own face, is the second most obvious element on the MB&F Moonmachine. The first, of course, is constituted by the domes displaying the time that are so characteristic of the HM3 Frog—from which this timepiece limited to 18 pieces each in natural titanium, black titanium and red gold is derived. “The visible movement at the top of HM3 Frog added a technical aspect that provided a serious counterpoint to the playfulness of the bulging frog-eyed indications,” says Sarpaneva. “In covering the movement, the moon phase and sky hide this and make the timepiece more poetic.”

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The Montblanc TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi- Fréquence 1000 can measure elapsed intervals to the nearest 1/1,000th of a second—and the wearer is able to actually see the results of these miniscule measurements on the dial. When the single button found in the crown of the 47mm white gold case is pushed, a red triangular hand comes to rest within the scale (called the “dashboard”) found on the dial between 11 and 1 o’clock. This is the 1,000th of the second in question.

Menorca-born watchmaker Bartomeu Gomila realized the conception of this monopusher chronograph at Montblanc’s workshop in Villeret under the aegis of technical head and master watchmaker Demetrio Cabiddu. The movement beats at a leisurely 2.5 Hz until the chronograph is activated when it heats up to 50 Hz, which enables it to measure such a small fraction of time. The important power reserve is shown in the cutaway at 3 o’clock. This manually wound timepiece is strictly limited to 36 pieces.

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