Watches: DeWitt Academia Grand Tourbillon (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on February 5, 2015

I strongly believe than in Haute Horlogerie as in everything else, taste and elegance are not synonyms of understatement and uniformity. To the contrary, there is no better way of showing your innate sense of style than departing from the beaten tracks and managing to remain refined while proudly showing your singularity. In my opinion, this is what Jérôme de Witt has always managed to do with his exquisite timepieces and the reason why I love his Manufacture so much.

This year, again, making the 30-minute trip from downtown Geneva where all the “independent” brands of the Geneva Week gravitate or from the Palexo exhibition centre where the SIHH takes place to visit this human-sized manufacture in Meyrin was well worth making.

First of all, the de Witt family knows how to welcome guests: it was indeed one of the very few places this year where we were offered something to drink and unlike many competitors the brand did not save money on the canapés. But most importantly, they had an impressive selection of new timepieces to unveil covering a large spectrum of complications and styles to cater to every discerning watch lover’s tastes.

Some of these marvels will only be officially revealed during Baselworld where the brand returns this year and Watch Agora will introduce them in due time, but among the timekeepers that can already be presented to the public, the new Academia Grand Tourbillon is an outstanding example of what this brand is all about in terms of design and technical innovations.

First of all, this newcomer to the “Academia” line boasts a magnificent 46 mm case in rose gold with imperial columns that has become one of the most recognisable of DeWitt’s aesthetic signatures. This case alone symbolises my initial point: it is bold with a generous size but the sophistication of its design and the impeccable level of its mirror-polished finishing give it all the nobility of a timeless luxury object. It is paired with a black alligator of the finest quality secured to the wrist by a triple folding clasp in polished 18-karat rose gold featuring the same “W” signature as the one found on the equally sophisticated crown.

The manually-wound DW8030 calibre that beats at the frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour truly deserves such a precious frame. Indeed, this high-end movement with tourbillon escapement entirely conceived and assembled by the brand is the latest evolution of the DW8028 movement, the Manufacture’s first 100% in-house manually-wound tourbillon calibre first presented in 2010. With a power reserve of 65 hours, this complex mechanism boasts, among other impressive characteristics, a Swiss lever escapement and a Straumann balance-spring with Philips curve.

As always, the brand managed to create a dial elaborate enough to match the unconventional time display of this Academia Grand Tourbillon. The watch indeed offers a regulator-style time indication with the hours on a sub-dial at 9 o’clock and the minutes in the large sub-dial positioned at noon. Both of them are in fact jumping indications, adding to the overall complexity of the timepiece.

To provide an industrial look reminiscent of the machinery of the beginning of the 20th century, the designers opted for an openwork display: the dial has thus been reduced to a simple silvered grid linked to the movement’s plate. A huge see-through aperture at 6 o’clock lets you admire the multiple layers of the tourbillon cage and even the anthracite grey-coloured hours and minutes sub-dials have been hollowed out to offer an uncluttered view of the cams and levers of the “jumping” mechanism.

The facetted sword-shaped hours and minutes hands are open-worked and the date disc has also been skeletonised but remains perfectly legible at 3 o’clock. Interestingly, one can also catch a glimpse of the rose gold-coloured numerals of the date disc between 9 and 11 o’clock, which adds to the technical side of the watch.

The movement is equally beautiful viewed from the crystal back where a slivered grid picks up the dial’s aesthetic and bears the signature of the watchmaker who assembled the timepiece. As an additional refinement, the watch features a day-night indicator by window to help you set the time and date: it is blue to indicate night-time and white for the day.

Limited to 99 pieces, this model also presents the advantage of being easily customised: changing the colour of the alligator strap and the filled part of the grid (i.e., the anthracite grey elements) yields an entirely different watch. Several versions, like royal blue, emerald green or even white were on display at the Manufacture and I have to say that this Academia Grand Tourbillon looked stunning in each and every rendition!

Another version of the Academia Grand Tourbillon

For more information please visit the DeWitt web site.

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: