A new incarnation of Purnell’s Escape II, the world’s fastest triple-axis tourbillon, adds some color to what is already a dramatic display of high watchmaking. The outer tourbillon cages of the Escape II 18k Rose Gold Rainbow are coated in blue titanium and set with 304 rubies, emeralds and yellow, pink, blue, purple and green sapphires. The same gemstones, cut in baguette shapes, light up the hour/minute dial as markers.
Tourbillons are Purnell’s specialty. In fact, the Swiss independent brand makes only tourbillons, a rarity in the world of high watchmaking. All movements are made by none other than Eric Coudray, one of the most important watchmakers of this century—Purnell’s website refers to him as, “the Mozart of multi-axis tourbillons.” Coudray, whose firm TEC Ebauches, in Vallorbe, Switzerland, has also made movements for MB&F, Louis Moinet and Manufacture Royal (and other big names in watchmaking that cannot be disclosed). The watchmaker spent nearly two decades at Jaeger-LeCoultre, where he developed the Master Gyrotourbillon 1, a spherical dual-axis tourbillon.
His signature invention for Purnell is the Spherion, the name given to the high-velocity, triple-axis tourbillon used in the Escape I, introduced in 2017. Its cages rotate in 30, 16 and 8 seconds—with the 8 second cage representing the world’s fastest tourbillon. In 2019, Purnell doubled the fun with the Escape II. It has two triple-axis Spherion tourbillon systems linked by a differential. Six tourbillon carriages rotating in a single wristwatch is a sight to behold, but coloring the bars of the tourbillon carriages makes it even more dramatic. Previous versions of the Escape II have included neon green, mustard yellow or crimson detailing.
Naturally, the watch is big: 48 mm x 19 mm thick, to accommodate the gyrotechnics of the two multi-axis tourbillons, which are displayed via carefully formed monobloc sapphire crystal that is open at the back, front and sides to provide a view of the action from all angles. Since rotating the cages, particularly when gemset, take a lot of energy to operate, the hand-wound caliber P03 has six mainsprings in four barrels, which give it a 32-hour power reserve.
Purnell has also produced a pair of 18k gold versions of the Spherion tourbillon mechanism, a single-tourbillon special edition for the winners of the Ballon d’Or, a prestigious player-of-the-year trophy awarded to outstanding male and female footballers. The awards, presented by French magazine France Football went to Lionel Messi of the team Paris Saint-Germain – his seventh win – and to the top female player Alexia Putellas, who plays for Barcelona. In addition to the trophy, each picked up a Purnell Ballon d’Or Unique Piece, in which the 30-second tourbillon is hidden inside a gold football (soccer ball), kind of like a hidden treasure inside an Easter egg. The hand-wound caliber P10 has a 50-hour power reserve, which is remarkable, considering the energy it takes to rotate a 4.14-gram ball housing a tourbillon escapement.
“It’s like having an F1 race car driving 400 kilometers an hour for 50 hours without a single pit stop,” says Bopha Mazzocchi, Purnell’s director of public relations and wife of CEO Maurizio Mazzocchi. As a result, all of this technical prowess comes with a hefty price: The Escape II 18k Rose Gold Rainbow will set you back $490,000, while the Ballon d’Or Escape II models are unique pieces (a.k.a. price upon request watches), but both a carbon and rose gold version come in at $350,000 each.