What could be more mesmerizing than a precisely-accurate, beautifully-polished, technically-brilliant tourbillon? When it comes to watches, gravity is an accuracy killer. But the tourbillon—French for “whirlwind”— is an elegant solution, protecting the escapement from gravitational forces within a cage that rotates amongst itself.
Observe a tourbillon, and it is constantly moving: the oscillations of the pallet fork, the rotation of the escape wheel, and now, the steady rotation of the gilded cage itself—as close to a heartbeat as anything man-made can get. Its intricacy commands attention, elevating a mere mechanical timepiece to high art.
Waldhoff is a relatively young company in the watch world, far removed from the tourbillon’s origins with Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1795. At Baselworld in 2015, watchmaker Manfred Starck met Swiss designer Nicolas Lehotzky, resulting in a partnership that brings together two of Europe’s greatest watchmaking traditions, as well as their combined precision and engineering efforts: every Waldhoff watch is designed in Switzerland and assembled in Pforzheim, Germany.
Maybe you’ve noticed that it seems relatively impossible to find a tourbillon at attainable prices; even the most cost-effective Swiss Made tourbillons still cost around $5,000 USD. Still, there’s a very good reason why tourbillons cost anything from the mid-five figures up to multiple millions of dollars: the average tourbillon requires over 200 parts, each crafted from lightweight alloys and titanium, cut and polished by hand. This requires special tools, special training, and a special hand for the craft. At the finest watchmaking houses, they can take up to 18 months to assemble.
So, imagine this—a tourbillon, with that level of painstaking attention to detail, for a genuinely affordable price, in a Swiss sapphire case cradled by a CNC machined steel frame. It is a technical achievement upon a technical achievement. And Waldhoff has achieved this, twice, with the Imperial and the Vanguard V8.
In order to accomplish this, Waldhoff relies on manufacturing and movement finishing from the Hangzhou Watch Company. Known for their clones of ETA and Sellita calibers, the brand is generally viewed as one of the more precise and reliable sources for affordable calibers in the region, and Waldhoff dives into some extensive QC in Pforzheim before fitting the movements into their cases. Among other things, the brand executes partial disassembly, cleaning, and visual checks, as well as performing a 14-day running check on each movement (7 out of casing and 7 once assembled) before each piece is ready to ship.
A bold, yet elegant dress watch, the Imperial rewards the aficionado; the more you look at it, the more details you begin to notice. A CNC-machined stainless-steel frame features floating lugs, holding a Swiss-made sapphire case, a feature rare even on high-priced Swiss Made watches. It provides a view of the movement from all sides. But it’s the Imperial’s signature Hangzhou 3452 Co-Axial tourbillon that is the true star of the show, dramatically set against the watch’s silver, dark grey, or lurid blue inner workings. This movement is hand-wound, which has the benefit of reduced complexity due to the absence of a winding rotor, hence higher reliability, as well as reduced case thickness. To compensate for the absence of a rotor, it features twin barrels, holding a power reserve of up to 80 hours, double that of most mechanical watches.
The Imperial will see a limited edition run of 1,000, with the Kickstarter launch limited to only 300 pieces.
The Vanguard V8
The versatile Vanguard V8 is inspired by racing engines (German, naturally), those design cues reflected in its sporty, angular bezel and a skeletal trellis behind its scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It features the Hangzhou 3450J Co-Axial tourbillon (manufactured and finished in Hangzhou, China), a manual wound movement with twin barrels, while the lack of rotor allows for a thinner case design.
The watch comes on a stainless steel bracelet that can be swapped out for a leather strap for a more classic look.
Both watch movements feature 80 hours of power reserve and a frequency of 28,800bph.
The Imperial and Vanguard V8 both ship for free (worldwide) in a premium wooden collector’s box, featuring an engraved metal plate, carrying bag and warranty card.
Delivering bespoke designs at a bargain price, Waldhoff has managed to update a time-tested watch design like the tourbillon with high-tech engineering and modern, high-end flair. Which is presumably why the company’s Kickstarter has already smashed its fundraising goals, well in advance of the campaign’s October 18th end date.