In a year of great horological heights, Glashütte Original is once again pushing for the summit with the Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 limited edition. This comes after a succession of eye-catching 2020 releases, featuring some of the best dials in the business, and fascinating top tier versions of their vintage perfect diver SeaQ, which made me desire a diamond set bezel for the first time.
With the Alfred Helwig Tourbillon, Glashütte Original seem to have toned it down to the quiet elegance of traditional German haute horlogerie, but this time the movement is the star. Turn the watch around with a loupe in hand, a good single malt, and prepare to be quietly impressed by understated German elegance competing with the best of Glashütte.
The 25 pieces in this limited edition series marks the 1ooth year anniversary of the invention of the Flying Tourbillon by Glashütte master watchmaker Alfred Helwig in 1920. The large rear opening of the rear sapphire caseback reveals the serene elegance of the diagonally striped ¾ plate covering the movement, but this time instead of making us want more visible detail, it forms the stage on which the star performer needs no visual distraction – the delicate construction of a flying tourbillon.
Unlike a classic tourbillon anchored on both sides, Helwig’s construction only requires a single anchoring point on the underside, making the tourbillon appear as if flying within its cage. We know that with the exact science of horology in 2020, the counteracting effect of a tourbillon on the negative influence of gravity is somehow superfluous. The flying tourbillon exists as proof of our appreciation for the skill and infinite beauty within watchmaking, and the micro engineering that it represents at this level.
The manual winding Calibre 54-01 has a remarkable power reserve of 100 hours, and is hand decorated, as befitting the inclusion of a tourbillon. The large spring barrel has an elaborate sunburst decoration, while visible jewels sit within screw-mounted gold chatons. The juxtaposed vertical vs diagonal striping creates futile diversionary attempts from the caged miracle at 6 o’clock, while the blued screws and exquisite beveling befits the origins and celebration of Alfred Helwig.
Even if I am a self-confessed dial man, it seemed only appropriate to start this story in reverse, but that takes nothing away from is a restrained, equally fascinating dial. The face of the dial within the rose gold case is also fashioned from solid gold, and silver-plated by friction. Pure classicism endows the legible minimalism with a delicate railroad minute track against the rehaut, while gold indices and baton hands imparts the basic information of time. A small seconds register perfectly in keeping with the vintage nature of this piece sits recessed into the gold dial, crisp printing and a long blued needle pointer creating a small but beautiful hint of colour.
For anyone glancing long enough at the serene dial, the word tourbillon in a classic serif font will intrigue, and might make even a well versed fan of horology wonder why the tourbillon in all its beauty has been hidden away from view. And this is exactly one of the reasons I love the understated Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig Tourbillon 1920 limited edition.
A long and meaningful name, German watchmaking history and a fascinating flying tourbillon does not need an exclamation mark or an openworked dial to fascinate deeply. The knowledge is enough, and the feeling it imparts every time you turn it around and wind it using the onion-shaped rose gold crown while watching the caged spectacle within its 40mm case.
The Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig Flying Tourbillon 1920 Limited Edition, pricing and availability:
€116,970 available from selected Glashütte Original retailers and boutiques, check at Glashütte Original here