The Franck Muller Vanguard Lady Tourbillon Gravity is the first ladies’ tourbillon in the Vanguard collection, but it is by no means the brand’s first ladies’ tourbillon. Franck Muller, one of the original independent brands, specializes in high complications and was the first watchmaker to begin making tourbillons specifically for women. Its first ladies’ tourbillon was introduced in 2008, and was called, simply, Lady Tourbillon, which gives you an idea of how rare such a thing was back then – no need to identify it in any other way; if it was a Lady Tourbillon, it was a Franck Muller. Today, there are three “lady tourbillons” in the Franck Muller collection: one in the Round collection, one in the Heart collection, and the one in the Vanguard Lady collection, introduced last week during the brand’s WPHH, World Presentation of Haute Horology. The Franck Muller Vanguard Heart Skeleton, a beautifully skeletonized ladies’ watch that is actually more expensive than the tourbillon, was also presented this year by Franck Muller.
The movement of the Franck Muller Vanguard Gravity Tourbillon, the manual-wound Caliber FM L03, was created specifically for a woman’s watch – which means, essentially that it was miniaturized, built from the ground up as a smaller movement. It has a thickness of 5.70mm and a diameter of 29.50mm, compared, for example, to the manual-wound movement of the men’s Vanguard Tourbillon, with a thickness of 8.70mm and a whopping width of 38.4mm. The diameter of the tourbillon cage on the ladies’ is 16.25mm, compared to the men’s at 21.2mm. The Vanguard Lady Tourbillon Gravity case – shaped as an elongated barrel in the typical Franck Muller style – measures only 35mm by 11.5mm in thickness, and 46.3mm in length. This is very small for a ladies’ tourbillon, and very, very small for a Franck Muller tourbillon. By the way, ladies, if you like a larger watch (44mm wide), you may prefer the men’s Vanguard Gravity tourbillon, which is set with just under 9 carats of diamonds. The bridges are a point of interest on the Vanguard tourbillons. They are built on three axes in concave and convex shapes that form an elliptical circle in an overall composition that is very three-dimensional. The bridge is the central feature of the watch, and it is this feature that Franck Muller uses to apply a feminine touch to the Lady Vanguard Gravity. One of the bridges is made of anodized aluminum that has been tinted hot pink. The color is matched on the outline of the numerals, the markings on the minute track, the crown cap, and the strap. Compared to some of Franck Muller’s other watches, particularly ladies’ watches, this piece is actually understated in its feminine codes.
Take the new Vanguard V38 Heart Skeleton, for example. The hearts are a dead giveaway that this is a “lady” watch. There are seven in all, and they are not simply stamped on a dial, applied in enamel, or outlined in gemstones. They form the bridges of a skeletonized, manual-wound movement. Measuring a remarkable 32mm wide, the case of this watch, in either gold or stainless steel, is honed down to feminine proportions. It is fairly thick, though, at 10.40mm, no doubt to keep it stable in its fully skeletonized form. The thickness is emphasized to dramatic effect by the deep profile of the hearts, which are skeletonized both back and front. The watch is water-resistant to 30m. Functions include hours, minutes, and a small seconds subsidiary dial at 6 o’clock. It has a four-day power reserve. The strap is alligator on top and rubber on the bottom.
Equipped with an oversized tourbillon that fills up more than half of the dial, the Franck Muller Vanguard Gravity is a reminder of why visual impact is so important in a tourbillon.
Despite pretensions to the contrary, tourbillons are largely aesthetic, rather than functional. That being the case, a tourbillon should be visually impressive, even dramatic, a tiny spectacle on the dial. The Franck Muller Vanguard manages that by sheer dint of size, with a tourbillon bridge that is some 21mm in diameter, completing dominating the dial. Franck Muller has historically been adept at creating unusual tourbillons, notably the multi-axis Revolution or the ultra-large Gigatourbillon. The newest addition to its stable of tourbillons is the Vanguard Gravity, which boasts an oversized and unusual, ellipse-shaped tourbillon cage. It’s equipped with an in-house movement that has a five day power reserve. Rising upwards from the opening in the dial, the bridge of the tourbillon, a massive, four-armed structure that looks like it was appropriated from a suspension bridge, measures 21.2mm at its widest, larger than some ladies’ watches (even the Rolex Lady Datejust is only 26mm in diameter). Six different coloured PVD coatings are available for the bridge, though the plain steel bridge looks the most purposeful. Three screws hold down each arm of the tourbillon bridge, which has a plain, probably too plain, frosted finish. The decoration here, as well as for the rest of the movement, could do with more attention. Made of black-coated aluminium for lightness, the tourbillon cage makes one rotation a minute. And it’s is shaped like an ellipse because the balance wheel is set off-centre. In most tourbillons the balance wheel shares the same axis of rotation as the tourbillon cage, but in the Gravity it’s slightly eccentric. Its position means the arm of the cage that sits opposite the balance wheel is significantly larger to compensate. Though small compared with the cage, the balance wheel is an enormous 14mm in diameter, exactly the same size as the balance found on the MB&F Legacy Machine 1. It beats at a relatively slow 18,800 beats per hour. Though effective, the Etachron-style regulator and flat hairspring is a let-down, however, given its ordinary appearance and prevalence in lower-end movements.Franck Muller Vanguard Gravity Tourbillon
The case is a variant of Franck Muller’s signature Cintree Curvex case, with the lugs removed and the strap (rubber with a crocodile top) integrated into the case. A rubber inlay running along the length of the case is meant to echo the lines of the strap.