The Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon is pure genius
Before introducing you to the Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon, I feel the need to ask my readers for forgiveness. I kindly ask you to forgive me for having waited so long to unveil the pictures of this amazing timepiece and also for not having reviewed earlier the many outstanding technical features of this unique watch. Before meeting Tim and Bart Gronefeld (the two guys who are behind this Dutch brand) I didn't have many information about this brand and I am sure that most people, at least in Italy, shared my same feeling, despite the fact that the company's longstanding tradition in watchmaking dates back to 1912, when the first generation of the Gronefeld family started making history.
The most striking aspect of the Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon is the way Tim and Bart have re-interpreted this beautiful complication. If we compare it to other brands' proposals, where it seems sometimes as their timepieces were something coming from the past, the two brothers have skilfully managed to prove us that their “out-of-the-box” approach can be successfully applied to even the most superclassic style of watchmaking, an approach that has resulted in Gronefeld being awarded the "Best Tourbillon" prize at the 2014 Grand Prix de l'Horlogerie de Gènève.
The revolutionary result achieved by the “Horological Brothers” lies in their smart use of stainless steel to craft the movement's bridges (please note that the metal used is not 300 series stainless steel but rather AISI 420 stainless steel providing superior wear resistance). According to the manufacturers, when this particular metal is mirror-polished, it gets more sparkly than brass or nickel and I have to agree with them, mainly because, if I were asked to prove them wrong, I would need to test the three different metals for quite a long period of time and, in order to do that, I would need to get my hands on a Parallax Tourbillon too, something that, unfortuntately, is quite difficult.
What exactly makes this watch so special? Gronefeld equipped its Parallax Tourbillon with a big central seconds hand that usually requires a friction spring to avoid flutter phenomena due to play in the gear train. By adding a pinion and a wheel, they removed the friction spring that is highly energy-consuming, thus improving efficiency, rate precision and enhancing power reserve that reaches a peak of 72 hours when fully wound.
The word "Parallax" has actually two meanings: one is related to the field of Optics, a phenomenon that Gronefeld reduced by placing the seconds external ring as close as possible to the seconds hand. The second meaning refers to the Flying tourbillon, whose upper cage bridge's single arm rotates in formation with the central seconds hand. The balance spring, which is clearly visible on top of the dial as it has been placed in the highest possible position, features a Phillips terminal overcoil curve. The stainless steel described above has also been used to craft the upper and lower tourbillon cages.
Another nice and user-friendly technical feature lies inside the winding crown of this watch, you don't actually extract the crown to set the time but it's the other way round. By pushing it, you can position a small hand placed in a sector at four in two different ways. The S position means that you are setting the hour, hence the tourbillon and the central seconds hand stop at 12 (yes: that means that the Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon features the hack-seconds function). If you push the small hand once, you lock it in the W position, meaning that you are manually winding the watch. This is a special device that was conceived to prevent the crown stem from being accidentally damaged and it turned out to be something that actually improves the watch's touch and feel. I personally cannot understand why no other brand ever adopted this particular feature on a simple three hands timepiece, at least in a more simplified version.
The Gronefeld Parallax Tourbillon comes in three versions, two of them can be seen in these pictures: the Red Gold version with solid silver sterling 925 and frosted dial is priced at 137,450€, while the Platinum version made in just 5 pieces and unveiled at this year's Baselworld is, I guess, on request, but I'm pretty sure that all of them have already been purchased by the very few lucky ones who could afford them. In my career as a journalist I have not reviewed many tourbillons and all of them, however, were not as exclusive as this one (unless when I reviewed tri-axial tourbillons such as the glorious Girard-Perregaux). This timepiece's features are so clever and its technical solutions are so original that I can definitely say that the Gronefeld brothers have been able to overcome some mechanical flaws with pure creativity and they have somehow managed to break the strict rules of traditional watchmaking.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Gronefeld, Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®