Arnold & Son TB Dragon

The Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P features a true beat seconds, sometimes called a dead-beat seconds, and wonderful artisanal craftsmanship in the form of a 22-carat rose gold dragon. Angus Davies enters the rarefied world of métiers d’art and haute horlogerie finishing.

This detailed review of the Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P includes live images, specification details and pricing. 

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

The Chinese dragon has many meanings, including the promise of good fortune. It therefore seems fitting that a dragon should appear on this artistic timepiece from Arnold & Son as the ultimate owners of these limited edition timepieces will evidently be very fortuitous.

Arnold & Son is a practitioner of haute horlogerie in the watchmaking haven of La Chaux-de-Fonds. It is a manufacture, producing a huge array of both manual and automatic movements, from the comparatively simple to the über complicated. At the heart of the company is a profound talent for crafting artistic timepieces, practising what is termed in horological circles, métiers d’art. Indeed, the maison is well known for its hand engraving and miniature painting.

The enchanting dragon

The TB Dragon features a fascinating depiction of the eponymous creature upon its dial membrane, shining resplendently in 22-carat rose gold. In order to produce the dragon, over 70 hours of hand engraving is necessary to create the initial sculpture. Thereafter, this sculpture provides the basis for the company to produce facsimiles of the dragon, each in 22-carat rose gold, enhanced with ‘hand-painted textures and shades’ in brown lacquer. The dragon is enchanting and invites observers to examine its intricate form at close quarters.

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

The off-centre hours and minutes indication

Positioned adjacent 9 o’clock is an off-centre hours and minutes indication, presented in golden tones on a vista of matt blackness. A neat, slender chapter ring delineates the subdial from the main dial area. The hands feature open-worked tips and interact with Roman numerals to convey the time with perfectly clear diction. The main dial area is a sea of nothingness and provides the perfect foil for the central true beat seconds hand which moves with an andante gait, advancing one distinct step every second. The simplicity of the seconds hand, sometimes termed a dead-beat seconds, belies its complex creation. Observing the hand in motion proffers a hypnotic spectacle.

A befitting case

The 44mm, 18-carat rose gold case is of the 4N variety, conferring a lighter, straw-coloured mien in contrast to the reddish tones found with 5N. The scale of the dial occupies an agreeable area of the wrist, neither proving too large nor too small and according a comfortable fit in the process.

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

Typical of Arnold & Son, the case construction is highly complex. The caseband is curved, proving more challenging to execute than a straight-sided case and includes a ‘double-step middle case and softly curved case back’. The lugs adopt a curving line, tapering downwards as they meet the hand-stitched brown alligator leather strap. The dorsal flank of the case is fitted with a sapphire crystal to accord sight of the self-winding movement within.

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

The manufacture movement, Caliber A&S1603

Powering the functions of the TB Dragon is a self-winding manufacture movement, the Caliber A&S1603. The open-worked oscillating mass winds the mainspring in both directions and rotates on seven ceramic ball bearings, ensuring super smooth operation and resulting in ‘reduced friction and enhanced reliability’. The movement is equipped with a hacking seconds facility, allowing the wearer to synchronise the watch with a reference clock.

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

However, the key strength of this movement is in its beautiful, no-compromise finishing. The movement is rhodium treated and features hand-chamfered bridges. Some of the bridges are decorated with perlage, while other surfaces are adorned Côtes de Genève rayonnantes. The screws are blued with bevelled, mirror-polished heads. Golden engravings inform the wearer that the movement has been set to five positions as well as imparting other information. Every element is distilled to a high, blemish-free standard.

Image of Arnold & Son TB Dragon Ref 1ARAP.B04A.C120P

Closing remarks

Arnold & Son is blessed with a team of talented watchmakers and skilled artisans. Together, the mechanically adept collaborate with artistic souls to create timepieces par excellence. The TB Dragon wonderfully illustrates this creative prowess. It is imbued not only with a handsome dial and fascinating complication in the form of the true beat seconds, but also exalted case construction and a matchless movement.

Ultimately, the majesty of this watch makes it a timepiece to covet and those lucky enough to own one have been smiled upon by the dragon, receiving much good fortune in the process.

Technical specification

  • Model: Arnold & Son TB Dragon
  • Reference: 1ARAP.B04A.C120P
  • Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 44mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; true beat seconds
  • Movement: Manufacture movement A&S6103, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 30 jewels; power reserve 45 hours.
  • Strap: Hand-stitched brown alligator leather strap
  • Price: £26,800 (RRP as at 8.12.2016)
  • Limited Edition: 28 pieces

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