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Part I: Who is Franck Muller? Part II: Franck Muller and the Tourbillon Part III: The Giga Tourbillon





very genre of art and science has its era-defining heroes, none more so than in that unique merger between mathematics and mayhem known as mechanical timekeeping. With each period in horology, one watchmaker has stepped forward to be the definitive genius of his time. Each of these men has not just brought about advancements in watchmaking, but also shaped our cultural destiny. Though there have been many watchmakers who have contributed enormously to the landscape of the 20th century, there is one individual whose impact has been extraordinary. He would be the first great horological icon after watchmaking faced its greatest threat ever. He would usher in a new golden era for high watchmaking that would simultaneously connect its values to an all-new generation while completely redefining the significance of the wristwatch in contemporary culture. His name is Franck Muller, and this is his story. In many ways, Franck’s story stretches back centuries before he was born. It began with the ancient Sumerians as they first traced the passage of the day. It has its roots in the mid14th century when Giovanni de’ Dondi of Padua would create one of the most ambitious instruments to capture the fleeting eternity we perceive as time. De’ Dondi’s ambition was to transcend the mere tracking of civil time and communicate a greater revelation of our planet’s orbit around the sun. His Astrarium was based on the writings of the renowned astronomer Johannes Campanus, and it was, simply speaking, the most advanced astronomical clock and planetarium of its time. Franck’s story is similarly rooted in that of a Yorkshire cabinetmaker turned horologist, John Harrison. Determined to give England a clock

accurate enough to provide position at sea, Harrison’s H4, presented in 1761, represented 31 years of unremitting labor and was the tool that allowed man to navigate the world beyond the horizon. Franck’s precursors include Abraham-Louis Breguet, the consummate showman and watchmaker whose iconic inventions include the tourbillon regulator; Christiaan Huygens, inventor of the hairspring; Pierre Le Roy, innovator of the detent escapement; Ferdinand Berthoud, fabricator of the world’s most revered marine chronometers; Charles Édouard Guillaume, Nobel Prizewinning inventor of the thermal-compensating balance spring material, Elinvar. But while each of these men labored to bring a new chapter to the story of high horology, Franck Muller’s immense challenge would be to keep the story of mechanical watchmaking itself alive. The era in which he came to prominence was when the watch industry attempted to rebuild itself after suffering its most brutal and devastating assault in its 300-year-old history. It would be Franck who would become its greatest vehicle for rebirth. Franck would achieve this rebirth based on three pillars. The first involved his reintroduction of classical Swiss high watchmaking renewed through aesthetic innovation and technical audacity to an all-new audience. A chief example of this is his introduction of one of watchmaking’s most famous complications, the tourbillon regulator, to the wristwatch. The second required Franck to use his dexterity to meet the needs of the modern world. A prime example of this is his creation of the revolutionary Master Banker, a watch that enables its user to simultaneously keep track of three time zones. Finally, Franck also transformed the watch from a precision instrument into a canvas for the

emotional expression of time. His Crazy Hours watch would delight and shock by creating a seemingly random jumble of numbers on the dial, yet the hands would always find their way to the correct index as if guided by some divine intervention. the young prodigy Who is Franck Muller? He is part showman, part technical prodigy… part impresario and part elusive genius. Muller was born in 1958 to an Italian mother and a Swiss father, and in many ways, his equal footing in these cultures would define the watchmaker he would become because encoded within his DNA were the design acumen, aesthetic bravado and reverence for science that typified Italian watchmaking, as well as the dedication to precision and the respect for the traditional values that are at the root of Swiss watch culture. This concept of duality inhabiting Muller is fitting indeed, because in many ways, he would influence both the past and the future of watchmaking. By reaching back to its historic roots, he brought an all-new relevance to its mythical language of complications; and by transmitting the value of gearwheels, hairsprings and balances to an all-new contemporary world, he defined its future. Franck enacted a rebirth for horology that continues to be the single biggest influence on the shape of contemporary horology today. Says independent watchmaking legend, Philippe Dufour, “What is clear is that without Franck Muller, watchmaking would not exist at the same level of cultural relevance as it does today.” Michel Parmigiani, another Swiss horological hero, states: “Franck may very well be one of the most talented individuals to take up the craft of watchmaking.”


