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  1. #1
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    Default Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review

    Having recently received my Minorva Flying Tourbillon, I thought Iíd post a review of the watch for the benefit of fellow watch enthusiasts. I have been collecting American pocket watches for the large part and only recently has my attention been draw to wrist watches, so I do not claim to be an expert in the subject of watches. On the other hand I work in the mechanical engineering field so totally understand how watches with and without tourbillions work and because of that field am fairly cognizant of current manufacturing technologies and their capabilities. Hopefully this will be useful to others.


    The watch is a Minorva Regulateur with a flying tourbillon which acts as the second hand; i.e. the tourbillion rotates once a minute. It is a manual wind movement with a beat of 21600 bph. Neither the auction site description or the web page description mention the number of jewels but I believe it is 16 or 17, at least that is what I can see. With the naked eye I find the regulateur style to be fairly striking and the action of the tourbillon is certainly mesmerizing. The watch is about 41mm across; not counting the crown. It came with both a brown and black leather strap. It came with a plastic 1 year warranty card with a place on the back to write the date of purchase and serial number, which it apparently does not have. While I bought the watch from the on-line auction site we all know and love/hate, from the Minorva web site I believe the movement was made by the Liaoning Watch Factory which according to the Chinese Watch Industry Wiki is one of Chinas largest watch movement manufacturers. The following is a link to the watch from the Minorva web site: http://www.minorva.net/proview.asp?proid=1064&protitle=Tourbillon watch 29 .


    Iíve never done a watch review before but it would seem to me that the first three questions that should be answered about any watch are:

    1. Does it work?
    2. How accurate is it?
    3. What is the mean time between failure?


    The answer to the first question is, yes the watch works. Upon taking it out of the Styrofoam box it came in I wound it up and the balance wheel started turning and the tourbillon started rotating.


    With regards to the accuracy, it appears to be fairly accurate. Shortly after winding it up it was on my MTG-1000 timer and the following are the rates/amplitude I found:


    DU -4 /316
    DD -3/300
    PU +5/276
    PL +7/281
    PD +6/279
    PR +7/279


    The MTG-1000 also showed a beat error of 0.0-0.3 ms. Timing it for 7 hours overnight on my Microset timer in the dial up position the rate averaged -5.13sec/day with a standard deviation of -3.3sec/day.


    With regards to the mean time between failure obviously having owned it for only a very short time I canít answer that. Iím planning on using it as an everyday carry watch so time will tell.


    With regards to the quality of the watch the case is stainless steel with a display back held on with 4 screws and is supposed to be waterproof to 3 ATM. I personally donít have a lot of experience with wrist watches so to me the quality of the case appears to be fine. I have no idea what the dial is made of but it is probably some sort of thermoformed plastic, it doesnít appear to be metal. Under my stereo microscrope the dial has a ďsandy grainĒ texture which gives it a matte appearance. The hands are blued but appear to be dyed rather than heat treated. The straps are rather ordinary leather straps made to look like fake alligator or something, maybe some species of dinosaur?


    With regards to the quality of the movement, admittedly it is rather low. I have mainly collected American pocket watches up to now and virtually every one of my pocket watches is of a higher quality than this one. Even with the naked eye you can easily see that many of the parts are stamped, including some of the tourbillon pieces and some of the wheels such as the crown wheel. Some of the screws are blued but again itís difficult to tell whether they are dyed (probably) or heat treated. Whatever they are, they and the rest of the pieces are not polished very well and virtually all the parts have a ďroughĒ surface finish under magnification. Unfortunately I donít have a surface finish chart with me so canít provide a definite empirical value. The quality of assembly is also rather low, under magnification the hands have marks there they were pushed on their respective shafts. Iím also going to have to open this baby up very shortly because there appears to be a ďhugeĒ (under magnification) chuck of something (it looks like rubber cement) stuck to the underside of the movement. I want to remove it because if it gets dislodged it will fall right into the tourbillon. I would obviously give them a big F for quality control!


    The watch is advertised as a ďflying tourbillonĒ. The tourbillon is held from the bottom with no top support. The top of the tourbillon has a pointer which acts as the second hand. It appears to be a flying carrousel-tourbillon with the balance and escape wheel offset from the center of rotation with the pallet fork pivot at the center of rotation. As I said earlier the action of the tourbillon is quite mesmerizing.


    In conclusion I am personally very satisfied with the watch and have to admit I love it despite the low quality! Why? Because it is a working tourbillon watch that I plan on using virtually every day. As in virtually everything, you get what you pay for! I never thought I could afford a tourbillon watch. I had no expectation that the Minorva would be a ďhigh qualityĒ tourbillon similar to the type that you would pay 6 figures for. My expectation was a toubillon watch that has a pleasing appearance, runs and is fairly accurate. It meets those expectations.


