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The humble watch rotor gets its day in the sun

They're more often tolerated than admired, but some watchmakers are changing that.

As beautiful and necessary as they are, rotors are more often tolerated than admired. They’re an essential component in automatic watches, swinging dutifully with the smallest wrist movement to power the movement within, but the downside is that they partially obscure the view of the latter. So what’s a watchmaker to do? Make them entrancing, of course.

Just look at the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince”, which features a red-gold rotor in the shape of the fi ctional Little Prince standing atop an asteroid — based on a drawing by his creator, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

MBF Horo

It’s a neat way of injecting a brand’s story into a watch without compromising a classic dial, and IWC isn’t the only one that has tweaked the rotor for the purposes of poetry. Some of MB&F’s Horological Machine models have rotors shaped like battle axes, while Glashutte Original carves its initials out of theirs.

And let’s not forget the different types of rotors: micro-rotors are mounted on the same plane as the movement (instead of atop it), thereby allowing the watch to be slimmer; and peripheral rotors that rotate around the circumference of the movement so as to provide a full view of it. Some watches don’t even stop at one, such as the Perrelet Peripheral Double Rotor and the Paul Gerber Model 41, which has three micro-rotors. So the next time you strap on an automatic timepiece, spare a moment to appreciate all the fun happening on the flip side.


Two less commonly seen oscillating weights.



Vacheron Constantin’s 2015 masterpiece from its cushion-cased Harmony collection, the Harmony Ultra-Thin Grande Complication Chronograph, features a yellow gold peripheral rotor with lovely arabesque detailing.



Unveiled at SIHH this year, the Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P is a mechanical/quartz hybrid that places its micro-rotor on the dial side which, in addition to adding complexity to the dial, produces power for the quartz generator.