Franck Muller’s family was a constant source of motivation for his work. pictured here (from left) are his brother, parents and himself

“My Father would look at our grades and I Could see the dIsappoIntMent In hIs eyes... untIl one day, I CaMe to hIM and explaIned that I wanted to enter watChMakIng sChool. I saId to hIM, ‘Father, I wIll FInIsh, and when I graduate, It wIll be as the top student” — Franck Muller

Franck Muller with his parents and grandmother in 1970

the young Franck Muller at age 19, in 1977. he graduated that year from watchmaking school with top honors

Franck Muller in watchmaking school in 1976. It took him just three years to complete watchmaking school under an accelerated program

Franck Muller today, the Master of Complications




hat is extraordinary about Franck Muller is that he was the first great watchmaker to ply his craft after the onset of the electronic era — a time when mechanical instruments had been superseded by electronic ones. Throughout the ’70s, Swiss watchmaking was devastated by easily produced, inexpensive, battery-driven quartz watches which offered up a level of precision which had heretofore never been achieved by mechanical watches. It was amid this period of massive retrenchment throughout the industry, and uncertainty in the very sustainability of horological culture, that Muller would enter L’Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève (the Geneva School of Watchmaking). Says Muller, “If it had not been for Nathan Schmulowitz, one of the big watch experts at Antiquorum — an auction house dedicated to preserving the high arts of watchmaking — I might have never become a watchmaker. I was 15 years old and had decided to make my career in mosaic work because I was good with my hands. I had come to his attention because I loved to work on mechanical objects. Basically, I would disassemble anything and try to put it back together. Amused by me, Schmulowitz suggested that I try my hand at watchmaking. I asked him, ‘But what if I don’t do well?’ You have to remember that at that time, the watch industry was in peril, the Swiss had retrenched 80,000 people, factories were closing each day and major houses were selling movements by the kilo. He jokingly said, ‘Well, don’t worry if you fail — by the time you graduate, there probably wouldn’t be any jobs anyway!’ Of course, he was joking, because he was still deeply passionate about horology. What he wanted to see was whether I would become infected with the same passion.” What is clear is that even at this early age, Schmulowitz saw raw talent in Muller. Says Franck, “Schmulowitz believed that with so many people turning their backs on watchmaking, there was a real threat that there would be no

one to take care of the vast horological riches of the past.” But such was Franck’s capacity to absorb information that he soon proved himself to be a prodigy. He explains, “I began watchmaking school and finished in the accelerated program in three years. I’d just turned 16 when I entered. I took all of the top Swiss first prizes for student watchmakers during this period. However, I should point out that I was not always a good student. In fact, previous to becoming a watchmaker, I was a terrible student who was consistently at the bottom of my class. It was only when I became a watchmaker that I discovered what I was talented at, what God had put me on earth to do. And from the day I stepped into watchmaking school, I never scored anything less than a perfect mark.” But delving deeper, Franck reveals a more important emotionally resonant motivation for his perfectionism. He states, “When I was young, in the classroom, I always tried to stay focused on the book in front of me, but my eyes were always drawn to the birds outside. I have a brother and he was always the top student in our class and I was always the worst. At the end of each semester, my father would look at our grades and I could see the disappointment in his eyes. This lasted all the way until one day, I came to him and explained that I wanted to enter watchmaking school. He asked me, ‘Are you sure you will finish?’ I said to him, ‘Father, I will finish, and when I graduate, it will be as the top student.’ When I did, I could see that finally, he was proud. Unfortunately, he died not long after, and so, he never really saw what I became and what I ultimately achieved in watchmaking.” Passion was what drove Franck, and the more he plunged into horology, the more he began to understand its cultural significance. “It would have been impossible to do well in watchmaking school if I wasn’t passionate, if watches had not resonated for me on an emotional level. It was as if using my hands and mind, I could understand a universal language that God had bestowed on

man. It was a language that transcended all cultures. Time was a language that was understood in every civilized corner of earth and the fact that we could create these extraordinary machines was, to me, something extraordinary… I have often said that if you break a watch down to its basic components — wheels, springs… just pieces of metal — it is a miracle that it works at all. That it must work constantly, that it is the sole device ever created by man that is asked to function flawlessly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… is something truly incredible.” As he neared completion of his studies, the seeds of a dream began to germinate. But he kept his desire hidden from even his closest friends for several years. He explains, “I had the idea to create a brand almost immediately after I left watchmaking school. I could already see clearly in my mind what I wanted to do, which was to elevate this language of watchmaking to an even higher level of expression. I wanted to create an evolution that would unveil hidden truths about the way human beings express time. I wanted to connect the values of traditional Swiss horology to the contemporary world. But of course, I had no money to start my own brand. Fortunately, the beginning of my brand came about thanks to another Swiss brand called Rolex.” Franck explains, “One of the prizes I won for being the top student in Switzerland was a watch from Rolex. I have gone on record stating that from the perspective of value and function, Rolexes are probably the best watches in the world. But when I wore this watch, I felt it was too simple. So, I decided to transform it into a perpetual calendar with retrograde indications. The idea was to do this without making the movement any bigger. So, I removed the Datejust mechanism and, in the same space, created this retrograde perpetual calendar. You must bear in mind that I did this in 1978, and at the time, there was no such thing as a retrograde perpetual calendar wristwatch.”

