Swiss craftsmanship is world-renowned. Engineers and craftsmen from every pocket of the world are familiar with the Swiss’ rich tradition of pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into their creations. In particular, the Swiss have a reputation for making and preserving the world’s finest timepieces, watches, and clocks. It’s a claim very few — if any — others can make.
Purnell, with their Escape II Absolute Sapphire, have put an exclamation point on that claim.
They expertly combine sophistication and functionality with something they do better than just about anybody else: emptiness. The company is aware of just how visually stunning and eye-catching their design language is, and they prominently feature it in their adverts. Purnell, in describing the Escape II Absolute Sapphire, have used terms like “The art of emptiness” and “Transparency in its purest form.”
Those terms perfectly encapsulate what the Escape II Absolute Sapphire pulls off, but our favorite tagline that we think does an even better job of hitting the nail on the head is Purnell’s claim that “What you don’t see here is what matters.” They couldn’t be more right!
The reason there’s so much buzz about emptiness here is simple: This time piece boasts a dial, power reserve, hour gear train, dial bridges, and a case made from transparent sapphire! The band is even translucent, giving a decidedly “ghost-like” appearance to the watch.
These design choices give the watch an inimitable sense of spaciness and, in a sense, an almost otherworldly, futuristic feeling that somehow manages to pull off a sci-fi feel without sacrificing a single iota of sophistication.
The watch is “fun” to look at and wear: the transparency of the sapphire used allows the wearer — and anyone within a stone’s throw — to observe the almost impossibly intricate inner workings of the watch rotating together in perfect synchronicity. In this regard, the Escape II Absolute Sapphire is nothing short of a portable engineering marvel.
To accentuate this contained empty space, Purnell have adorned their masterpiece with no fewer than 152 brilliant-cut diamonds.
But Purnell’s watch isn’t just a looker; it can lay claim to some serious performance metrics, too. Take, for example, the “Spherion,” which is not only one of the most beautifully-designed pieces in the watch, but the world’s fastest triple axis tourbillon — and there are two of them, making the Escape II Absolute Sapphire a world first in that category. These turbillions are powered by a meticulously-crafted set of six barrels that work their magic in full view of the wearer. The pedigree here is certain: the Spherion was invented by none other than genius watchmaker Eric Coudray, winner of the watchmaking Gaïa Prize in 2012.
The run of these watches is limited, though Purnell’s CEO, Maurizio Mazzocchi, has stated that, “After several years of R&D I am delighted to present a full sapphire Escape II collection which enhances the caliber’s weightless appearance and mesmerizing Spherion motion at its best. A collection of unique pieces with other color tinted sapphires will follow this year such as: pink, green and blue.”
Clearly, Purnell knows they have a hit on their hands, and the Escape II line isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The incredibly thorough and, frankly, loving way in which these watches are labored over may explain the exclusivity. Consider, for example, that each raw block of sapphire — which are actually required because the intense machining process consumes about 80% of a given piece of material’s original mass — are grown at temperatures of 2,050° Celsius.
Sapphire can resist temperatures of up to 1,000° Celsius, and is virtually scratch-proof to all known materials save for diamond, so these insane working temperatures are a matter of course. Purnell uses the purest oxide aluminum crystals in their machining processes.
The polishing process is similarly thorough, bringing the final product to an exceptionally fine diamond granulometry grade. Taken together, each piece receives over 150 hours of bespoke hand craftsmanship time. That number jumps considerably higher when you factor in development of other parts, machine programming, and the growth of the sapphires.
For our two cents, Purnell’s Escape II Absolute Sapphire line, and the other planned variations we should be seeing in the near future, are A-list stars of the timekeeping world. Purnell masterfully blends an almost impossible-to-pull-off aesthetic with functionality that is world-beating in the real world, not just in the marketing copy.