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Blancpain takes a karrusel ride

Blancpain takes a karrusel ride

Saturday, 05 April 2008
By Florence Noël
Florence Noël

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3 min read

The brand reinstates a complication that had lain forgotten for more than a century, and which offers an alternative to the tourbillon.

It’s probably the most famous complication in the world, and yet… the tourbillon isn’t the only device that compensates the unwelcome influence of gravity on the watch. Invented and patented by Breguet, his contemporaries were also searching for ways to overcome the same difficulties. And so in 1892 Bahne Bonniksen came up with the karrusel. Like the tourbillon, it compensates the effects of gravity on the movement’s rate by means of a rotating cage. Two ways of solving the same problem: whereas the tourbillon joins the cage to the barrel by means of a single gear train, the karrusel is joined to the barrel by two.

This is an important difference which enables the karrusel to control the speed at which the cage rotates while providing sufficient power for the escapement to function. It is a more in-depth construction than a tourbillon, and one which Blancpain has this year chosen to reinstate, albeit with a few improvements. “Bonniksen, in his day, wasn’t concerned with the speed at which the cage rotated, which could be more than forty minutes,” the brand explains, while reminding us that Bonniksen’s main motivation was to produce watches at an affordable price. He never achieved his goal, as developing the karrusel meant devising relatively costly parts.

Calibre 225 © Blancpain
Calibre 225 © Blancpain
A world-first

This was all it took to intrigue Blancpain, a Manufacture that has never been afraid to take up the most technical challenges. The brand, part of the Swatch Group, set about improving the karrusel by focusing on the differential effect that regulates the rotation of the cage.

The result is a patented world-first. Blancpain’s Flying Karrusel makes a complete rotation in exactly sixty seconds. A small exploit made possible by the 262 parts that make up the movement. This miniaturised and extraordinarily complex mechanism has also been placed in the centre of the cage, rather than its original off-centre position. A subliminal message from the Manufacture to watchmaking experts. Indeed, in 1989 Blancpain chose an off-centre rather than the more usual central position for its tourbillon’s balance, for which the brand came under fire from purists. Now it’s pay-back time.

A unique design

An exclusive mechanism warrants an exclusive design. Blancpain’s karrusel, unveiled as a world-first, comes in a case that has no equivalent in any other of the brand’s product families. The One Minute Flying Karrusel, with its classic styling, puts the accent on prestige with a semi-skeleton dial that allows a glimpse of the wheels and the pared-down architecture of the plates and bridges. A well of light has been introduced at 12 o’clock to highlight the complexity of the karrusel and emphasise the form of the cage. The case measures 43.5mm in diameter, an unprecedented size for Blancpain.

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