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Swiss-Made Tourbillon Breaks record … in affordability

Here's how Tag Heuer can roll out a complex watch for $20,000.

Aside from being visually interesting and technically difficult to make, one other characteristic of a tourbillon is its price – it’s restrictively expensive. So it’s no surprise that Tag Heuer’s latest tourbillon is a surprise to everyone, because the in-house Tag Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T is now the cheapest Swiss-made tourbillon in the world, at just 14,900 Swiss francs (S$20,700). And that’s not all. The movement is COSC-certified (a respected, independent stamp of approval for accuracy) and includes a chronograph, a 4Hz frequency and a power reserve of 65 hours.

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Comparisons have been made to Bell & Ross’ BR-X1 Chronograph Tourbillon,which offers the same size, combination of functions, materials and partial skeletonisation, except that it costs about 10 times more. So what makes Tag Heuer’s version of the complication, which helps to counter the effects of gravity on timekeeping accuracy, so (relatively) cheap?

First of all, precious metals and hand-finishing had to go. Secondly, the movement was based on the previously discontinued CH-80 calibre, while the tourbillon was inspired by the one found in the Monaco V4. This reduces research and development costs. New CEO Jean-Claude Biver has also reworked Tag Heuer’s entire strategy, dropping mobile phones and accessories, and instead focusing resources on creating more entry-level timepieces.

The Heuer-02T also has a modular case, which allows easy creation of variations. It is currently available in two versions: a titanium and black version, and a 250-piece limited edition “Black Phantom” all-black style that will go for 19,900 Swiss francs.

Since exports of Swiss timepieces dropped last year for the first time in six years, Tag Heuer has made a shrewd move that will make this industry a little more accessible for fledgling collectors, while keeping existing, purse string-tightening customers interested – or, at least, curious.