today, watchland carries all the pioneering values of Franck Muller that are expressed in every one of its timepieces

Franck Muller’s very first wristwatch tourbillon incorporated a jump-hour complication with hands; this model, the Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Jumping hour tourbillon replaced the hour hand with a jump-hour aperture

Franck continues, “The watch they had given me was signed Rolex and had my name on it because I had won the top prize. So when I created a new dial for the watch, I signed it ‘Rolex and Franck Muller’ out of respect for the brand. Then I took the watch to Rolex and I showed it to them because it was my idea to produce it for the brand. I remember that I met with an enormous office of Rolex engineers. They tested it for several days, but decided finally not to produce it. They explained that the philosophy of Rolex was to produce the simplest but most reliable watch possible. They said reliability and simplicity was their religion.” But as it happened, collectors had already caught wind of the unique timepiece which the young upstart watchmaker had created. Franck immediately capitalized on this, “I sold this watch to pay for all my watchmaking instruments. At that time, it was the only way for me to raise the capital. Incredibly, this watch ended up setting a record for a steel watch two years after I sold it. I sold the watch for 10,000 Swiss francs to a gentleman named Francis Meyer. His father was an extraordinary pocket watch collector and they are a very well-known family in horology. He sold it to an Italian distributor of watches, who then sold it to a collector in Monaco for 400,000 Swiss francs. And so, I had the record for the most expensive steel wristwatch ever sold. This record stood for five years. Years later, I tracked down the current owner of the watch, a Japanese collector residing in New York. I made him a generous offer to buy the timepiece back, but he turned me down." Before Franck Muller embarked on his solo career, he realized that he still needed to plunge into the world of practical watchmaking as well as that of watch and clock restoration. He found the ideal teacher in Svend Andersen, who was, in many ways, a throwback who preferred to work using the time-honored methods of high watchmaking. Franck benefited greatly from this. He explains, “The beginning of my story in watchmaking coincided precisely with the end of traditional high watchmaking. Previous to the modern age, watches were made almost entirely by hand. The designs for watches began entirely within the minds of watchmakers. There were no computer programs to perform simulated testing


on complicated mechanisms. So with each watch, you ran an enormous risk, because in the end, you never knew if it would work or not.” This was the way high watchmaking worked for several hundred years. Then came the Quartz Crisis in the ’70s. In the ’80s, as the watch industry rebuilt itself, it did so using a fantastically powerful tool called the computer. The computer could assist machines to create complex parts, and it enabled technicians and micro-engineers to enter horology using their ability in threedimensional rendering. It also allowed rapid prototyping. In short, the computer changed the watch industry forever. But in so doing, it also took something from watchmaking: it took a bit of that ineffable human spirit and diminished in some way the measure of soul that went into each watch; it unraveled the time-honored equation

FranCk Muller understood that IF the eMotIonal IMpaCt oF the tourbIllon was the MaIn CrIterIon, then the MeChanIsM had to be plaCed where It was Most readIly vIsIble of the watchmaker pitting his intellect, creativity, manual dexterity and internal fortitude against the laws of physics. It was no longer a matter of man literally trying to bend time to his will — it became an age of automation. Franck Muller was the rare watchmaker with equal abilities in both traditional and modern watchmaking. Though, as he describes it, the path to knowledge in traditional watchmaking was akin to the cruel tutelage of ancient kung fu masters. Franck explains, “Because everything was made by hand, the world of watchmaking was an immense world of secrets. Every great watchmaker had his secrets, his method to make time obey him, to activate the heartbeat inside the watch. Watchmakers were paid for the movements they made. A big brand would

approach us and say, ‘Make me 10 movements with these specifications,’ but they wouldn’t tell you how to make it, because they didn’t know. So, each watchmaker was responsible for delivering the best movements he could, but in a way that was most efficient for him. As a result, watchmakers developed their own techniques. They made their own tools to solve certain problems, and when they were done with their job, they would lock all the tools away inside a drawer or box and keep all their techniques buried in the recesses of their own minds.” When asked how a student would learn the secrets of his master, Franck laughs and replies, “There was one way to gain the secrets of these old masters, but it was a hard path to follow. You would have to become their apprentice and labor for them in any capacity they wished. Then if they trusted you, they would allow you to watch them. But they would never explain anything, so you had to unravel the secrets as they worked. You had to memorize each move and comprehend the underlying logic of their technique without ever uttering a word or receiving one iota of instruction. This was the ancient way in which secrets were passed from master to pupil for centuries, and it guaranteed that these secrets would only be passed to watchmakers skilled enough to receive them. In many ways, it was a form of natural selection.” Franck soon proved himself an extraordinarily fast learner: “My secret was that I could repeat what I saw quite easily from memory. After Svend Andersen demonstrated something, I would immediately sit down at my bench and repeat it. Andersen was very strict. He would examine what I did with a 3x loupe. If there was even the smallest imperfection, he would simply throw the part away. I always worked without a loupe — I’ve never worn one as I have a very good eye. But when it came time for Andersen to check the part that I had made, I would always pre-examine it with a x10 loupe. My rationale was that if I cannot find any flaw at a magnification of 10, he won’t find any at a magnification of three.” Throughout his days with Svend Andersen, Muller labored incessantly, soaking up information and plunging into the past to see how old masters solved the age-old riddles of measuring time. It was during his immersion in

right the tourbillon was invented by a. l. breguet to improve precision in watchmaking, but Franck Muller has turned it into a device that captures and expresses emotion