    Obviously Iím hoping the ďmean time between failureĒ is in years rather than months or weeks but again time will tell. At the same time, if it does stop working Iíll have absolutely no qualms about opening it up and trying to fix it myself, not something I would do with a 6 figure tourbillon.


    I tend to think of these Chinese toubillons as the ďdollar watchĒ of the tourbillon world although it should actually be considered a ďpenny watchĒ as I paid less than 1% for it relative to the price of most other tourbillons. The watch does not pretend to be a high quality tourbillon. What it is, is a functional tourbillon watch that virtually anyone can afford!

    Bruce
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Image1234.jpg   Image1235.jpg   Image1236.jpg   .Minorva_rate.pdf  

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: bbodnyk)

    I thought I'd follow up my review with a description of the toubillon mechanism itself.

    The balance is a screwed uncut balance with a flat hairspring. The outside end of the hairspring is held to the stud with a pin and the hairspring stud is then held with a screw. The balance is shock protected. Fairly ordinary.

    The tourbillon "cage" is made up of three pieces which appear to be stamped lacquered brass. I tried to sketch the general shape of each piece in image 2. The yellow lines outline the base of the tourbillon. The orange lines outline the pallot/escape bridge and the green lines outline the balance bridge which also has the seconds pointer.

    The three pieces are held together with screws. The standoffs apprear to be press fit into the lower piece and obviously are at two different heights for the pallet/escape bridge and the balance bridge. Image 3 shows two of these standoffs. The lower tourbillon piece holds the lower pivots of the escape, pallet fork and balance wheel.

    The pallet/escape bridge hold the hole jewels for the pallet fork and escape wheel while the balance bridge contains the jewels for the top balance pivot.

    The tourbillon uses ball bearings to rotate around. The yellow arrow in image 4 points to one of the ball bearings. It's difficult to see how many balls are being used. The tourbillon arbor extends down through the middle of the bearing unit and has a pinion that is driven by the third wheel which is shown in image 5. The lower end of the tourbillon arbor pivots in a hole jewel.

    The pinion on the lower end of the escape wheel runs around a fixed gear pinned and screwed to the movement. The green arrow in image 4 points to this fixed gear. Image 6 shows the lower escape pinion and the fixed gear from the bottom. The red arrow shows the blob of crud I mentioned in my earlier posting.

    The tourbillon itself acts as the fourth wheel with the escape wheel pinion running around the fixed gear which is what causes the tourbillon itself to rotate.

    When examining the tourbillon unit close up under my stereo microscope, two things come to mind; 1) it looks like a piece of "junk" and 2) more importantly, this piece of "junk" actually works!

    Personally I think this tourbillon is an engineering marvel! To be able to take something that is considered a fairly sophisticated mechanism and be able to manufacture it in large quantities at an affordable price and have it actual perform satisfactorily is what makes it an engineering marvel!


    Bruce
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails tourbillon_1.jpg   tourbillon_2.jpg   tourbillon_3.jpg   tourbillon_4.jpg   tourbillon_5.jpg  

    toubillon_6.jpg  

  3. #3

    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: bbodnyk)

    After reading this post I have decided to abandon watch collecting and melt down my entire collection of 35 years for the gold value.
    And.... you stated your case brilliantly about the Minyorglah.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: Redundant)

    Pah! A tourbillon that merely moves in two dimensions?! How very. . chinese. .

    I suggest you move on to the gyro tourbillon era good sir! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWdlPMQlig4&feature=related

    How neurotically complex can we become about time? It's a great feeling to see this data, thank you! I've been staring at versions of ETA, Valjoux, Seagull, and Seiko movements in hundreds of different watches. The whole corporate control over "nice things" is disheartening. I'm glad to see I can fuel the timepiece addiction without losing body parts. Until I've decided I need turbines on my wrist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLTBnIszCLE&feature=related
    Last edited by badkneestom; 06-27-2011 at 11:57 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: badkneestom)

    The Liaoning tourbillon movement is the movement chosen by the British Horological Institute for their 150th Anniversary watch. Apparently they commissioned the Liaoning Watch Factory to make their 150th year anniversary watch and later a second BHI 151 watch that included a power reserve indicator.

    I would say this gives the Liaoning movements some "pedigree" or "legitimacy"?

    Bruce

  6. #6

    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: bbodnyk)

    I think the Chinese are about where the Japanese were in the 1970s: In the early stages of producing high quality goods while the prices are still cheap.

