Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon: Passion Begins Early
“Carol of the Bells” is one of my favorite songs regardless of whether it’s the Christmas season or not. I just love the interplay of the chimes; it’s simply mesmerizing. My love affair with this song actually started when I was a young child, growing up in a Lutheran church community in central Minnesota.
One day at a service the usual choir performance didn’t take place (which I was greatly relieved to notice), but instead a long set of tables was prepared with a bunch of golden bells. Out walked a line of robed and gloved church-goers who saddled up behind the tables at their respective bells. It was a hand bell choir.
What happened next changed my view of music forever (and that isn’t hyperbole). Each person picked up a bell in each hand, with some of the largest bells remaining on the tables while their respective musicians stood behind with large padded mallets. The conductor raised his arms and signaled for the players to begin.
As the sounds vibrated through the sanctuary, I stood transfixed on the hand bell choir as it began to ring out a beautiful rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” I was hooked.
The beginning of the music
A few years later, when I was old enough, I joined the hand bell choir. Sadly, that only entailed maybe three performances and around half a dozen practices a year, which didn’t leave much time actually playing the hand bells. But it was enough to solidify a passion for music, percussion, and “Carol of the Bells.”
I took up piano for a few years, which I progressed at quickly before losing steam because it didn’t truly align with my passion. In the sixth grade, I joined the school band as a percussionist hoping for a chance to play some cool instruments, but it wasn’t until the ninth grade that I finally got the chance I was really longing for.
At our winter concert we played “Carol of the Bells” with me on the lead xylophone and the upright concert chimes. This was my big moment. With a wooden mallet in each hand I belted out the melody on both the xylophone and the chimes, the latter providing that satisfying ding-dong-ding-dong that had enflamed my passion all those years ago.
After a decade and a lot of practice, I was making the music that inspired me to play, and it was all because of the bells. The hand bells are what first caught my attention, and music has remained an important aspect of my life ever since.
An inevitable link
That is why when I think about the style of watch I am most passionate about in my heart, it has to be striking watches. Watches that play melodies thanks to music box-like mechanisms, but above all, chiming watches with little gongs that instantly remind me of that day as a child hearing hand bells for the first time.
As a mechanics nerd, chiming watches also embody my other guilty pleasure: clever levers and ingenious mechanisms. Almost every minute repeater, quarter repeater, and grande et petit sonnerie have movements that are among the most complicated and intriguing.
One that debuted a few years ago and was introduced in a refreshed edition at Baselworld 2015 is the Bulgari Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon, an amazing example of a three-gong minute repeater that also happens to feature a tourbillon.
This timepiece starts off with a nice trio of my boyhood inspirational elements: three gongs shaped to fit the edgy oval shape of the iconic Daniel Roth case design. These gongs are tuned to the notes E, D, and C: the E plays the minutes; the C the hours; and the trio performs the quarters together.
That trio is also the inspiration for the name: carillon.
Big, heavy, and beautiful
A carillon is a large musical instrument composed of at least 23 bells, but can contain all the way up to 78 bells for the world’s largest. The carillon also happens to be the heaviest instrument in the world with a single bell sometimes weighing as much as 10 tons. A musician plays it via a keyboard, or it can be played automatically using a pin drum (historical) or computer (modern).
The bells are all different sizes and usually provide two to four octaves’ worth of notes. While the Bulgari Carillon Tourbillon might not have the required 23 bells or gongs to be an official carillon instrument, it still holds its own with three gongs inside a watch movement. Thus, the three-gong Carillon Tourbillon follows in tradition with multiple “bells” to play a melody.
Granted, the melody is only three notes long. But it still beats most minute repeaters, which use only the standard twin gongs. As such, it is really a bridge between a standard minute repeater and a grand sonnerie or a Westminster chime. The latter boasts four gongs and hammers, so by definition could also be called a carillon, but is considered different given the differing chiming patterns and the mechanics involved.
That isn’t to say that the Carillon Tourbillon is a slouch; it’s a serious piece of horology. While the dial-side gongs and the tourbillon are the headliners to this show, the real superstar is the repeater movement that you see when you flip over the watch and get a view from the back.
More than half a dozen hand-tuned springs, multiple racks, and programmed cams play the time down to the minute of every day, and a variety of levers combine to make a chorus of metal performing just as beautifully as the gongs on the front. Unlike many minute repeaters that only show the hammers and gongs (if that), the Carillon Tourbillon puts on a show, both on the front and the back.
With some careful observation one could even understand the entire system simply using one’s own two eyes.
The inside begets the outside
Everything is laid bare, even the back side of the tourbillon, the gear train, and the mainspring; it also displays a power reserve on the rear of the movement. The repeater’s speed governor and the small secondary mainspring for the minute repeater are also visible from the front, ensuring that nearly everything is visible and almost nothing remains for the imagination to fill in.
That is why I like this piece, it doesn’t leave me disappointed and uninformed. It tackles the superfluous skeletonization issue fairly well (if not for the extra-large tourbillon opening) and does not seem like an afterthought. It shows its “bones,” and thus the engineering cleverness behind its magic, without too much pomp and circumstance.
The Daniel Roth case shape determines the movement’s shape and therefore decisions for the layout of the mechanism. In reality, it seems to be the polar opposite of what I think of when I imagine Bulgari, which is, deservedly so, beautiful pomp and circumstance. Bulgari was originally a jeweler so to focus on mechanics and engineering is proof that the brand understands why the WIS comes to the show.
This newest version of the Daniel Roth Carillon Tourbillon also eliminates possibly the least-needed feature from the past models: a sapphire crystal dial and Roman numerals (including the infamous IIX for the number 8). The designers have instead opted for a very balanced and symmetrical set of baton markers, and only the Roman XII for 12 at, well, 12 o’clock. This helps make the lack of dial feel less cluttered, more deliberate, and simply a better and more modern-looking watch.
It stands now as one of my top minute repeaters because of the movement, the simplicity of the ornamentation, and the fact that it shows dedication to haute horlogerie. I hope that with all the advances distinguishable within the Octo and former Daniel Roth collections, Bulgari will win a place among those making some of the best watches around. I have a few on my list of wants. How about you?
While you ponder that question, why don’t you also peruse the breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 9.4 For a three-gong minute repeater that shows off its bones, anything less would be a travesty!
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 87.6 » 859.062m/s2 As much of a hit as an NFL linebacker, that should keep you in your seat all night long!
• M.G.R. * 70.9 Among impressive company, this minute repeater sure is a geeky bit of metal. It can stand tall as a true horological nerd dream.
• Added-Functionitis * Serious Three-gong minute repeater with a power reserve. I know, I know, you stopped listening after “three-gong minute repeater.” But that power reserve is still super helpful and makes you need a double dose of extra strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this melodic swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 12.2 – Choking on a ham bone! Why would you even have a ham bone in your mouth? Sometimes there are questions better left unanswered. I’ll let it go and start gnawing on that bone just in case it means I can have one of these pieces!
• Mermaid Moment * E-C-D! Those quarters ring and to your surprise it is no simple ding-dong, but instead a more majestic ding-DING-dong that signals the beginning of a long and beautiful love affair.
• Awesome Total * 675 Multiply the number of hours’ power reserve (a very stout 75) by the number of gongs (3) and the number of hammers (also 3) and you get a very respectable awesome total!
For more information, please visit www. bulgari.com.
Case: 48 mm, Daniel Roth elliptical shape, pink gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber DR3300 with one-minute tourbillon and 75 hours power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve, three-gong minute repeater
Limitation: 50 pieces