2. Third time is a charm... Watchmakers, of course: A short retrospection back in time... the history and the technical challenges of this watch

The watch is in possession of Lord Arran, who is also the spiritus rector for all the tasks that had to be mastered. He is involved in the project from the very beginning, and no one else than Lord Arran himself knows more about the history of this watch. Therefore, I chose to let him describe the history in his own words (note: this part was published before by Lord Arran on the www.ThePurists.com forum, used here, slightly modified, with kind permission):


Louis Elysée Piguet of Le Brassus has towards the end of the 19th century produced three pocket watches containing Minute Repeater, Grande et Petite Sonnerie, Hours, Minutes and Seconds. The watches were extremely small (32 millimeters or 14 Parisian Lines) with a thickness of 8mm."

Ok, let’s stop here for a little technical break: What do the above mentioned features mean in data? It means that 491 hand finished parts are packed into 6.4 cubic centimeters in a movement beating at 18000bph. Without the help of computers or automated precision machining, this was and is – today maybe even more than ever – a historic feat. Please keep in mind that the idea of serial production with interchangeable parts was yet a fantasy. Even watches with the "same" movement were not identical at all. The construction of the movement was the same, but the parts for each watch were optimized to fit the specific movement they were intended for. Because of this the watches often came along with their spare parts.


"Two of the three watches have gone astray and are missed since many years. The remaining one with the number zero has become property of FRANCK MULLER, GENEVA, watchmaker, in 1989. Franck Muller, then a practically unknown watchmaker except to some insiders, had looked for a sponsor to make the most complicated wrist watch based on the movement of this watch. Some manufacturers of watches were quite ready to sponsor the watch, but only if their brand name was chosen for the dial. This did not please Franck Muller who wanted to become known using his own name on the dial and the watch.

He finally found a watch collector who had confidence into Franck Muller and acquiesced to sponsor (finance) the watch. Franck Muller then produced a wrist watch embedded in Platinum, containing a Breguet-style dial. The watch came out with the original Minute Repeater, Grande et Petite Sonnerie (silence/strike/Grande Sonnerie or Petite Sonnerie thanks to 2 levers). Furthermore, the watch contained the hours, minutes, seconds, a perpetual calendar with a retrograde month, weekday, date, 24-hours indication, 4-years cycle indication, moon phases (the moon being upside down) and a thermometer for the internal temperature of the watch, as well as a retrograde monthly equation indication."

Next technical pause: Now, with these additions, the watch was then unmatched. With all the mentioned complications, Franck Muller added some 160 parts to the original movement, for a total of 651 parts. Furthermore, this beautiful movement found its place in a platinum wristwatch case (made by Grandjean), under a beautiful dial, which are - and keep this in mind when reading further on - still fitted around the - today even much more -complicated movement!
"The watch was proudly presented at the Basel Fair 1992 and was then the most complicated wrist watch already. More was to come. Franck Muller has -not least thanks to this watch- gained international appraisal and has grown ever since until he was known ubiquitously.
Exit Franck Muller, Geneva. Enters Paul Gerber, Zurich.
The collector and owner of the most complicated watch was now ready for much more and this rather sooner than later. To his great fortune he knew Paul Gerber, watchmaker in Zurich. Albeit Paul Gerber hat hitherto never made a Tourbillon, he and the owner were confident, that Paul Gerber was not only willing but also able to build the most coveted piece for the watch: A FLYING TOURBILLON. Since the owner wanted to keep the original balance and size, the Flying Tourbillon was the only solution.
Paul Gerber, Zurich, did an excellent job and built this Tourbillon from scratch. It has meanwhile been used by other watch producers under license and also in Gerber's world unique Pendulette 8-days watch, diameter 6.5cm, having as only table top watch a flying Tourbillon.
We might as well mention that Paul Gerber has made some world exclusivities, such as a Miniature Wooden Movement Wall Clock in 1977. Then 1989 his smallest wooden wheels movement clock which entered proudly into the Guinness Book of Records. He furthermore made a "Mysterieuse" which found an echo at Faberge's Manufacture, who make table watches (the well known Faberge Eggs). Ever since 1996, Paul Gerber produces the mechanic for their watches. As from 1997, Paul Gerber constructed an alarm wrist watch for Fortis with Chronograph and Alarm, a world novelty. He then constructed an own Gerber wrist watch with a retrograde second at 6 o'clock and added a Retro Twin Automatic device for self winding, another world novelty."
Time for another rest: Without changing the height of the watch, Paul Gerber added 121 additional parts, all serving the smallest Flying Tourbillon in the world! We are now already at a sum of 772 parts, and this is more than any 'Grande Complication' wristwatch I know of can account for themselves. The dimensions of movement and case did not change with the newly implemented Tourbillon. Mr. Gerber managed to keep the original balance and the spring, and he also managed to construct a most beautiful Tourbillon mechanism that really breathes art, pure watch making art.
"Back to the Super Complication. 1995 Paul Gerber could present the watch at the Basel Fair with this unique and SMALLEST FLYING TOURBILLON OF THE WORLD. Another superlative for this watch, which had become again the most complicated watch of the world. Paul Gerber received accolade on accolade for this unique accomplishment, and it seemed at that time that it was the end of construction for this unique watch.
Not so for the owner of the watch. He wanted to have an even larger gap between the second most complicated wrist watch of the world and his and dreamed of more complications. Paul Gerber was supportive and could be gained to continue to expand the complications.
Now he undertook to insert a split second chronograph with a jumping minute counter. The whole chronograph is laid out as a "Fly-Back" chronograph, thus giving the options Start-Stop-Zero, Start-Stop-Continue with Fly-Back, Start-Zero and all options accompanied by the split-second function with a second chronograph hand. Furthermore, he inserted a power-reserve indicator for both spring houses, indicating the power reserve for the movement and for the chimes."
We want to stop here again to digest what this means. Paul Gerber did the unthinkable: Inserting a Split-Seconds, Flyback Chronograph with jumping 60-minute counter, operated by a column wheel (chronograph) and a rim wheel (split-seconds mechanism) and a Power Reserve indicator into a movement where one would simply find no room to spare. But, amazingly, Mr. Gerber managed to do it, and so an additional 265 parts found their way into the movement. Together with the 79 parts of case, dial and hands altogether 1116 parts are assembled to a unique whole work of art. The number of parts more than doubled from the already phenomenally complicated original movement. Even Paul Gerber is unable to perform the impossible however, so a new case-back was made that allows for the added thickness of the Chronograph mechanism (a mere 2.6 millimeters, for a total thickness of 13.4 mm). But, during all these steps the diameter of the movement remained unchanged: 32mm or 14 lines measured including the tone springs, 28,3mm without these gongs.
"The watch received thusly 5 more hands and 3 more pushers. The open back of the watch (under glass) could be held free to the maximum, so that all the important parts (spring houses, repeater hammers, Tourbillon, split second installation etc.) could still be seen. The ring of the back cover could be engraved and shows now the names of all the three artists: LOUIS-ELYSÉE PIGUET, LE BRASSUS // FRANCK MULLER, GENEVE // PAUL GERBER, ZURICH."

As you can easily imagine, such an exercise is full of unforeseeable challenges. The following chapter highlights three of them and demonstrates how Master Watchmaker Paul Gerber mastered these tasks.

The Introduction
The History
The Challenges
The complicated Complications
The Interview with Paul Gerber