BeloW Franck Muller’s 1986 world première — a tourbillon with jump hour and regulator-type dial

leFt Franck Muller realized that the pocket watches with the most commercial potential were those featuring breguet’s famous tourbillon regulator (shown here in the breguet no. 1188). this gave him the inspiration to transport the tourbillon to the wristwatch with one major change — the tourbillon would be featured dial-side

the restoration of some of history’s most extraordinary timepieces that a vision for his first wristwatch coalesced in his mind. And when he finally did launch his brand, Franck would reach into horology’s past and transport one of its most iconic technical innovations into his first wristwatches. Says Franck, “I was the first to put a tourbillon inside of a wristwatch. The idea came to me during the time I spent restoring antique pocket watches. This was a fantastic period. I was restoring some of the most famous watches and clocks ever made for Antiquorum, and later, for the famous museums as well. [It is well known that Muller and Svend Andersen restored the watches in the Patek Philippe Museum.] Watches would arrive and they would be missing key components, so we had to remake these but at the same time find historical documentation for the missing pieces, as well as interpret the horological language of the master who had fabricated them. I noticed around this time that the watches most avidly collected were the tourbillons.”

Muller was quick to understand the attraction of the tourbillon. Patented in 1801, the device placed all the regulating components of the watch — essentially the parts that comprised its heart: the hairspring, balance and escapement — inside a cage that rotated on its own axis. This cage averaged out the positional errors (such as those caused by the non-concentric “breathing” of the hairspring) due to gravity, which are the most exaggerated when a watch is in the vertical positions. But Franck began to look beyond the simple pragmatic benefits of the tourbillon. He explains, “When the tourbillon was first created, it was invented out of the need for precision, because of the negative impact of gravity on watches in the vertical position. But today, the rationale for a tourbillon is very different. If you want a truly precise watch, then you’ll get a quartz watch or you can use your mobile phone. But precision is no longer the goal. Today, these watches are more like works of art which demonstrate what is possible through human craftsmanship, and engage the user on the emotional level.” But Franck also understood that if the

emotional impact of the tourbillon was the main criterion, then the mechanism had to be placed where it was most readily visible. He explains, “When I made my wristwatch tourbillon, I decided to do one thing very differently than what you would find in the pocket watches. I decided to put the tourbillon on the front of the dial, because, after all, this was what the customer was paying for. This was the technical marvel, so why not make it the star? This way, someone who bought my watch could immediately show his friends that his watch contained a tourbillon.” Look at any Franck Muller tourbillon wristwatch today and you’d be magnetically drawn into its magnificent microcosm: the constantly rotating cage and oscillating balance wheel that are reinforcements of the living persona of the mechanical watch. Says Franck, “We were living in a new era, a time when people were enjoying life. They were living life to the fullest and they wanted new symbols of success, and the tourbillon was it. As such, it was introduced into the lexicon of mainstream luxury.”

FRANCK MULLER LONG ISLAND TOURBILLON the Franck Muller long Island tourbillon Minute repeater showcases Franck Muller’s talent for combining various complications in one timepiece


the FranCk Muller world preMIÈres

1987 World preMière

tourbillon with minute repeater and partially skeletonized dial exposing movement components decorated in empire style

1990 World preMière

Minute repeater with world time read off a rotating bezel on which the principal cities of the world are marked

the dreaM oF a Brand Muller’s announcement of his brand came soon after he and several other watchmakers decided to revive a famous Geneva watchmaking guild. He explains, “At that time, the three independent watchmakers who were working in Geneva were me, Svend Andersen and Roger Dubuis. The three of us decided to get together and recreate the famous guild known as the Cabinotiers de Genève, which was a group that comprised various artisans needed to make a complete watch: enamelers, casemakers, dialmakers, engravers and watchmakers. Michel Parmigiani and Philippe Dufour were the two other famous watchmakers at the time; however, as they lived in Fleurier and Le Sentier respectively, they were not eligible for membership. We did, of course, grant them honorary status because of their extraordinary abilities.”

