They say that “watch guys are also car guys”. It may be a stereotype but it is a stereotype for a reason – watch guys generally do appreciate automobiles as well. These are mechanical marvels breathed into life by craftspeople and given a soul by the nerds/geeks/collectors/enthusiasts/connoisseurs who obsess over them. Inevitably, this bond has led to numerous collaborations between the luxury watch and car worlds – think Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin, Hublot and Ferrari, and A. Lange & Söhne and the Concorso d’Eleganza. The collision of these two different yet similar industries have often led to the birth of exciting, new timepieces, but perhaps none as exhilarating as the Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon.
Review: Jacob & Co. Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold
It should come to no surprise that when two high-end brands not known for discretion come together, the outcome can only be explosive. From the creators of the Astronomia Tourbillon watch and the fastest road-legal car in the world, came the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, a unique timepiece inspired by the iconic Bugatti 16-cylinder engine. First presented in 2020 after having been under development for a year, the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is designed to honor the Chiron hyper sports car. Many variants have arisen since then, but none perhaps are as elegant as the white gold (well, as elegant as an engine on the wrist can be anyway). Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
Measuring an assertive 55 mm x 44 mm, the case size of the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold is not for the faint-hearted. It is crafted in 18K white gold, with sleek flowing lines inspired by the Chiron itself. The case is fitted with sapphire crystal on the top, bottom and sides to provide maximal visibility of the movement. Unlike most timepieces, the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon has three crowns and they are all located at the bottom of the case. The left most crown is used for time-setting, the middle for winding both the movement (clockwise) and the automaton (counterclockwise), and the right-most crown, which behaves more like a pusher, can be actuated to activate the automaton.
But what is this automaton that we keep mentioning? It is the centerpiece of the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon: the replica of a Bugatti W16 engine. When activated by the right crown, the crankshaft turns and the 16 pistons pump up and down, just like a true internal combustion engine. Two “turbochargers” (down from four in the actual Chiron engine) on the side of the engine block spin while the engine runs, adding to the visual impact. If you are able to peel your eyes away from the mesmerising automaton, you’ll find that this watch also tells the time! The time display sits just above the replica engine and consists of two skeletonised hands and 8 hour markers. And just above the time display is the 30-degree-inclined flying tourbillon (which was a first for the brand when the model debuted). Making a full rotation once a minute, the tourbillon doubles as a seconds display. Last but not least, there is a power reserve display at the 9 o’clock position with the scale rendered in the colours of the French Tricolore.
Driving the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold is the 578-part, 51-jewel manufacture Calibre JCAM37. The movement has a power reserve of 60 hours and operates at a stately 3 Hz frequency. Continuing on the automotive theme, the movement is completely suspended in four places with replicas of Bugatti Chiron shock absorbers. While a marvel to look at, the suspension of the movement does pose a complication, namely the risk of damaging crown posts when the movement goes up and down in the case. To mitigate this, a special automotive-style jointed transverse system was patented and utilised. Finissage on the Calibre JCAM37, while not at the absolute highest level, is attractive, with a good mix of polished and brushed surfaces. The unique architecture and skeletonised nature of the movement allows for excellent visibility of most of the movement components.
The Competitive Landscape
Bugatti and Jacob & Co. know a thing or two about standing out in a crowd, hence the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. This is the only watch out there with an engine-inspired automaton. The Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is more akin to a kinetic sculpture that happens to tell time than a watch in the traditional sense. Many variations of the watch have been presented in the two years or so that its been around but the most restrained (term used loosely) variant remains the white gold. The Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold is a 72-piece limited edition release and retails at USD380,000.
The Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon is no doubt impressive but we have to pay tribute to the original engine-inspired wristwatch: the Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari. Resembling the engine bay of the actual LaFerrari, the highlight of the MP-05 LaFerrari is the 11 mainspring barrels stacked in a column running through the centre of the timepiece, providing an absurd 50 days of power reserve. Winding the watch requires the use of a drill-like tool provided when you purchase the watch (because winding by hand would just take too long). Did we mention the watch also has a tourbillon? Many variations of the MP-05 LaFerrari have been presented since its introduction in 2013; the one shown below in the photograph is the titanium variant, priced USD345,000 when it was released in 2014.
There aren’t many watches in the market with suspended movements like the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon, but there is one that absolutely bears mentioning: the Richard Mille RM53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough. Incredibly, the Calibre RM53-01 that drives the watch is literally suspended by cables. These cables, sketching a three-dimensional structure in their path through 10 pulleys, are anchored by 4 tensioners. There’s also the use of special sapphire laminated glass capable of absorbing shocks without breakage. Why all this shock protection? The goal for Richard Mille was to create a watch that could be safely worn during a polo match – or more specifically, sustain a mallet blow and still remain intact. Oh, and like the Jacob & Co. and Hublot, this engineered beauty also tells the time and has a tourbillon regulator. The price for such excellence (and bearing the Richard Mille branding), as you can imagine, does not come cheap; the RM53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough retailed at USD900,000 when it was first released in 2018. There being only 30 pieces ever made probably also means that you’ll have to buy this one from an auction or a grey dealer.
Much like every assertive watch in the market, you’re either going to love or hate the Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon White Gold. The white gold version is as reserved as it gets for the collaboration timepiece – other versions can go as bold as having full sapphire crystal or diamond-paved cases. That said, we believe there is plenty to love about the watch. It is beautifully designed and crafted and offers something novel in the form of its engine automaton and movement suspension. In today’s derivative world, anything novel in luxury watch market is welcome.