Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon
The Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon showcases the luxury marque’s technical prowess. The Manufacture movement features a micro-rotor and the brand’s own hairspring featuring a Philips terminal curve.
This detailed review of the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon includes live images, specification details and pricing.
Schwarz Etienne was founded in 1902 and is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the watchmaking capital of Switzerland. The city, along with the neighbouring municipality of Le Locle, has UNESCO World Heritage status. In ‘Das Kapital’, Karl Marx described La Chaux-de-Fonds as a ‘huge factory-town’. The legendary economist and philosopher was fascinated by the city. He spent much time analysing the division of labour in the watch industry and recounted his observations in his legendary three volume text.
The avenues, which form the historic part of La Chaux-de-Fonds, are arranged in a grid system. The broad streets and tall buildings allow light to flood through windows, a prerequisite for watchmaking. The city remains home to numerous watch brands.
Despite its lengthy history, Schwarz Etienne operates from a modern facility on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Its production areas are dust-free and equipped with cutting-edge machinery. The Manufacture has an impressive in-house capability, making its own movements, even escape wheels, anchors, balance wheels and hairsprings. With its incredible know-how, the brand also makes movements and complete watches for private label clients.
While the production facilities of Schwarz Etienne are ultra-modern and operating-theatre clean, the Maison continues to embrace hand craftsmanship. Indeed, the marriage of traditional skills with high-tech consistency yields impressive results.
Similarly, the juxtaposition of surrounding verdant fields with the nearby industrial city, influences the watches made by Schwarz Etienne. Winemakers would say these influences form part of the terroir and certainly this brand, and the products it makes, are defined by La Chaux-de-Fonds. It is perhaps fitting that the company has chosen to name a collection of models after this legendary watchmaking enclave.
Recently, I obtained a Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon from the brand’s UK agent, Remontoire 68 Limited for a few days in order to evaluate its specification at close quarters.
Front of house
The movement of the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon is inverted, positioning many of the vital organs front of house. A flying Tourbillon is located at 1 o’clock, the teeth of the ratchet wheel are visible at 5 o’clock and the micro rotor resides at 9 o’clock. Each of these elements is freely disclosed.
The rhodium-treated hour and minute hands are generously proportioned, augmenting legibility. Having worn the watch for a number of days, I have noticed that with the merest suggestion of darkness, the hands emit a vivid green hue. Schwarz Etienne has imbued the dial with several delightful touches. For example, near the fulcrum of the dial, the hour and minute hands are openworked. This detail adds little to their functionality but contributes to the overall visual allure of the watch.
Schwarz Etienne has equipped this model with a broad hour track incorporating large luminescent Roman numerals. Both the hands and indexes unite together, imparting meaning with clear tone. The bridges positioned at the centre of the dial have been subject to fine micro-blasting and are adorned with Côtes de Genève motif.
Unlike a ‘regular’ tourbillon which features both upper and lower bridges, a flying tourbillon is held purely by a lower bridge. By forgoing the upper bridge, the wearer is granted unhindered views of the cage rotating. The sight of the anchor, escape wheel, balance wheel and cage, all in a state of motion, proves spectacular. The cage rotates anti-clockwise, revolving 360° every minute.
Few brands offer a watch equipped with a micro-rotor, albeit, few companies are quite like Schwarz Etienne. When micro-rotors are used, it is generally to reduce the depth of the watch case, such as with an ultra-thin model. While the Caliber TSE 121.00 has a modest thickness of 6.35mm, the overall height of the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon is 13.70mm. Clearly, the Swiss Manufacture was not seeking to make the thinnest watch in the world. Instead, I would suggest the rationale for incorporating a micro-rotor was to fanfare its presence, in this instance to the left side of the dial. Having worn the watch for a number of days, I can attest that there is something wonderful about seeing the micro-rotor revolve. Schwarz Etienne clearly understands the idea of indulging the wearer with a refreshing dose of visual theatre.
The micro-rotor is hand bevelled and micro-blasted. Its chamfered edge readily gleams. Despite the modernity of this watch, traditional craftsmanship is much in evidence.
The Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon measures 44mm in diameter, however, it looks smaller when worn. Likewise, the case height is 13.7mm, but appears thinner when affixed to the wrist. Quite simply, the case of this watch is an enigma.
Appraising the case at close quarters, the caseback is slightly stepped and the lugs curve gently downwards. On the face of it, everything seems normal. However, placing the watch on the wrist grants a degree of comfort which could only be described as extraordinary. I often wear comfortable watches, but the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon surpasses accepted norms. Indeed, I would liken the pampering caress of this watch to my favourite pair of Church shoes, they seamlessly fuse with the body in cosseting union.
