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Baselworld 2014: Extreme Complications
Six inspiring pieces of otherworldly watchmaking
by David Graver
on 01 April 2014

There are certain timepieces that not many individuals will ever actually own. A select group of collectors with plenty of disposable income may snatch them up—hopefully wearing them out and about every so often so that others have the chance to catch a glimpse of their brilliance. The following watches—that we were able to experience at this year's Baselworld watch and jewelry exhibition—are such pieces; magnificent, limited edition releases composed of remarkable complications. The craftsmanship and engineering innovation within speaks to an unprecedented skill set and artistry maintained by very few elite watchmakers. Their works are pieces of art as much as they are wristwatches, and that makes them all the more inspiring.

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Tag Heuer: Monaco V4 Tourbillon

After five years of development, and consistent advancements in their stunning 10-year-old Monaco V4 series, Tag Heuer announced the latest iteration, which happens to contain the world's first belt-driven movement with a single-axis, one-minute tourbillon. The Monaco V4 Tourbillon is entirely hand-crafted and assembled in TAG Heuer’s Haute Horlogerie workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland (including the transmission belts, with the thinnest being just 0.07 mm thick). A space-grade black titanium forms the case, with 214 components in the movement. With Côtes de Genève detailed finishing, it's also simply stunning. The watch will be available later in the year, in limited quantities and priced around $170,000.

Jaquet-Droz: The Charming Bird

Although announced last year, the release of Jaquet Droz's The Charming Bird is getting closer. A singing and dancing automaton for your wrist, there are 610 components within the 29 jewel movement, and piston-driven bellows deliver a remarkably accurate chirp. The detailing, from the tiny bird to bridges and gears, is impressive and masterful. Holding it in your hands, the watch is weighty, but the ease of winding and initiating the automaton makes it sheer magic. The watch was released to celebrate the 275th anniversary of the brand, and will be available in a limited edition of 28 pieces (in white gold or red gold) for $399,000.

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Bulgari Octo: Finissimo Tourbillon

The thinnest mechanical movement with a tourbillon, ever made—the latest in Bulgari's Octo range clocks in at just 1.95mm—with a total thickness of just 5mm and a diameter of 40mm. It's a tremendous feat of watchmaking, and the slender shape fits to the wrist better than ever, while allowing the watch's external architecture to shine. Impressively direct in its platinum case and polished black lacquer dial, this edition will sell for €120,000.

Breguet: Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit 8999 Haute Joaillerie

It's difficult to find a watch as poetic as the Reine de Naples Jour/Nuit from Breguet—and yet it's fitted with a specially made movement found only in this collection. This powers a whimsical animation, utilizing a flying tourbillon as a representation of the sun in opposition to the hand-engraved titanium moon—each turning to indicate day and night. The self-winding movement features 45 jewels—a number that is outdone by the incredible number of gems featured in the piece. In addition to the glitz, there's also the functionality of an hours dial featuring Roman numerals. All of it was engineered and assembled by Breguet, including the placement of the hundreds of diamonds. This extraordinary timepiece will sell for 220,000 CHF.

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Girard-Perregaux: Tri-Axial Tourbillon

With this year's Tri-Axial Tourbillon, Swiss manufacture Girard-Perregaux balances a specialty high-speed tourbillon on three separate axes—one inside another, inside yet another, each rotating at different speeds. Designed on these three planes, the watch seeks to eliminate all outside disturbance—commencing with Earth's gravitation pull. This allows for highly complex, chronometric precision; there are 317 components to the movement, all underneath a dial constructed of several layers. The finishing itself is masterful, within a pink gold case and anti-reflective sapphire crystal. This 10-piece limited edition watch will retail for approximately $502,000.

Patek Philippe: Nautilus Chronograph Travel Time 5990A

With one of the finest reputations in watchmaking to uphold, Patek Philippe introduced the Nautilus Chronograph Travel Time 5990A, adding a horological complication to the already iconic series. This chronograph now features a travel time function, which allows for an easy read of the time across two different time zones—with one glance. The addition of such a complication led to a redesign of the case and the development of a new movement—the new caliber CH 28-520 C FUS movement. Within, the chronograph mechanism, a traditional column wheel design with disk-clutch, is met with the Travel Time mechanism. All of this was achieved without altering the Nautilus' loved shape. This watch will retail for $57,300.

Additional reporting by Evan Orensten; Jaquet-Droz, Girard-Perregaux and Patek Philippe photos by David Graver, Breguet photo by Evan Orensten, all other images courtesy of respective brands

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