    It could be a Chinese tourbillon at $400-500 is a good investment. They will get more expensive as labor costs are bound to increase in China.

  7. #7
    Registered User Guy Williams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: bbodnyk)

    I enjoyed the dissection of the Minorva by someone who understands modern design a manufacturing. The 'tourbillon is junk but it works' is concise but remember it is by any measure of modern time keeping and anachronism even if it worked ten times better. So it is not about time keeping. The author made that point, he wanted a tourbillon.
    The first reviewer hit the nail on the head and if I may extend his observation the Chinese are a joyless bunch of profiteers who will never get it right. They will continue to fake, replicate and gouge. I would rather pay an outrageous amount of money to any Swiss house. Nicolas Hayek understood it isn't about time in a good way preserving and nurturing famous but dying marques for our enjoyment say what you like about his business strategy.
    Yeah, I bought a Chinese knockoff and it is junk.

    Guy

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: Guy Williams)

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Williams View Post
    I enjoyed the dissection of the Minorva by someone who understands modern design a manufacturing. The 'tourbillon is junk but it works' is concise but remember it is by any measure of modern time keeping and anachronism even if it worked ten times better. So it is not about time keeping. The author made that point, he wanted a tourbillon.
    The first reviewer hit the nail on the head and if I may extend his observation the Chinese are a joyless bunch of profiteers who will never get it right. They will continue to fake, replicate and gouge. I would rather pay an outrageous amount of money to any Swiss house. Nicolas Hayek understood it isn't about time in a good way preserving and nurturing famous but dying marques for our enjoyment say what you like about his business strategy.
    Yeah, I bought a Chinese knockoff and it is junk.

    Guy
    If you read my previous two posts, my exact words were "it looks like a piece of junk". At no time did I say the Minorva tourbillon was a piece of junk, in fact I made the claim the tourbillon movement was an engineering marvel. I believed it when I wrote it and continue to believe it. It appears the British Horological Institute also holds this view.

    After wearing the watch for close to a week it appears to have a daily rate of -5sec/day. The dial up/down rates are consistent at about -5sec/day and the vertical positions are consistent at about -1.5sec/day. I am stunned at how well the watch runs; -5sec/day for an unadjusted mass produced watch seems pretty remarkable.

    And it is about time keeping, that's why I wear watches, so I can tell the time. I am always aware of how fast or slow a watch I wear runs and am delighted/pleased when a timepiece runs well. As stated earlier, tourbillons are an expensive "novelty" added to watches to show the watch makers skill. I don't for one minute assume that the tourbillon is responsible for the watches' reasonably good rate. On the other hand, it appears not to detract from the rate either.

    As far as I know, the Minorva tourbillon is not a "fake", who fakes Chinese watches, and it is not a "replica". It is a mass produced tourbillon designed and manufactured by the Chinese. The fact that the watch runs so well tells me one thing; the Chinese have their manufacturing processes down pat and obviously have the ability to hold tight tolerances when they have to! The individual parts don't have a high quality finish because they don't need to be finished that highly for the watch to run well.

    Lastly, before people start throwing phrases around like "joyless bunch of profiteers", we should remember that established watch industry; (which one was it?), that was not bombed to smithereens during WWII and thus continued to make and sell watches when much of the rest of the world was making a stand against Fascism.

    The difference between Swiss tourbillons and these Chinese tourbillons are the former are "works of art" while the later are "works of engineering". Works of art are intended to illicit some response from the viewer/wearer. They are most successful when produced in low quantities and thus tend to command high prices. Works of engineering are different; they are expected to perform the function they are designed to do; form follows function. They are most successful when they perform that function in the most efficient least expensive way! The Chinese clearly succeeded here.

    Are the Chinese capable of producing watches of similar quality to the highest end Swiss watches; of course they can? This is a country that makes it's own atomic weapons, military weapons, sends people into space, etc. As a culture, they have a tradition of craftsmanship unlike any other; the Chinese were making high quality items way before the Swiss were still shooting arrows off each others heads!

    That the Chinese have not tried to compete at the top end makes business sense; while I am sure they are just as capable at producing a $100,000 tourbillon, at that price point it is all about name recognition and perception. Unfortunately the way you get name recognition and the like is thru time. After 100 years people may start to respect the output of the Chinese. The Chinese probably don't want to wait that long so they are doing the next best thing; make so darn many of the things the world has to take notice!