The highly polished bezel has a concave edge, eliciting comely shadows and fascinating reflections. The lugs have a stepped design, pairing highly polished upper surfaces with vertically brushed flanks. An expanse of vertical satin brushed steel graces the caseband, straddling the area between the aforementioned gleaming bezel and the highly polished caseback. This shrewd pairing of polished and vertical satin brushed surfaces bestows a becoming appearance.
Six screws secure the caseback in position. The highly polished periphery of the caseback sits lower than the satin finished central section. Indeed, the central section resembles a podium. Despite its protruding profile, it nuzzles the wrist and, as stated earlier, confers sublime levels of comfort.
A small sapphire crystal grants a dorsal view of the tourbillon in motion. Furthermore, this crystal allows the wearer to look through the watch via a rotating Tourbillon cage. It would be a cold heart that did not fall for the allure of this incredible watch. Adjacent the rear-mounted crystal is a stylised depiction of a gear train. Initially, I lamented the absence of a full sized sapphire crystal, however, on reflection, there would not be much to see, vindicating Schwarz Etienne’s decision.
The watch is presented on a grey alligator strap with apple green lining and stitching, paired with a folding steel buckle. Everything feels luxurious and beautifully executed.
Movement – additional comments
The TSE 121.00 movement exudes modernity with its hand-bevelled, sandblasted bridges and similarly hued micro-rotor. However, the brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds has not abandoned high-end finishing. The wheels are circular grained, steel components feature ‘satin finishing and sunray’, the micro-rotor has been subject to ‘hand bevelling and micro-blasting’ and, lastly, the screws have been polished to a gleaming conclusion.
Schwarz Etienne is known for its expertise in the field of escapements and regulating organs. In the case of the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon, the balance wheel incorporates the brand’s SE logo. The hairspring is endowed with a Phillips terminal curve, enhancing isochronism and, by default, delivering superior precision.
I freely admit that I am not the most energetic person. On occasions some automatic watches stop, devoid of power, owing to my embarrassing inactivity. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised that the Caliber TSE 121.00 ran dutifully despite my slothful behaviour.
The frequency of the movement is 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and the power reserve is 70 hours. The Caliber TSE 121.00 contains 219 components, including 34 jewels.
I have worn the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon for several days and feel like I know it intimately. I have not found any skeletons in its closet and no sins from a former life. Quite simply, this watch has a virtuous character.
By presenting components such as the micro-rotor and tourbillon front of house, there was always a risk that their presence would mar readability. Indeed, this is a problem which afflicts some skeleton watches, where the dial can appear cluttered, inhibiting understanding. Thankfully, Schwarz Etienne has styled this watch with just the right degree of restraint. Indeed, it indulges horological voyeurs with the spectacle of parts in motion while remaining eminently legible.
Another reason for the peerless readability of the dial can be attributed to the bold hour and minutes hands, together with the oversized indexes. The hands are readily visible in the dark with the luminescent treatment eagerly stepping forward into the limelight with very little encouragement.
Over the years, I have worn many watches. Some are uncomfortable to wear, most are reasonably comfortable and a few are truly exceptional. I would place the Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon in this latter category. At times, I forgot I was wearing the watch. It has an unobtrusive relationship with the wrist. At no stage does it chafe the skin, inhibit free movement or feel cumbersome.
The Manufacture movement is beautifully appointed. In particular, I adore the flying tourbillon which bestows views of the escapement and regulating organ engaged in a hypnotic dance. This is a watch that provides a cathartic escape from the frenetic pace of everyday life.
The Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon is named after its place of origin. It embodies incredible watchmaking expertise coupled with masterful design. The Swiss marque has much in-house capability and an array of talented suppliers on its doorstep. There is good reason for making watches in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a place Schwarz Etienne has chosen to recognise with the creation of this sublime timepiece.
Exhibiting brand at The Watchmakers Club event 5th June 2019 – https://thewatchmakersclub.com/
- Model: Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds Flying Tourbillon
- Reference: WCF09TSE06SS01AA
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 44mm; height 13.7mm; water resistance 5 ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and small aperture on caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes
- Movement: Caliber TSE 121.00; automatic movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 34 jewels; power reserve = 70 hours; 219 components
- Strap: Grey alligator leather strap with folding steel buckle
- Price – CHF 41,120 excluding taxes (RRP as at 10.5.2019)