It’s Not What You Think: Angelus U20 Ultra-Skeleton Tourbillon
by Amr Sindi
Following on from the official return of Angelus to the world of watchmaking last year and its otherworldly horological debut, the U10 Tourbillon Lumière (see Photo Essay: The Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière), many of us were wondering what would come next for the brand and what direction it would take.
The U20 Ultra-Skeleton Tourbillon is part of the answer.
While at first sight it appears far less “outlandish” than the U10, there is little about the U20 Ultra-Skeleton Tourbillon that is actually conventional or trendy, beside the fact that it has a round case.
Conceptually, at least, one could say that the U20 picks up right where the U10 left off – and that’s experimenting with transparency. While the U10 did this with a deconstructed movement, the U20 goes about transparency in a different way, one that spotlights skeletonization.
It all starts with the movement’s main plate. Made of a sapphire crystal disk, the perfectly transparent main plate isn’t just a design element thrown in as an afterthought, but a core functional part of the movement’s architecture.
It’s even embedded with solid white gold chatons holding the ruby bearings.
The entire movement is built with a very efficient structural approach using openwork beam-like bridges made of blued titanium, which take up as little space as possible without affecting the movement’s robustness and resistance to shock.
A recurring design element we see both here and in the other new Angelus pieces introduced at Baselworld 2016 is the six-spoke wheel design for all the gears, which we’re told maximizes rigidity while reducing mass. What I really appreciate is how Angelus chose not to neglect traditional haute horlogerie finishing, applying it where possible in the U20’s ethereal movement.
That includes the heart of the watch: the flying tourbillon escapement. Following the same aesthetic as the bridges, the tourbillon boasts a steel cage decorated with beveled and polished edges, while the flat surfaces are decorated either with mirror polishing or satin finishing.
The darker balance “wheel” (this shape is obviously not really a wheel) has a “felly” shape with variable inertia regulated by four gold weights. The shape was devised to reduce air friction – much like the new Gyrolab balance does in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Geophysic line (see Stunning New Geophysic Collection From Jaeger-LeCoultre: True Second And Universal Time).
The case is not what you think it is
But it’s not just the movement that makes the U20 a noteworthy piece of contemporary watchmaking. Although it boasts a classically round silhouette, the case has a very peculiar construction.
It consists of a central NPT carbon fiber case cut so that it reveals different parts of the grain on different facets, contrasting high with the grade 5 titanium lugs.
A markedly raised and domed sapphire crystal also doubles as the bezel while simultaneously allowing a lateral view of the structural movement. For such an avant-garde watch, it’s surprisingly very easy to wear with its modest 42 mm diameter.
All in all, I feel Angelus didn’t disappoint in the least with the U20 in its context of contemporary watchmaking, unless of course you were expecting Angelus to take the easy route of just reproducing vintage-inspired watches.
But with brand CEO Sébastian Chaulmontet developing this passion project, that was never going to happen.
Sapphire crystal cases and transparent watches are the “in” thing right now in the watch world, and frankly I’m not sure what to make of it all.
But the Angelus U20 is different from the other developments I’ve seen in that it has just enough sapphire crystal in all the right places to be captivating without ever feeling gimmicky.
The future is looking very bright indeed for Angelus, and I can’t wait to take you through some of the brand’s other new releases soon.
For more information, please visit www.angelus-watches.com/u20-ultra-skeleton-tourbillon/
Case: NPT carbon fiber and titanium, 42 x 10.3 mm
Movement: manually wound Caliber A-250 with flying tourbillon including variable inertia felly balance, sapphire crystal base plate and blued titanium bridges, 90-hour power reserve with one spring barrel, 3 Hz/21,600 vph
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 18 pieces
Price: 66,200 Swiss francs