Arnold & Son TEC1
Angus Davies reviews the fascinating Arnold & Son TEC1, an incredible timepiece endowed with a myriad of attributes.
This detailed review of the Arnold & Son TEC1 includes live images and specification details.
One aspect of growing up is learning to expect particular items to be found in specific locations. For example, opening a refrigerator, we are accustomed to finding a bottle of milk located inside the door.
A young toddler will acquire this knowledge through experience and, in so doing, make discoveries which initially confer joy. As we become older this joy of discovery inevitably wanes.
A recent ‘hands-on’ encounter with a haute horlogerie creation from Arnold & Son bestowed a wonderful sense of discovery in this middle-aged watch fanatic. Indeed, because the Arnold & Son TEC1 does not conform to convention and is equipped with extraordinary details, it provides an unexpected and enjoyable journey of discovery.
Arnold & Son offer the TEC1 in palladium (950), as well as in 18-carat rose gold (5N). It is the palladium version which I find particularly attractive. The prospective purchaser has a choice of two dial colours with the palladium case, black guilloché (new for 2015) and, my favourite, the silvery-white grained option.
The first aspect of the Arnold & Son TEC1 which does not follow convention is that the tourbillon sits at noon instead of the customary 6 o’clock position. The location of the whirlwind immediately differentiates this watch from many other high-end watches equipped with Breguet’s patented device of 1801.
Not only is the positioning of the tourbillon unusual but the styling and execution also prove very different from what has become accepted as the norm. The elongated tourbillon bridge vaults the escapement and balance wheel and spans the area from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock. Each end of the bridge is arrow tipped, accentuating the hand chamfered bevels. The surface is also satin-finished. This degree of hand finishing distinguishes this timepiece as truly exceptional.
Arnold & Son has blended traditional and modern techniques to delightful effect. The three spokes connected to the tourbillon cage are mirror-polished by time-served hands. Conversely, the motif surrounding the aperture for the tourbillon consists of radiating lines applied to the mainplate, achieved using state of the art laser engraving. This latter element provides another point of differentiation, with said motif sitting on a lower level than the main dial canvas. Indeed, it is this manipulation of depths, together with the numerous curves and facets of the tourbillon, which confers a fascinating myriad of levels, drawing the eyes ever closer to the dial surface.
The main dial canvas is described as ‘silvery-white’ and features a fascinating grained texture which I personally find very appealing.
Arnold & Son has equipped this variant of the TEC1 with gorgeous faceted hands, polished on one side and satin-finished on the other. The hours are expressed with faceted indices which are diamond polished and triangular in shape.
In the lower portion of the dial, positioned above 6 o’clock, a snailed 60-minutes chronograph register resides. A central chronograph seconds hand measures elapsed time in 1/8th of a second integers, giving a clue to the 28,800 vph frequency of the movement. This is a surprisingly sprightly cadence for such a traditionally styled timepiece.
Encircling the dial, is a silver-toned flange, marked with short and long black strokes together with Arabic numerals.
Most chronographs for sale feature numerous subdials but, in this instance, Arnold & Son has subscribed to the notion of ‘less is more’. The resultant dial ensemble is both elegant and user-friendly. Whilst some would-be buyers may be dissuaded by the absence of a 12-hour chronograph register and small seconds, the seemingly simple dial delivers a concise presentation of elapsed time that proves highly intuitive to use.
The Arnold & Son TEC1 is a surprisingly large watch, measuring 45mm in diameter with a thickness of 16.5mm. However, in reality it doesn’t appear quite as large, seeming far more reserved when worn. Indeed, I would suggest the word ‘reserved’ wonderfully categorises the personality of the TEC1. Despite being an obvious exemplar of haute horlogerie, the TEC1 has an unassuming demeanour, tastefully avoiding crass proclamations of wealth. This is a watch which exudes sophistication and exceptionally good taste whilst sidestepping the gauche folly of conspicuous consumption.
Again, in common with the dial, Arnold & Son have suffused the case with delightful flourishes of elevated creation which impart joy with each moment of discovery.