1989 World preMière

Inverted tourbillon with minute repeater and perpetual calendar

1991 World preMière

the FranCk Muller world preMIÈres

1990 World preMière

split-seconds chronograph with tourbillon on the back of the movement

1992 World preMière

1992 World preMière

tourbillon with split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar

1993 World preMière

1992 World preMière

double-face chronograph with time, split-seconds and tachometric scale on first dial, and telemetric, pulsometric and tachometric readings on second dial

1994 World preMière

1993 World preMière

split-seconds chronograph, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, 24-hour moonphase indicator and indicator for the internal temperature of the mechanism

1994 World preMière

Monopusher chronograph with world time and pulsometric reading on the back

grande and petite sonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, 24-hour moonphase indicator and indicator for the internal temperature of the mechanism

Minute repeater with striking indicator

double jump hour and calendar with independent second time zone

Chronograph with perpetual calendar and monthly retrograde equation

But amusingly, Muller’s declaration that he would start his own brand was met with collective puzzlement: “One day, I said to the committee, ‘I am going to stop working on pocket watches.’ They asked, ‘What are you going to make then?’ At that time, I saw that there were two groups of watch collectors: the very traditional collectors of high complications who were primarily interested in complicated pocket watches, and a new contemporary audience that was increasingly interested in wristwatches. However, this was before the era of complicated wristwatches. So I told them, ‘I would like to take the traditional Swiss high complications and bring them into the wristwatch world. I have been analyzing the market and the pocket watch that brings the highest premium is the tourbillon. So, I will create a wristwatch tourbillon.’ They, of course, replied, ‘You’re crazy. Who are you to make a watch? You are not a brand, who will buy

your watch?’ You see, at that time, watchmakers were not stars — they generally worked behind the scenes. They labored at the behest of bigname brands, as this had traditionally been the relationship for centuries. My response was naïve, but also, I like to think, realistic. I said, ‘Before Patek decided to start his company, he was just an individual.’ My point was that everyone has to begin somewhere!” Franck knew that without the communication budget of a major brand, the watch he created had to generate enormous attention. He began rethinking his ideas for it, “I was not satisfied with a simple tourbillon. I wanted the watch to have a jump-hour indication — not an analog indication, but one that used hands to remain classic-looking because at that time, the analog indication was too reminiscent of quartz. The idea was to have the maximum dial-side animation possible so the drama of a jump-hour

hand would elevate the kinetic energy of the watch significantly. What was nice about the watch was that you had the contrast of the tourbillon cage rotating once ever 60 seconds, and at the beginning of each hour, the hands would jump with this explosion of energy. The tension between these two movements was very exciting. Also, I knew that in order to make a name for myself, I had to create something that the world had never seen before, something that was daring yet which even the most refined collector would recognize as being horologically legitimate. In 1984, I completed this watch and presented it to the public. I sold it right away. The following year, I created a regulatordial version of the tourbillon.” At the same time, Muller and his friends at the guild were bestowed a large honor which helped them gain even greater visibility. He recalls, “Our group was contracted to make a 10-piece

production run of timepieces to celebrate the anniversary of the watch museum in Geneva. This really irritated some of the bigger brands — or rather, it made them nervous, I think, because they did not want the public to be aware that we were the people who were behind some of their most famous timepieces. This was not really our intention, but we wanted to be given a voice. As such, in 1985, we decided to create the AHCI [Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants], which today consists of 35 of the world’s greatest independent watchmakers, to celebrate and clearly put the spotlight on the work of independent watchmakers. Now that we were gaining momentum, I knew I had to submit something extraordinary. I was determined to create the world’s first-ever tourbillon minuterepeater wristwatch. At that time, the tourbillon for this watch was still at the back of the movement. Later in 1989, I wanted to make it

even more complicated, so I created a tourbillon minute repeater with perpetual calendar, and with the tourbillon on the dial side of the watch. This was very difficult because you had to move the minute repeater mechanism and also the perpetual calendar just so the tourbillon could turn on the front of the dial. It took years of work, and in the end, until the watch started beating, you had no idea whether it would work because no one had ever done it before!” With each successive watch, Franck Muller’s fame grew. Soon, some of the world’s most famous watch collectors were tracking him down in his small Geneva atelier, but his work continued, unimpeded by the success: “After I created the tourbillon minute repeater, I went after an even more elusive goal, which was to create the world’s first tourbillon with splitseconds chronograph. Not many people realize that a chronograph is actually one of the most

