If you’re a hardcore watch lover, the most exciting time of the year is its beginning –not because the dew of spring is fresh on a world reborn, but because it’s when the two watchapaloozas known as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, and BaselWorld, take place in Geneva and Basel –bringing us all the latest and greatest timepieces as watchmakers vie for the attention and dollars of their clients.  One of the most eagerly awaited announcements of the season is always the latest in the “Opus” series of watches from Harry Winston.  The Opus watches, now in their 11nth year, are always a collaboration between Harry Winston and one of modern watchmaking’s star designers, and have produced some of the wildest watches in the entire history of horology (which is saying something.)

With such an incredible portfolio of talent, there’s always some question as to whether or not Harry Winston’s new Opus will measure up, and by any measure this year’s Opus –Opus XI, a collaboration with watchmaker Denis Guiget, whose portfolio includes his own radical and beautiful MCT “Sequential One” watch –is a winner.

Opus XI is an incredible flight of horological fancy.  The hour is shown on four tiles which fit together in the center of the dial like pieces of a puzzle.  It’s at the change of each hour that the Opus XI reveals its secret.  At the top of the hour, the number in the center of the dial seems to literally explode, as the four tiles on which the number is printed separate and spiral outwards while at the same time, four new tiles rotate inwards to mesh neatly with each other and show a new number.  There are 24 tiles in all, mounted on a group of four rotating disks and propelled by an arrangement of gears with such complex interactions that they had to be designed by computer and fabricated using photolithography techniques borrowed from the semiconductor industry.  The display was originally inspired by the merging and diverging movements of flocks of birds in flight.

The minutes are displayed by a mechanical digital system in the form of two rotating disks at the upper right –the tens disk jumps every ten minutes and the ones disk rotates continuously.

The mechanics necessary for this display of horological fireworks are infernally complex.  566 components, running in a staggering total of 155 jeweled bearings (an ordinary mechanical watch has 17 jewels) are necessary to present this completely unique mechanical spectacle.  The Opus XI is limited to 111 pieces.

Click here to check out the Harry Winston Opus XI in action.

The Harry Winston Opus XI will be available in the 4th quarter of 2011, in 18k white gold.  $229,000.

Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.

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