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Throwback Sundays: Six Recommendations for a Watch with the Fusee and Chain System, from Our Archives

by Robin Lim on September 6, 2015

For many watchmakers, the ultimate quest in watchmaking is undoubtedly to produce a timekeeper that is as accurate as possible. There are many ways in which watchmakers have tried to achieve this goal, some of them were rather ingenious and interesting. The fusée and chain system, intriguingly, is one of them. 

The idea of the fusée and chain system is simple: provide a constant even force to the escapement as the mainspring unwinds itself throughout its range of power reserve. The constant force will ensure that the escapement performs at the same level regardless of the state of wind of the mainspring.

 

So, how does the fusée and chain system work?

 

The fusee, fully wound. Note the chain is magnificently made, each link polished.

The fusée, fully wound. Note the chain is magnificently made, each link polished.

 

First, one would wind the wind the watch up. The fusée is conically shaped, and its sides are cut for a chain to wrap around it. As one winds the timepiece, the chain will wrap around the fusée from the bottom to the top. The photograph above, of the Zenith Academy George Favre-Jacot shows the fusée with a fully wound chain.

The shape of the fusée allows it to act like gearing as it unwinds: increasing the torque delivered to the train as the power from the spring wanes. As the mainspring torque wanes when the mainspring discharges, the chain traverses the fusée from its apex to the larger base. The shape of the fusée is calculated to precisely offset the torque changes. This allows the mainspring torque to be equalized as it is delivered to the movement train.

 

The fusée fully unwound.

The fusée, when it is fully unwound.

 

 

Breguet La Tradition Fusée Tourbillon

 

The Breguet La Tradition Tourbillon, featuring a Fusee and Chain system.

The Breguet La Tradition Tourbillon, featuring a Fusee and Chain system.

First up, we have the Breguet La Tradition Fusée Tourbillon.

We have always been a great fan of the La Tradition collection by Breguet, as it is one collection that allows collectors to have a nice equilibrium between the modern and the classic. On one hand, it provides collectors with classic complications that have withstood the test of time. On the other hand, the collection’s pieces introduces new innovations, such as the independent chronograph system that is found on the Breguet La Tradition Chronographe Indépendant 7077.

Now, let us get back to the La Tradition Fusée Tourbillon. The watch, which was launched in 2012, is certainly a stunner. It features several interesting elements, such as the tourbillon, the fusée and chain system, as well as the straight-line lever escapement. While many watchmakers usually utilize just one of the three features that we have stated, but Breguet chose to incorporate all of them into the La Traditon Fusée Tourbillon.

The watch is nicely desgned. It features the usual Breguet DNA, such as the coin-edge case, the off-center guilloché dial, as well as the iconic blued Breguet hands. The finishing, as with most Breguet watches, is very good. We are also particularly fond of the open-worked dial as well, giving one a glimpse into the movement to admire the various components (in this case, the tourbillon and the fusée and chain system) of the watch, as well as the finishing that goes into the movement.

Read also:   Review: Habring2 Five Minute Repeater

 

Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon

 

The Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon, featuring a white gold case and a grand feu enamel dial.

The Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon, featuring a white gold case and a grand feu enamel dial.

 

Even within the ranks of independent watchmaking, we see a clear distinction between the older, more established independents, and the young upstarts. Leroy is one of the new ones. Basel World 2015 is only the second year of its appearance, and it presented its first new collection. We found many beautiful pieces in the collection, and the Chronomètre à Tourbillon is one of them.

The Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon is undoubtedly a beautiful timepiece. A captivating grand feu dial stands proud as one gazes on the watch. It is accompanied with an enchanting and intricate filigree grid featuring a “Marie-Antoinette” tapestry motif in the middle of the watch providing a frame. The latter adds an interesting artistic touch to this sublime timepiece, without making it too ostentatious or gaudy.

Flip the watch over and open the hunter case back, and the excitement continues. Beneath the guilloché hinged back cover hides a sapphire crystal, in in turn exposes the movement in full glory. Therein lies many striking features, such as the direct impulse escapement, a fusée & chain system, as well the diamond impulse pallets. For more on these technical bits, we refer you to this detailed review on this timepiece.

The Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon is a fine and discreet timepiece. We also love the fact that it is extremely well-finished, be it in terms of the movement or the exterior portions of the timepiece. The attention to detail here is amazing. A highly recommended timepiece, especially if one decides to look towards independent watchmaking.

 

Romain Gauthier Logical One

 

The Romain Gauthier Logical One.

The Romain Gauthier Logical One.

 

At the beginning of this article, we have talked about how watchmakers in the past have derived that the conical (or rather, the hyperboloid) shape of the fusée was the most optimal in maintaining a constant torque supply from the mainspring to the gears. However, Romain Gauthier had decided to take a step further to improve the Fusée and Chain system. That, my friends, is how we have the Logical One.

One of the greatest differences between the conventional fusée and chain system, and that of Romain Gauthier’s, is the fact that the fusée in the latter is not in the conventional hyperboloid shape where the chain winds up from the base, but a single layer. Romain Gauthier thought that by having a single layer, the chain line is improved, and lateral tension on the chain is eliminated. The traditional hyperboloid-shaped fusée is flattened to a snail cam. You can read the technical discussion of the problem and Gauthier’s solution here.