The bezel features a double-step and the caseband is not merely vertical, but exhibits an exquisite curving line, all necessitating time-consuming production. The caseback repeats the double-step treatment, adding another dose of complexity and no doubt keeping the case supplier awake at night.
At first glance, the caseband and lugs appear to exhibit two forms of finish, a gleaming polish to the caseband and a satin-finish to the lugs. However, there is more to this pleasing contrast than initially meets the eye. Unusually, the lugs are equipped with a satin-brushed insert which can be removed should the case require a repolish at some future point. This attention to detail is wonderful, albeit I have no doubt it caused the casemaker to experience further bouts of insomnia.
The push-pieces are capstan-like in form and harness smooth, gentle and flowing lines. The crown is relatively shallow in depth but simple to manipulate, courtesy of its meaningful diameter and fluted grip. However, at no stage does the crown impinge on free movement of the wrist. Finally, the brand’s logo is presented on the vertical face of the crown, depicted in relief.
Arnold & Son is not just any watch company, it is a manufacture. The company has wowed many watch collectors with its ability to design unique movements, in low-numbers, that exhibit both ingenuity and capture some of the essence of 18th and 19th century English pocket watches. A fantastic example of this technical prowess is the movement powering the Arnold & Son TEC1.
The Arnold & Son TEC1 is a technical tour-de-force, harnessing three key elements, namely, a tourbillon, a chronograph and a self-winding movement. Indeed, it is by combining these three elements that this watch truly impresses. Partnering the two complications with an automatic movement presents various technical challenges that would prove beyond the capabilities of many watch companies.
The tourbillon fitted to the Arnold & Son TEC1 makes one full rotation every 60 seconds. Thermally blued screws grace both the tourbillon bridge and the three spokes affixed to the tourbillon cage. Arnold & Son has cleverly created much space around the balance wheel to facilitate a sublime view front to back that showcases the pallet jewels in motion.
Viewing the A&S8305 manufacture calibre via the exhibition caseback, the eyes are rewarded with the wonderful spectacle of the hand-engraved, 22-carat gold oscillating mass. It is not only functional, winding in both directions, but incredibly attractive. The oscillating mass is mounted on seven ceramic ball bearings, mitigating friction and capturing the subtlest of movements from the wearer’s wrist.
My favourite aspect of the TEC1 movement is the column-wheel chronograph. Chronographs are vastly underrated. Economies of scale have meant that many consumers do not appreciate the complexities of creating a chronograph because serial production, together with competition, has led to them being priced at comparatively keen prices. This may strike the casual reader as a bizarre statement, but chronographs are incredibly involved complications to manufacture and are often taken for granted.
The column-wheel chronograph fitted to the TEC1 delivers a creamy action to its push-pieces and, on actuating the chronograph, the central chronograph seconds hand commences its journey with a welcome absence of stutter. This is a class act.
The watch company, based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, has also imbued this movement with a high degree of top-end finishing.
The mainplate is adorned with perlage, typical of many mechanical watches. However, closer inspection reveals each pearl is perfectly formed, overlapping its neighbour precisely and is beautfully defined.
A blued column-wheel is freely disclosed, perfect and regal with a mirror-polished hub gleaming at its core. Côtes de Genève rayonnantes exhibit a smooth surface with each ray-like wave delineated from its neighbour. The bridges are expertly chamfered by hand and this human-input even extends to the satin-finished chronograph levers which again have received the attention of time-served artisan’s hands.
I am sure by now you have deduced that I am truly smitten with the Arnold & Son TEC1. Indeed, it is truly magnificent.
Ultimately, wherever the eyes choose to survey they are rewarded with incredible examples of no-compromise craftsmanship. It is this journey of discovery which bestows such joy and I, for one, would like to experience more of this winsome exemplar of fine watchmaking.
- Model: Arnold & Son TEC1
- Reference: 1CTAG.S01A.C113G
- Case: Palladium 950; diameter 16.50 mm; height 16.50mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; tourbillon; chronograph.
- Movement: A&S8305 manufacture calibre, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 30 jewels; power reserve 55 hours.
- Strap: Black or brown alligator strap.
- Limited Edition: 50 pieces