Richard S. Cunanan

The Helwig Flyer

Glashütte Original’s Senator Tourbillon – Edition Alfred Helwig is a flying tourbillon, and it’s dedicated to the man who invented them.

The Glashütte Original Senator Tourbillon – Edition Alfred Helwig is a particularly handsome watch, with detailing and decoration that elevate the looks of it to the level of being positively elegant. The railway track that circles the watch face provides a finely wrought frame, and it is echoed in the indices that rim the tourbillon itself. The tourbillon serves as the watch’s second hand, rotating once every sixty seconds. The large date display at 12 o’clock is prominent but not overwhelming, and it counterbalances the tourbillon cage displayed at 6 o’clock.

And no matter how graceful the detailing is, the gem at the center of this setting is the tourbillon itself, light as a feather at 0.2 grams. The tourbillon cage is built to counteract the effects of gravity (which always pulls down, as it were) by rotating the movement so that it is always being pulled on all sides equally. But Alfred Helwig, in 1920, invented the Flying Tourbillon, and it is to him that this Senator Original is dedicated.

Alfred Helwig’s 1920 development created a tourbillon without the upper bridge. Freed of this anchor, the tourbillon cage was more easily viewed, seeming to spin freely as it floated within the watch. Naturally, this apparently simple decision, to remove one of the bridges, was much easier said than done, and it required a structural reimagination of an already complex mechanism. But Helwig not only considered it worth doing, but he stuck at it. In the end, he created a version of the incredibly complicated mechanism with an unimpeded view of the working, spinning machine at the heart of it. In a sense, he laid the tourbillon cage bare for all to admire.

That might seem a lot of work simply to allow us to marvel at the timepiece, but Alfred Helwig believed it to be worth it. And modern watchmakers at Glashütte Original seem to have agreed with him, and have given us the Senator Original Edition Alfred Helwig as a testimony to this achievement. Because really, what price beauty, after all?


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