Louis Moinet Space Revolution
The Louis Moinet Space Revolution is a ‘flying satellite double tourbillon’. The hand-wound movement, the Calibre LM104, is endowed with two regulating organs linked by a differential. This remarkable composition features spaceships and tourbillon cages in flight, bestowing a mesmerising spectacle. Mark McArthur-Christie reviews this horological tour de force from Saint-Blaise.
Just across the street from Louis Moinet’s Saint-Blaise atelier is a small café. You can sit outside in the sun, enjoy an espresso and watch the locals stroll by. It would be lovely to know if this is where the idea for the Space Revolution was hatched. It’s hard to believe that anything so wonderfully, joyfully bonkers could have been thought up at a desk or in a meeting room.
But then the Louis Moinet name has been behind plenty of off-the-wall ideas. The original firm’s eponymous founder – a pal and colleague of Breguet’s – built a 30Hz (216,000 vph) watch that was the first chronograph. Yes, 216,000 vph – in an age when people were still boasting to the neighbours about having a faster horse and most watches ran at a fraction of that frequency. It took until 2011 for TAG Heuer to produce a mechanical watch to beat it – the 50Hz (360,000 vph) Mikrograph. Even then, the Mikrograph’s main watch movement ran at a ‘mere’ 4Hz, with only the chrono running at full whack.
It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Moinet’s re-founder, CEO and Creative Director Jean-Marie Schaller, has launched (an appropriate enough term for once) the firm’s Space Revolution watch.
It’s a tough watch to summarise without sounding totally bonkers; an 18ct rose gold and sapphire crystal case holds a twin-barrel movement powering two titanium arms, with each arm holding a flying tourbillon at one end and a tiny spaceship at the other. The two spacecraft orbit above a black dial and around a scale measuring light years. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in the room when that idea got pitched?
It could, in lesser hands, have resulted in the sort of naff-fest that would get you a one-way escort out of polite society. In fact, Moinet’s watchmakers have not only produced a watch that’s fascinating from both a visual and horological angle, they’ve made one that raises a smile.
Although, at a quick glance, the Space Revolution seems conventional – in shape at least – a closer look shows it’s anything but. For a start, the case is more about the sapphire crystal and what’s inside than the metal that holds it in place. There’s just the minimum amount of gold in the 43.5mm diameter case to keep everything together. The lugs are milled away, leaving an arc from just above the strap right across to the crown. On the non-crown side of the case, the cutaway repeats, exposing more of the crystal case. Above each lug the case is cut away too, leaving the lugs as buttresses with just enough metal to safely hold the strap in place.
All of this is because the main event of the Space Revolution is the dial and what’s going on above it. It’s worth the clear all-round view, too.
Anchored to the central hub are two titanium arms running on six ceramic ball bearings, so tiny that an ant would barely break a sweat lifting one. Each arm holds a flying tourbillon at one end, running at 3Hz, with a 0.5g spacecraft positioned opposite. The upper craft, the darker of the two, orbits the dial clockwise once every five minutes. Its opponent, the red ship (both are ceramic painted), runs anticlockwise closer to the dial and takes ten minutes to complete its journey. Meanwhile, at the other end of each arm, spins a differently-designed tourbillon. Those of a certain age may see shades of the Space 1999 Eagle Transporter in one of the two tourbillons. The working mechanism of each is exposed complete with oxidised titanium free-sprung balances and tiny gold regulating weights.
Everything’s circling above a black dial – although, naturally, you have a choice of blacks. You can have a sort of ultra-black with gold spacecraft or a slightly cheerier, sparkling Aventurine (think Omega’s Megaquartz Constellation Stardust, but blacker) with titanium and rhodium ships. In which metal would Sir or Madam like their minute Millennium Falcon?
On a circular plinth, sitting proud of the dial and just underneath the hands, is a tiny slice of a unique meteorite. Moinet says “One is from the Moon, another from Mars, another again from the oldest known rock in the solar system; still another is a fragment containing amino acids…”
Schaller goes on to explain, “To establish the Space Revolution as a landmark creation of its time, we had to set aside all our certainties. In a complete break with the past, the case has been fully redesigned. Made from polished, satin-finished gold, the base supports the sapphire crystal dome, allowing the magic to be admired from the side as well as from above. There’s movement everywhere you look: the two spaceships themselves, of course, plus the two flying tourbillon cages, whose satellites rotate on their own axis once a minute.”
And movement is the key. The whole tiny scene has to be seen moving to really appreciate the smoothness, precision and care that’s gone into its design and making. If you were lucky enough to own one, you’d be absolutely hopeless in meetings. “Huh? Whassat? Sorry, have you seen my new watch? No, really – take a look. Isn’t it amazing?”
That’s not to say the Space Revolution is all about spinning space fighters. It’s a surprisingly legible watch, with hands that are a cross between traditional dauphines and more functional syringe hands. They’re infilled with Super-LumiNova too. How cool would it have been to have had tiny LEDs in the spacecraft though?
Around the edge of the crystal, apparently suspended just beneath its surface, is an unusual chapter ring. It’s calibrated with red numerals from 0-99. It’s nothing to do with that earlier Space 1999 reference, but it’s a way to measure the speed of light as it travels at (near as dammit) 300,000,000 metres a second. With the slower of the two spacecraft orbiting once every five minutes, Louis Moinet has decided it’s running at the speed of light (to scale, at least), so each orbit takes 90,000,000 km, hence the scale. Perhaps not the most practical of complications, but rather wonderful all the same.
The engine driving the whole plot is the in-house LM104. It’s a 471 part, manual-winder with two barrels and 56 jewels (plus those ceramic ball bearings), running at 3Hz. You can get a good look at it through the sapphire caseback, complete with its Geneva striping and anglage. While you’re there, you’ll also spot a lever on the crown side of the case, shaped a little like the horse head of an oil derrick. Move it up and you set the time, down and you can wind the mainsprings. You’ll only have to do the latter once every other day with the movement’s 48 hour power reserve.
Practically – and despite first impressions, this is a properly practical watch – the 18mm thick case is water-resistant to 10m (although it’ll be a brave soul indeed who tests that in the bath) and the whole thing is held to your wrist with a 24mm alligator strap, fastened with a gold folding buckle.
Perhaps the only sadness is that Louis Moinet will only produce eight Space Revolution watches. They really do deserve a bigger audience.
- Model: Louis Moinet Space Revolution
- Reference: LM-104.50.50
- Case: 18-carat rose gold case (diameter 43.5mm) / sapphire case (41.6mm); water resistance 1ATM (10 metres); sapphire crystal to front; sapphire caseback.
- Functions: hours; minutes
- Movement: Caliber LM104; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 56 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
- Strap: Alligator leather strap paired with an 18-carat rose gold folding clasp.
- Price: CHF 360,000 (RRP as at 23.9.2020)
- Limited Edition: 8 pieces