Tenzin Gyatso, AKA the 14th Dalai Lama, turned 80 recently and was in California for the July 4th long weekend to celebrate the occasion with a speech on wisdom, love and compassion at the Peak Mind foundation. The event was hosted by the Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker, while Grammy–nominated singer Aloe Blacc serenaded the spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama is of course best known for a lifetime of advocacy for the environment, modern science, women’s rights and economics, but he also admits to having a passion for horology. Amongst his collection of timepieces are a Patek Philippe presented to him by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was just seven and a Rolex gifted to him by John F. Kennedy. There are even rumors that at one time, his holiness even performed watch repairs as a hobby.
So it’s fitting that Blacc wore the remarkable International Watch Company’s Portugieser Tourbillon Hand-Wound to honor this remarkable man.
A tourbillon is an amazing complication. Invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in the 19th century, it was developed to improve accuracy by countering the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a miniature, rotating cage. The word itself translates to “whirlwind.”
In modern horology, tourbillons are most often used to showcase a watchmaker’s virtuosity, which is why there is usually some window on the dial to display them. And although the Hand-Wound features a “Flying Minute” mechanism that rotates every sixty seconds, this is not a show-off’s watch.
Aesthetically elegant, Blacc’s version comes in a white gold case matched to a slate grey dial. The tourbillon is placed at 9 o’clock and is joined only by a small seconds sub dial. Simple applied Arabic numerals and a classic track complete the face. There are even more subtle details, like an arched edge sapphire crystal that makes the timepiece appear slimmer. It comes with a timeless alligator leather strap by Santoni. A clear case back lets you take a look at the classic 98900 caliber movement that was first designed by IWC in the 1930s. And although it is hand-wound, it has a power reserve of 54 hours.
Compared to the 80-year-old monk, Blacc is just at the beginning of his career, but he is already using his voice to raise awareness for causes such as Malaria No More. He’s also showing decidedly good taste in timepieces. Simply put, the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon Hand-Wound is not just a tool for recording the hours, minutes and seconds but also an object that one can use to contemplate the passage of time and how best to use it.