Geneva-based Cecil Purnell is quite a new brand. Jonathan Purnell, who named the company after his grandfather, founded it in 2006. Every watch they make features a tourbillon, which is unusual if not unexpected. While Cecil Purnell has not quite yet become a major name in watches, they did catch some attention at Baselworld, the world’s biggest trade show in luxury watches. There, they unrolled a whole collection of watches rather than just a year’s masterpiece.
In spite of having been successful at Baselworld, the company doesn’t seem to have a good handle on its marketing strategies. Its website is difficult to navigate, and it doesn’t seem to provide a lot of technical information on the watches listed there. The company has a 100% transparency policy which means that on their site you can find charts that tell you where each part comes from. The only problem with this is that they left some pieces off of this chart, which has some people speculating that these parts came from China rather than Switzerland. The watch itself, however, is Swiss-made regardless. Whether or not this is the real reason the firm decided to leave escapement assemblies and balance wheels out of their diagram, it has a lot of people asking questions as to why the firm bothers to have a transparency policy if they aren’t actually listing every piece.
As stated above, all watches by Cecil Purnell have a tourbillon. This one, the Pit Lane V12, has a movement by the brand itself, the CP-V12. This movement can be wound only by hand, and has a power reserve that lasts up to 55 hours. This means the watch has to be wound quite often, but that is often to be expected in manual-winding watches. The movement is pretty solid, and it also includes a big date complication. That is probably the simplest of complications, but it looks really good on this watch, so perhaps it was chosen more for appearance than for technical intricacy.
There are those who say it has too militaristic a look, but it’s offered in so many materials and colors that that statement can’t possibly apply to all of them, especially not the ones with red gold, which look like something out of some kind of futuristic, clean and shiny factories. The titanium shine of the insides is set off brilliantly by the warmth of the red gold, and makes the watch look even more modern. Even some of the grayer ones, which do have just a slight hint of a soldiery feel to them, are more industrial than military, and very modern.
What makes them feel like fancy factories from a greener, cleaner future is mainly due to the movements that can be seen right through the dial, which draw the eye immediately when you look at the watch. Leaving the guts exposed is hardly a new thing in Haute Horlogerie, but what makes this one seem different is the way the parts look. Usually, the exposed parts inside of a watch are spindly and delicate looking. The ones you see in this watch are big and solid looking, like the cogs in a massive machine.
One piece from this series is the La Croix, which, as its name implies, has a cross on it. This cross is in the shape of the dial and the case opening itself. It’s uncertain whether or not they meant for this to be the Christian cross, and in fact, it doesn’t really look like one. It’s more like a plus sign, or like the cross that they use to represent hospitals.
These watches are very lovely, and it may be that soon Cecil Purnell will be a name known and coveted by watch collectors everywhere. As it is, they seem to at least have established a foothold in making limited edition, exclusive watches that are somewhat personalized. Using fine materials and taking their time (Cecil Purnell only makes 50 watches a year), the firm seems to have a good shot at getting somewhere, if they can improve on their marketing strategy a bit. Only time will tell if the company becomes truly great, but the Pit Lane V12 is a step in the right direction.