Haute horologists Jacob & Co have collaborated with car giant Bugatti to create a world-first ‘engine on the wrist’ timepiece. The challenge set between the two masters in their fields was to reproduce the visceral sensation of the iconic Bugatti 16-cylinder engine in watch form. Now, after almost a full year of development, they have delivered the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, and it’s just a little bit exciting.
Designed to honor the engineering and aesthetic of the slick and impressive Bugatti Chiron supercar, the watch case is composed of sapphire crystal, making every single facet of its beguiling inner workings visible. The most captivating feature, however, is the engine block animation. The crankshaft driving this is one of the smallest and most complicated watch parts ever manufactured, crafted out of one solid piece of steel. The pistons, historically a challenging element to fabricate in their own right, are mounted onto the crankshaft at staggered angles to maximize visibly.
Incredible to see and unbelievably complicated to realize (the movement is comprised of 578 components), the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon timepiece brings something to the party that no other watchmaker has ever even attempted before – to seamlessly marry engines and watches. The movement is completely suspended in four places, which resemble the automobile shocks of the Chiron. Framing the engine block are also two ‘exhausts’, which perfectly and expertly completes the engine theme of the design.
And here’s where it gets interesting: with one push of the right-hand crown of the timepiece the engine triggers. This initiates the crankshaft turns and the pistons pump up and down, just like a true internal combustion engine. The two turbochargers on the side of the engine block spin while the engine runs, adding to the visual treats.
Aside from the animation, the overall feel of this piece is less is more. Beyond the flying tourbillon with the Jacob & Co. logo, the only other branding anywhere on the front of the watch is the subtle EB logo on the engine compartment, where the crankshaft holds 16 pistons, poised and ready for action.
The entire watch is oriented to showcase this spectacular movement, which faces forwards, allowing admirers to see the 30o inclined tourbillon. A further venerable design feature is that the tourbillon is modeled after the iconic horseshoe grill of a signature Bugatti hypercar.
The crowns for the watch are at the bottom of the case – the left crown sets the time, the middle crown winds both the movement (60 hours of power reserve), and the animation. The power reserve for the animation and the power reserve for timekeeping is different, yet both are wound through the crown, clockwise for the movement, counterclockwise for the engine animation. The power reserve indication even has the universal gas pump symbol on the side of the gauge at three o’clock. Nice touch.
During the development of this remarkable piece, the suspension of the movement was a particular conundrum for the designers, as they had to create (and patent) a special automotive-style transverse system. They pulled it off beautiful ensuring that the crown posts aren’t damaged by the motion inside the case. One of the many achievements throughout the realization of this ground-breaking watch which marks a milestone in contemporary horology.