    One of the reviewers suggested I get a two or three axis tourbillon. I am quite sure that when there is a two or three axis tourbillon available on the market I can afford, it will be Chinese. I conclude with something somewhat "tongue in cheek"; The Chinese cannot make a single tourbillon worth a damn! What they can do better than anybody is make a million of them!

    Bruce

  9. #9

    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: Guy Williams)

    Guy,

    At one time i thought as you did.

    But I have been to Basel hong kong pavillion and have been to Hong Kong watch shows and beleive me, the Chinese are not only Very capable of making fine watches, they do make them.

    As a comment above stated, they are where the Japanese were in the 60's and 70's. now, Seiko sells routinely 5k to 10k watches in Steel!

    I am an American watch guy first, Swiss second but believe me the Japanese and Chinese are going places.

    We have indeed "awakened the sleeping giant".

    jeff
    Last edited by Jeff Hess; 08-21-2011 at 09:17 AM. Reason: spelling

  10. #10

    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: Jeff Hess)

    I'd like to point out that "Swiss Watches" are so highly valued for one massive reason: they tell us to value them.

    Sure, they can make a great watch in Switzerland, but they sell that fact to the point that Guy or any other individual assumes "non-Swiss" MUST be inferior. To actually conclude that the only quality watches are made in Switzerland is to become the mouthpiece heavy Swiss advertising wants. Cars are made in Korea, USA, Japan, Germany, etc. It's about the company, not the brand in front of it. To say anything so blatantly biased is beyond ignorant.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: badkneestom)

    I will conclude my review series of sorts with one last installment. I'll start with the good news!

    If you read another posting I mentioned getting about a 2sec/day rate from the watch. I now believe the tourbillon does have an effect on the accuracy but don't want to get into the specifics now. So the good news is it's pretty accurate!

    The bad news is I have a suspicion but have no way of proving it that the watch I bought from the auction site might possibly be a factory 2nd. If you follow the auction site, there are a group of similar watches being bid upon and a second group with a buy it now price. Iím thinking these latter are factory 1sts and the ones being put up for bid might be 2nds. Which would explain the shoddy assembly. So beware if you decide to get one! I did mention in my first post, you get what you pay for!

    The good news is Iíve gotten a lot of compliments on it. I think people notice it first because of the displaced hour hand and then notice the tourbillon although they donít really know what it is. And it does look kind of striking to the average eye. To be honest Iíve nicknamed it my TT; my tacky tourbillon. The real leather/fake alligator strap plus the hands are just tacky! Iím thinking of replacing the hands with a nice gold filigree set and the band with something a little nicer. Anyway, the good news is people do compliment me on it!

    The bad news is they wonít be complimenting me on it for a while because it fell off my wrist earlier this evening! Iím getting out of my car, shutting the door and next thing I know is itís lying on the macadam. The screw on one of the lugs holding the strap obviously loosened up and fell off, who knows? I didnít know I had to tighten them! So the bad news is itís getting 2sec/day on the mantle.

    The good news is its still working so it appears to be shock resistant! I brought it home and on the timing machine its still showing the same rate as before. I think the watch fell on the leather band because there are only a few tiny marks on the case. Under the scope the movement looks and seems to run as before so the tourbillon is at least robust in that regard!

    I just wish I could be wearing it now!

    In conclusion, I did get what I paid for and have no regrets as of yet. To restate something I said earlier to be a little clearer; the tourbillon movement is the engineering marvel, the rest of the watch is not. But I delight in knowing that in my watch the tourbillon is doing what it was meant to do, improve the accuracy of the watch, not be some symbol of the craftsmanship of the watchmaker. The accuracy is astounding! It would be real interesting to see what the accuracy of the tourbillon watches as a group are?

    Despite the bad, I love my TT! Iím getting +2sec/day from a possible factory 2nd mechanical windup non-adjusted tourbillon watch I paid $520 for that still runs after dropping it on the ground! Iíve got no complaints!


    Regards,
    Bruce

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Minorva Flying Tourbillon Review (RE: bbodnyk)

    Quote Originally Posted by bbodnyk View Post
    The bad news is they wonít be complimenting me on it for a while because it fell off my wrist earlier this evening! Iím getting out of my car, shutting the door and next thing I know is itís lying on the macadam. The screw on one of the lugs holding the strap obviously loosened up and fell off, who knows? I didnít know I had to tighten them! So the bad news is itís getting 2sec/day on the mantle.
    I'm wearing my TT again!

    After having the strap come undone I sent the Ebay seller a message and he promptly sent me two t-bars/screws for the strap which arrived this past week. I imagine I could have sent the watch back and gotten a replacement but choose to keep it and just replace the screws!

    Bruce

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