FRANCK MULLER IMPERIAL TOURBILLON not only is the visibility of the Imperial tourbillon enhanced by bringing it up to the level of the dial, it is also finished by hand

every Franck Muller tourbillon cage is finished using either engraving, as seen on the opposite page, or spĂŠculaire (a polish so perfect it reflects no light) as seen on this page

difficult mechanisms to create, and a splitseconds chronograph that enables the user to measure split times is even more crazy. I did not use an isolator mechanism for the split-seconds mechanism; instead, I used a big gold balance wheel with enormous inertia, so much so that the split function could be left on for up to three minutes without the balance’s amplitude being affected.” Muller’s thirst for ever-mounting complications was insatiable, and time after time, he dazzled watch enthusiasts. He recalls, “After this, I made a split-seconds chronograph tourbillon with perpetual calendar. The issue with this kind of watch is that, say, it is midnight at the end of the year — when the movement is causing all the perpetual calendar functions to instantly jump forward — and if you activate the split-seconds chronograph function, the balance wheel must continue to oscillate without a significant drop in amplitude. This was the challenge for this watch, because it is not enough to simply combine complications — you had to understand how they have a profound effect on one another. This is a watch that costs 350,000 Swiss francs, so of course, it must function perfectly. In addition, at that time, I was still working on my own, making every part of the watch by hand.” the creation oF a Brand From 1984, throughout the 1990s, and well into the new millennium, Franck Muller would dominate watchmaking, introducing new mind-blowing complicated world premieres, including the world’s most complicated wristwatch in 1992 which featured complications such as a grande and petite sonnerie, retrograde perpetual calendar, and even a thermometer. But there was one limitation to all of these watches, which was that Muller alone was responsible for each movement. He knew that if he wanted to reach a wider audience, he would have to evolve his vision. Franck tells us, “I started to receive many watch enthusiasts, but because I was working on watches in the old way, making each piece by hand and by myself, I couldn’t satisfy many of them. At the time when I was doing this, I recognized that people were excited by


complicated watches again, and there was a gap in the market for accessible complications. So, based on the Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement — one of the most reliable movements around, and more importantly, one of the few available chronographs at the time — I patented the first rattrapante [split-seconds chronograph movement] that could be industrially produced. I took out the calendar mechanism, and in its place, I put in the split-seconds mechanism, which had to occupy a very small space. This became the first series of watches I produced on an industrial level. Later, there would be 17 brands that would end up using this patent. I ended up licensing this mechanism to these brands, and today, there are still brands that use it. People kept asking me to make this movement for them, but I told them, ‘No, I have to focus on my own work.’ But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I would like to communicate my particular perception of high watchmaking to a wider audience.” At this point, Franck met the individual who would allow him to realize his dream. He explains, “It was at this time that my associate Vartan Sirmakes arrived with the idea to transform my vision for watchmaking into an international brand with a profound global presence. He was, at that time, a casemaker fabricating some of the most complex cases in the industry, such as the Daniel Roth ellipse-shaped model. At first, he sent others, then finally, he came himself. I remember that he came to my garden in the month of August. He said, ‘Look, I make some of the most complicated cases in the world. Together, we can create a brand.’ I thought about it. At that time, I made movements, but I would buy the cases from a friend, because my production was so small — it was only three or four cases per year. This was an excellent supplier who, at that time, also made cases for Patek Philippe and Blancpain. But because it was such a small production, I was a low priority. So I replied, ‘Why don’t you keep your case business and I will keep my grande complication business, but at the same time, we can create an association to produce watches in series that correspond to what I feel the world needs in terms of horology? Something with exquisite movements, something that reintroduces traditional Swiss high

watchmaking, but with a fresh, contemporary perspective.’ You see, I was already thinking that for the Swiss industry to come back, we had to do it in a way that made our traditions relevant to an all-new generation.” Says Franck of his vision for his brand, “I was always mindful to retain complete creative control over every timepiece. Every Franck Muller watch is born out of pleasure and never as a commercial necessity. Every timepiece we’ve made has tried to bring something new and innovative to horology, to help in the evolution of its continuous story. By 1992 we were showing our watches at the SIHH. We were incredibly successful, particularly in Italy. I had already developed a following there because in those days, the center of watch collecting was based in Italy. Everyone considered this market as the most sophisticated in the world — it was the first to produce beautiful watch magazines and it was the home to some of the world’s most important collectors. Perhaps it was the Latin flair of the nation combined with their deep roots in science and culture, but they were the first to completely embrace my vision of combining true authentic high watchmaking with a certain contemporary spirit. Many of the unique pieces I created ended up being worn by famous Italian industrialists. They did not want to show up at a board meeting and see someone else wearing the same watch on their wrist. From there, the brand began to take off. Some early adopters including Gianni Versace, and later, Elton John, which helped the brand become well known in the United States; others like Jackie Chan helped make Franck Muller a recognized brand internationally. However, I’ve always had one objective in mind, which is to ensure that our watches are emotionally impactful — that they delight their owners while representing the finest quality in the Swiss industry.” One major boon to Franck’s obsession with quality has been Watchland’s extraordinary manufacturing depth. It is the only brand that manufactures 100 percent of its own cases and dials. Every movement is fabricated and assembled on premises in Genthod, and subjected to the strictest levels of quality control and internal testing; only in this way would they resonate as true Franck Muller timepieces.