Read also:   Review of Breguet Tradition Répétition Minutes Tourbillon 7087

The watch, in terms of its aesthetics and finishing, is excellent as well. We love how the watchmaker had paid tremendous attention to minute details. One interesting bit, we reckon, is the winding of the watch. Instead of utilizing the crown, the user would be required to push a button that is located at the 9 o’clock position of the case. We were told that approximately 40 pushes is sufficient to fully wind the mainspring.

 

 

A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Pour le Mérite

The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Pour le Merite, in yellow gold.

The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Pour le Mérite, in yellow gold.

 

Next up, we have something that is much more discreet and elegant: the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Pour le Mérite. Lange first pioneered the use of the fusée and chain in a wristwatch with the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite released in 1994. This was the first wrist watch to carry this complication, which till then was the reserve of marine chronometers and some pocket watches. This was due to the size and stack height required to house the system. And was solved by the Lange team during its formative years from 1990 to 1994. All Lange watches with the fusée and chain are part of the special collection line which is called the Pour le Mérite collection. The editor has written a book on this subject. See here for more details.

At the first glance, the Richard Lange Pour le Mérite may just look like any other excellent dress watch. It is restrained, simple, and very well-made. However, look beneath the beautiful white enamel dial and you will see that this watch offers so much more than what it appears to be on the surface.

The Richard Lange collection is a homage to the founder’s son and pays heavy emphasis on the precision and accuracy of time measurement. While this watch is designed to be a three-hand dress piece, but no expense is spared in the creation of its movement. The movement, case, dial, hands are beautifully designed and magnificently executed, as one might expect from Lange. This remains the only watch in the Lange collection with a fusée and chain without a tourbillon.

 

Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot

 

The Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot.

The Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot.

 

We next present the Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot, and we personally feel that it is probably one of the best watches that showcase the technical prowess of the Le Locle based watchmaker.

The Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot was created in 2014 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of its founding. Upon the first glance, we can sense that this watch is going to be pretty extraordinary: the conspicuous fusée and chain system that was exposed by the cut-out in the dial.

Other than the powerful visual impact, the practical utility of the fusée and chain mechanism on this movement is interesting. The watch is powered by the El Primero 4810 movement, which has a high frequency balance. The high oscillation frequency requires more power, and a larger and more powerful mainspring is needed. A powerful mainspring causes other problems. The torque difference from the mainspring in a fully wound state versus when fully unwound state is very large, leading to isochronic inaccuracies. The fusée and chain system offers a near perfect solution to this problem.. This allows the high beat movement to maintain its accuracy throughout the entire duration of its power reserve.

Read also:   Watches and Wonders 2014: A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 20th Anniversary Edition

Aside from that, we also thought that the watch is actually quite aesthetically pleasing. We are particularly fond of the gilt-finished movement, as well as the magnificent silver-toned textured dial. The finishing is also done exceptionally well too, especially if one pays great attention to the chain links in the Fusée and Chain mechanism.

The 45mm watch may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we believe that this is certainly one of the best offerings from Zenith. It is also a testament to what Zenith is capable of achieving, aside from the more mainstream pieces in both the Elite and the El Primero collection.

 

Cabestan Terra Luna

 

The Cabestan Terra Luna. A rather intriguing and unorthodox timepiece, both inside out.

The Cabestan Terra Luna. A rather intriguing and unorthodox timepiece, both inside out.

 

Finally, we have the Cabestan Terra Luna.

Cabestan, as some might know, is one of the up-and-coming watchmakers in the world of independent watchmaking. The concept behind Cabestan, as we reported here, was originally conceived by Vianney Halter and Jean François Ruchonet with the Winch Tourbillon. The collection was extended with the Terra Luna in 2014.

The watch is interesting that it is a combination of having both the vertical tourbillon, as well as the fusée and chain system in a single timepiece. Three watches in their collection now feature this double complication. The fourth timepiece features an even more complicated triple axis tourbillon.

The Cabestan Terra Luna, in our humble opinion, is one of our favorite watches from this independent watchmaker. We love the complication and the mechanism behind the watch. And we are also attracted to the design, where we get a feeling of a combination of avantgarde and industrial rolled into one. The open-worked dial allows full view of the components of the timepiece. And the 3D Moonphase adds a bewitching touch to the watch as well. An even more special rendition of the Terra Luna is a one off piece done for a Deployant Friend where the moon is substituted by the phase of the planet Saturn, turning in correct spin rate. Click here for our exclusive review of this very special timepiece, and the story behind its creation.

The Cabestan Terra Luna is one of the more interesting watches that we have seen in recent times making it one of the more conversational timepieces that we have featured.

 

Afterthoughts

As one might have noticed, the fusée and chain system is usually fitted to the more high-end and exclusive timepieces. This is not a surprise, considering the amount of work that is required to produce the chain alone. A lot of work goes into the finishing and assembly, and therefore its high price.

So, what are your thoughts on the fusée and chain mechanism? Does it justify the high prices?? Please share your opinions with us below, and do have a great week ahead!

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