Hands-On: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Retrograde Tourbillon.
This detailed review of the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Retrograde Tourbillon includes live pictures, specification and price.
During Baselworld 2017, I visited Schwarz Etienne, a brand I knew little about beforehand. As a result of my visit, I discovered that the company is vertically integrated, making in-house modular movements and even its own assortiments. Seldom do I discover a company for the first time with such impressive technical prowess.
Recently, I took the opportunity to look around the Schwarz Etienne atelier and learn more about this ‘Manufacture’. The factory is operating-theatre clean and equipped with ultra-modern machinery. Indeed, there are few factories which compare in the sterility stakes. The departments tasked with making hairsprings, produced by sister company E20, exude an air of space-race know-how. Wherever, I looked there was another gleaming machine or flawless component awaiting use.
While touring the impressive facility I surveyed various finished timepieces awaiting dispatch to their fortunate owners. It was whilst admiring a few ‘Roma’ models that my eyes happened upon a gorgeous timepiece with vivid green accents, the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Rétrograde Tourbillon. This timepiece features an ‘irreversible’ tourbillon and, as the name suggests, a retrograde seconds hand. Aware that this was ‘love at first sight’, my adoration soon morphed into a period of ‘hands-on’ association.
An off-centre hour and minutes display occupies the lower portion of the dial. The hour track, marked with Roman numerals, is delivered in eye-catching aventurine green. The centre of the hour and minutes display is open-worked, allowing sight of the bridge below. The rhodium treated hour and minute hands are lined with superluminova and prove simple to read.
The bottom half of the dial area consists of a large bridge adorned with Côtes de Genéve motif. This is merely one example of how Schwarz Etienne has brought the movement to the fore. At 9 o’clock, a micro-rotor resides. Its circular trajectory passes beneath the aforementioned hour and minute display, masterfully playing with depths like an accomplished artist.
At 1 o’clock, the tourbillon seduces onlookers with its unusual anti-clockwise motion, a feature the brand describes as ‘irreversible’.
Located at 11:30, the Petite Seconde Rétrograde, small retrograde seconds, is delivered on an arcing aventurine green plinth. Its left to right trajectory proves hypnotic, especially when the delicate seconds hand reaches ’60’ and jumps left, back to ‘0’.
Schwarz Etienne has masterfully made the movement a focal point of the dial. However, this mechanical voyeurism beautifully coalesces with the various aventurine green accents which charm with their unusual hue.
Surprisingly for a tourbillon, the case is constructed of stainless steel, sidestepping the customary precious metals typical of complicated pieces. Schwarz Etienne does offer a rose gold version of the watch but the steel variant is cheaper, lighter and less prone to scratching. Indeed, it is for these reasons that I favour the steel option.
Measuring 44mm in diameter, the sense of scale is mitigated owing to the stepped bezel and neat lugs.
The case-back features a small aperture revealing a partial glimpse of the gear train and a rear view of the tourbillon at play. Those gears obscured by the solid area of the case-back are depicted on the rear of the case.
The black alligator strap grants a beautiful tactile encounter with the wrist. It features vivid green stitching with an eye-popping green lining. Seldom do straps justify mention but rarely does a strap arrest attention with such profound beauty.
The Calibre TSE PSR 122.00, as stated previously, is a manufacture movement, crafted in-house by Schwarz Etienne. The finissage is excellent with an impressive sandblasted finish to the movement and bridges which are chamfered by hand.
The balance oscillates with a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and the movement contains 40 jewels. Despite being equipped with a tourbillon, usually an energy quaffing complication, the La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Rétrograde Tourbillon has an impressive power reserve of 72 hours.
Schwarz Etienne has produced a visually impressive movement, denoting a degree of competence few can surpass.
The Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Rétrograde Tourbillon is an aesthetically attractive timepiece with wonderful details such as a dial adorned with Côtes de Genève and smatterings of a comely green hue. Beyond its palpable beauty, there is a sense of theatre as the tourbillon rotates counter-clockwise and the retrograde seconds hand jumps left every minute with a magnificent quotient of theatre.
There are other subtle details which enrich the potential ownership proposition. The movement is sublimely sandblasted, acting as a foil for the vivid green dial detail. The bridges are chamfered by hand, an indication that Schwarz Etienne has not turned its back on hand craftsmanship. The movement consumes energy with a parsimonious thirst resulting in an impressive power reserve.
This is a sublime watch from a brand that until recently I had heard little about. This is somewhat surprising as the company has been in continuous operation since 1902. However, having now discovered Schwarz Etienne, I am left very impressed by its competence and intend to follow its future progress.
Model:Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Petite Seconde Rétrograde Tourbillon
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44 mm; height 13.70mm; sapphire crystal to front and aperture on case-back; water resistance 5 ATM (50 metres)
Functions: Hours; minutes; retrograde seconds
Movement: TSE PSR 122.00; Self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 40 jewels; power reserve 72 hours
Strap: Black alligator strap with dark green alligator lining supplied on folding clasp
Price: CHF 58,240 excluding taxes (RRP as at 23.9.2017)
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.