Introducing: The Purnell Escape II Carbon.
The tourbillon-only company's high-velocity tourbillon is based on a surprisingly old idea.
In 2019, Purnell introduced the Escape II, which has two triple-axis Spherion tourbillon systems linked by a differential, and which in motion, is one of the most kinetically dramatic wristwatches you've ever seen.
The tourbillon system is the brainchild of watchmaker Eric Coudray. Coudray's name to this day is not especially well-known despite the fact that his work is.
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Coudray has said of his own work that, "Most of the things I create are more than just watches... It's not just for the performance and all of that. It's an exercise in style." Certainly, if you are easily moved by mechanical ingenuity, your first reaction to the Escape II is apt to be visceral and emotional, rather than intellectual. I'm cheating a little bit with this video inasmuch as it's a time-lapse video, but it certainly gets across the dynamism of the movement.
The most recent versions of the Escape II are being made with either a forged carbon case (of which there are three versions, distinguished from each other by different colorways) and a fourth version, in black DLC grade 5 titanium which is named, logically enough, the All Black.
It will surprise no one to discover that these are quite large watches, although we don't think you can reasonably expect a double, triple-axis tourbillon wristwatch to be anything other than pretty darned big – which these are, at 48mm x 19mm. The case has been designed so as to make the action of the two triple-axis cages as visible as possible, and this includes a cut-out at the bottom edge of the case with a sapphire window in it (the lateral window is actually part of the one-piece crystal, rather than a separate window) so that you can see the tourbillons even when you are not actually looking directly at the watch.
There are a number of windows cut into the case flank as well, and overall, the visual effect is pretty mesmerizing – even in still images, the combination of mechanical complexity and stark contrast between the finishes of various components is very striking.
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There is considerable pleasure to be had in following this sort of watchmaking, even if you're never going to be a client for it (or, if you are a potential client, it is not your particular brand of vodka), and a lot of the fun , in being a watch enthusiast, is in seeing the work of folks like Eric Coudray evolve over the years – nothing wrong with a little (or a lot) of wow factor every once in a while.
But it's still more than cool to know that unapologetic maximalist watchmaking, combined with real technical brilliance, is alive and well.