FRANCK MULLER CINTRÉE CURVEX TOURBILLON the Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex tourbillon features a flying tourbillon displayed through a beautiful sunburst guilloché dial



Franck Muller’s tourbillons are characterized by their incredible visibility, as the tourbillon is brought up to the level of the dial

the carefully decorated tourbillon cage and guilloché dial shows Franck Muller’s decorative skill as well as the technical brillance of the company




lexander the Great had conquered most of the known world when he was prematurely felled by fever. Following his death, his three greatest generals Ptolemy, Seleucus and Antigous warred for control of his kingdom. The city of Rhodes, one of the world’s most important ports situated where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Aegean, sided with Ptolemy. Enraged, Antigous dispatched his son Demetrius with an army numbering 40,000 and a metal armada of war machines unlike any the world had ever seen. Their mission: bring Rhodes to its knees. Demetrius attacked using vast towers 150-feet high which were supported by six ships and could be rolled onto land by virtue of their enormous iron wheels. Yet for over one year, he could not conquer Rhodes. When he left, the citizens of Rhodes gathered up his discarded siege engines to create a statue honoring their patron god, Helios. The resulting statue was 110-feet high and stood on a 50-foot pedestal and towered over the harbor of Rhodes as a testament to the city’s resilience and courage. Dubbed “The Colossus of Rhodes”, the statue was so vast that it was said to have blocked out the sun and was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the 11th year of the third millennium, Franck Muller Watchland has unveiled what is destined to become known as the “The Colossus of Genthod”, a watch that is a living testament to the courage, daring and technical might of the contemporary’s world’s foremost and most successful independent watchmaker. That Franck Muller Watchland should write this new chapter in the history and evolution of the tourbillon is fitting, considering the manufacture’s pioneering role in reintroducing Abraham-Louis Breguet’s signature complication to watch lovers worldwide. Add to

this that, in 2003, through the collaboration of two of haute horlogerie’s brightest minds, Pierre-Michel Golay and Franck Muller, the world’s most revolutionary timepiece — the first commercially produced, multiple-axis tourbillon known as Revolution 2 — was brought into the world, and the creation of new Giga Tourbillon seems nothing less than the brand’s manifest destiny. Says Vartan Sirmakes, Watchland’s cofounder and the man who created the underlying industrial might, “Franck Muller Watchland was the first to offer wristwatch tourbillons to the modern consumer. We also created an entre new era for the tourbillon when we introduced Revolution 2, Revolution 3 and Evolution 3-1, the world’s first dual- and triple-axis tourbillons. In each instance, the resulting watch came from our ambition to bring meaningful evolution to the tourbillon. As such, I very much feel as if the tourbillon complication is a fundamental part of our DNA. This year, you will see two totally groundbreaking tourbillons from Franck Muller Watchland that will assert our position as the ‘King of Tourbillons’.” What exactly is the big news related to the Giga Tourbillon? The answer to this question becomes stridently obvious when you strap the watch’s substantial but totally ergonomic case, measuring 59.2mm × 43.7mm, to your wrist. The entire bottom half of the watch is dominated by a tourbillon regulator so vast that the arms of its cage threaten to block out the rays of the sun. Says Sirmakes, “Every time I looked at a tourbillon, the one thing I wished was that I could see more of the mechanism. It was for this reason that we invented the Revolution 1 Tourbillon where the regulator literally rose up out of the dial. But this time, when I posed the challenge to my team, our technical director

Jean-Pierre Golay came back to me with the response, ‘We have an idea for a tourbillon with unparalleled visibility, with a cage and tourbillon so vast that they should belong in an ancient marine chronometer.’” You can literally imagine gravity, which the tourbillon was created to defeat, whimpering like a scared dog in deference to the sheer monumentality of the Giga Tourbillon’s 20mmdiameter cage. Oscillating within this cage is a golden behemoth of a balance wheel measuring 16mm in diameter. Says the brilliant Jean-Pierre Golay, cousin to the legendary Pierre-Michel Golay and Watchland’s all-round technical guru, “This balance wheel was optimized to have the maximum inertia but with the minimum weight, so that it would not consume too much power, which means that the majority of its weight was poised to the outside of the wheel.” Golay continues, “We made great efforts to lighten everything very substantially. The entire cage is made from titanium. The balance wheel is made from bronze barium, but it is very, very thin. We are really at the limit of what we are capable of creating, even with the most advanced technology possible.” If you wish to be impressed by how every hint of excess material has been pared from the cage, simply let your eyes be drawn to the points of the skeletonized “M” integrated into its design. These points are so sharp, they appear as if in an act of Euclidean magic to extend infinitely into space. What has made the critical difference in Franck Muller Watchland and its ability to produce groundbreaking timepieces such as the Giga Tourbillon is Vartan Sirmakes’ insistence on pouring huge investments into the creation of some of the most sophisticated in-house manufacturing facilities in all of horology. For

