The Angelus U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is an open-worked timepiece equipped with a one-minute flying tourbillon. Unlike some skeleton watches, this timepiece features a Manufacture movement which was always intended to be an open-worked calibre from the outset and, as such, it is imbued with a notable degree of rigidity and lightness. However, ultimately, it is the handsome aesthetics of this watch which make it a mouthwatering horological dish.
I am naturally a very inquisitive person, indeed some people may even describe me as nosy.
Whenever I visit a restaurant I want to observe the food being prepared. I think part of my curiosity relates to the spectacle of seeing mouthwatering dishes being created and observing the theatre of a working kitchen operating at full speed. The sight of seeing trained chefs function under pressure is fascinating. Furthermore, the assault on the senses, with a myriad of smells tickling the nostril hairs along with the cacophony of sounds pervading the atmosphere is an entertaining prospect. Quite simply, a behind the scenes glimpse of a kitchen proves mesmerising.
‘Mesmerising’ is a term I would readily employ when describing the latest offering from Angelus, the Swiss-based practitioner of fine watchmaking, located in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is an amazing composition, continuing the maison’s strategy of crafting high-end watches which expose many components usually hidden from view. Moreover, courtesy of the large sapphire crystals used, every movement part is bathed in light, revealing matchless finishing.
In 2015, Angelus was reborn after a 30 year absence from watchmaking. The inaugural model, the U10 Tourbillon Lumière, featured a rectangular-shaped case with rounded corners and ventured off-piste with its highly unusual design language. Comparatively speaking, the U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is more conservative but continues to confer a breathtaking quotient of originality.
Front of House
The skeletonised hour and minute hands are satin-finished and feature cheerful, red lacquered tips. While the hands prove highly visible in daylight, they are free of luminescent treatment and may prove difficult to read in limited light, an aspect I was unable to discern during our brief time together.
The minute hand spans vast sections of nothingness and its elongated tip floats above the minuterie encircling the dial, aiding read-off. The minuterie is adorned with red minute markings and triangular-shaped markers positioned at each 5-minute integer. Everything proves stylish and highly practical.
However, beyond the display of time, it is the space frame structure, assemblage of wheels and other movement parts which prove so incredibly enchanting. Indeed, it is a steely heart which fails to fall in love with the design of this glorious timepiece.
Most watch movements are composed of various parts, including bridges, being affixed to a main plate. Angelus has been very clever when designing the Manufacture movement A-300 by sandwiching the movement components between two snailed and sandblasted main plates. The result of this innovative approach is a high degree of torsional rigidity. Indeed, while most companies skeletonise an existing movement, this high-end watchmaking company has penned a movement from the ground-up, always intending it to be a skeleton movement.
Torsional rigidity is of critical importance with any watch in order to ensure precision and reliability and, on the face of it, this watch delivers both traits in abundance while proving incredibly light.
Good Enough To Eat
The movement design transcends its customary role of merely powering the watch. In this instance, the Manufacture movement A-300 delivers a mouthwatering spectacle that few horophiles will be able to resist.
Black skeletonised beam-type plates span the movement. Their snailed and sandblasted finish evince a neoteric mien. The hollowed centre sections of each bridge eschew mass and heighten the sense of visual lightness. Moreover, the openworked design of the bridges allows the wearer to see an array of wheels at play.
Each movement component is produced to an exacting standard. The crown wheel is adorned with the brand’s stylised ‘A’ logo and decorated with a sunburst motif. The ratchet wheel is satin finished and the barrel is wonderfully open-worked allowing sight of the mainspring. The design of the gear train wheels echo the bridges, featuring a double-spoke design which not only looks stunning but confers low mass and strength. Indeed, the wheels are described by the maison as ‘Angelus six-spoke design’, suggesting that we can expect to see them feature again on future models.
Sébastien Chaulmontet, Angelus Head of Innovation, is a perfectionist, a trait which becomes apparent wherever you choose to look on the U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton. The setting mechanism is located to the rear of the movement which is contrary to the customary practice of locating it to the front. However, Chaulmontet was keen to optimise the front view of the watch and designed the setting mechanism to appear as compact and handsome as possible. All parts of the mechanism are ‘satin-finished and sand blasted and all edges chamfered and polished by hand’.
Pièce de résistance
The ultimate technical highlight of this watch relates to the one-minute flying tourbillon. The cage consists of 55 parts and helps counter the negative influence gravity has on the rate of escapement.
While this Angelus is a contemporary timepiece, it still upholds the traditions of fine watchmaking. The upper tourbillon cage is mirror-polished and chamfered by hand. Some of the other parts are satin-finished, including the index-assembly, index-assembly cover and lower tourbillon cage bridge. The screws fitted to the upper tourbillon bridge feature beautiful bevelled and mirror-polished heads. The Angelus U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is an example of haute horlogerie par excellence.
As any talented chef will attest, a delicious dish must be exquisitely presented in order to compete with the finest of culinary masterpieces. And so it is for haute horlogerie. While the U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is equipped with a magnificent movement, Angelus has not overlooked the presentation of the watch, housing the Manufacture movement A-300 in an amazing case.
The 42mm grade 5 titanium case employs different levels, is formed of several parts and features a domed sapphire crystal. The bezel gleams with an eye-catching brilliance, sitting adjacent a muted satin finished case band that contrasts charmingly with its understated tone. The titanium lugs are hollowed out, helping to contribute to the low mass of this breathtaking watch. Nestling within the recess of each lug is an Angelus screw with a unique head which facilitates tightening to a pre-determined torque. The attention to detail on this timepiece is superb.
Angelus has also looked to the future and designed the lugs to be removable. This allows the lugs to be refurbished at a later date. While this design aspect makes the watch case more costly to produce, any frustrated owner of a damaged timepiece will be able to attest this is a most useful facility which should not be overlooked.
My favourite watch of 2016 remains the Angelus U30 Tourbillon Rattrapante which is a technical tour de force. However, owing to its incredible complexity, it is regrettably beyond my financial grasp. The U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton is significantly cheaper, proving more accessible with a comparatively modest price of CHF 26,350 (RRP as at 17.11.2016). It shares much in common stylistically with its costlier sibling and is a watch I could realistically contemplate owning.
Angelus has been brave with the styling of this watch, embracing new, thought-provoking aesthetics while upholding the finest standards of finishing synonymous with haute horlogerie. Indeed, it is the spectacle of seeing wonderfully executed components which makes this a very appetising horological dish, capable of inducing salivation in any self-respecting admirer of fine watchmaking.
Model: Angelus U40 Racing Tourbillon Skeleton
Case: Grade 5 titanium; diameter 42mm; height 10mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.