Two hundred years ago, Abraham-Louis Breguet developed a device known as a tourbillon (French for “whirlwind”) to try to make his watches more accurate in keeping time. He had noticed that pocket watches of the day were often kept in the same position for long periods of time and he thought that perhaps gravity was having an effect on the ability to keep time correctly.
His invention placed important parts of the watch movement, the escapement and balance wheel, inside a rotating cage. That way, if the watch moved or stayed still, the escapement and balance wheel would never be in one position for any length of time.
The tourbillon was a complicated addition to watches, and eventually, most watchmakers found ways to make their watches more accurate without including one in the design. Over the years, many Swiss watchmakers, such as Ulysse Nardin, Audemars Piguet, Zenith, and of course Breguet, have continued to include a tourbillon in some of their models. Part of this is for accuracy, and part of it is to show off the watchmaker’s ability to produce intricate movements.
Very few Swiss companies make a watch with a tourbillon, and if you want one, you will usually have to pay more than U.S. $20,000 for a watch that has one. Many models sell for more than $100,000.
That is what makes Memorigin watches unique. This company, based in Hong Kong, makes watches that have both Chinese and Swiss design influences. What makes Memorigin watches especially unique, however, is the fact that every watch they sell has a tourbillon!
That alone sets Memorigin apart from every other watchmaker on the planet, as no other company includes such a complex device in all of their watches. According to their Website, each of their movements requires:
- 6 months of production
- The work of 30 certified technicians
- 4500 steps in the manufacturing process
- 50 steps of milling
- 77 steps of polishing
- 18 different metals
The company makes their own movements, and their watch designs are made using local designers. They have some unique designs, as well as some that are inspired by licensed brands. They make some watches with a Star Wars design, for instance, and they have also partnered with corporation such as Land Rover and celebrities such as Jermaine Jackson (Michael Jackson’s brother) to produce custom watches.
While Swiss watches with a tourbillon are very expensive, those from Memorigin are much more affordable. Some of their models sell for as little as U.S. $7000. They do have some luxury models that cost more. The Butterfly Rose, for instance, is a rare watch with a tourbillon that is made for women. This one has more than 600 diamonds and a rose gold case. The very pretty watch sells for U.S. $27,000.
The founder of the company, Wai Lam Shum, also known as William Shum, is seeking to make the world more aware of how good a Chinese watch can be, and also to make the world aware that one does not have to pay U.S. $100,000 for a high quality watch with a tourbillon.
So far, the results are impressive, and the watches are quite attractive and (for luxury watches,) quite affordable.