FRANCK MULLER CINTRÉE CURVEX GIGA TOURBILLON what defines the giga tourbillon is the immense 20mm tourbillon cage within which a 16mm balance wheel resides


“we Made great eFForts to lIghten everythIng very substantIally. the entIre Cage Is Made FroM tItanIuM. the balanCe wheel Is Made FroM bronze barIuM, but It Is very, very thIn. we are really at the lIMIt oF what we are Capable oF CreatIng, even wIth the Most advanCed teChnology possIble” — jean-pierre golay, aSSiStant director oF reSearch and deVelopMent at Franck Muller Watchland

the spiral hairspring of the giga tourbillon is made within the Franck Muller group

example, the balance wheel and tourbillon cage of the Giga Tourbillon are created at FHH [Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie] in Meyrin, a subsidiary of Watchland, and overseen by none other than the peerless Jean-Pierre Golay. Jean-Pierre explains, “These tiny parts are created using wire erosion. But because we are dealing with unknowns, there is always a learning curve for the watchmakers during assembly. For example, because of how thin the balance wheel is, it is very elastic and it takes enormous skill to poise and regulate it properly. This is a great deal more difficult.” His cousin Pierre-Michel Golay adds, “The spiral that you see in the Giga Tourbillon is made within the [Franck Muller] Group. The fact that we have this ability to create our own spirals was absolutely fundamental in making this watch possible. Because, suddenly, you have a balance wheel with four times the inertia as a regular wheel, so you must have a spiral that corresponds to this.” As you revel in the microcosm of the regulator, one component that is destined to draw attention is the large but beautifully skeletonized gold escapement wheel fixed to the cage. Golay explains, “The escapement wheel is developed in-house, but manufactured for us by Mimotec. It is created using the LIGA process, which allows us to create extremely light, complex and precise parts. You can see that this escapement wheel is very light; it is totally skeletonized, which is possible when you make things using LIGA. The material of the balance wheel is nickel phosphorous, which is then coated with a

thin layer of gold. All the new tourbillons have escapements that are designed and produced in-house.” When asked of the possibilities new technology has allowed him, Golay explains, “Mimotec is incredible because it gives us the possibility to make parts that would otherwise be impossible to make, for example, wheels on two levels. Also, in the mysterious tourbillon rattrapante movement we created for PierreMichel Golay and for CVSTOS, the drive wheel uses teeth with a special elastic profile that allows traditional lateral engagement with no displacement of the chronograph hand when the teeth of the chronograph wheel and the drive wheel mesh.” However, Golay is quick to dispel the notion that LIGA is a universal cure for all technical issues. He explains, “For certain applications, though, in general, I prefer steel. With spark erosion, we can produce springs with a diameter thinner than the human hair, so for the majority of applications, this is already fine. The other thing is that the material properties of nickel parts made with LIGA are not as good as the steel parts made with wire erosion. The problem with nickel parts is that they do not slide easily — they grip.” Look closely at the mounting point of the escapement wheel on the cage. Notice anything different here? In most tourbillons, the escapement wheel pinion is fixed directly to the cage. Here, the escapement wheel pinion rides on a special jewel to reduce friction even further. Says Golay, “This is really the optimum!” Powering this mighty behemoth are no less

than four spring barrels arrayed in two stacked pairs. Each of these individual barrels are already larger than the traditional barrel found in a normal watch; together, they provide 10 days of uncompromised power to the Herculean regulator. Like the escapement wheel, these barrels are mounted on rubies to aid in smoothness of winding while harnessing their massive torque. A tiny power reserve indicator appears at 12 o’clock to tell you how much gas is in the tank. Finally, the Giga Tourbillon is really an uncompromised haut de gamme tourbillon in the very strictest sense of the term: to begin with, while other Franck Muller tourbillons are powered by a pinion that engages the toothed perimeter of the cage, here, a traditional tourbillon design has been used where the third wheel directly engages the pinion of the massive cage. In addition, the tourbillon is of the flying variety, where there is absolutely no upper bridge to obscure what is the most unadulterated viewing pleasure in all of horlogerie. The Giga Tourbillon is available in several different variations, though, to us, the one and only version has to be the fully skeletonized model that allows you to witness the dazzling power flow in this watch, which is an incredible testament to the in-house manufacturing capabilities and the tradition of technical innovation that is at the epicenter of Franck Muller Watchland. In conclusion, we can only state that the Colossus of Genthod is destined to soar above Franck Muller Watchland — a shining beacon to its creative capacity and revolutionary daring. H

FRANCK MULLER CINTRテ右 CURVEX GIGA TOURBILLON set within a full pavテゥ diamond case, the giga tourbillon stands out even more