Hands-On: Horage Lensman 1

Horage is a bit of an oddity in the watch world. Most brands build for years and years to be able to produce even a simple three-hand movement, should they even choose to go that route, and they tend to demand a high price. Horage has been working on theirs since its inception and has maintained a goal of industrialization over high prices starting with the K1, which had a silicon escapement and a modular complication system back at launch. Though it didn’t get the attention it deserved initially, it did inevitably ascend the horology ranks and prove its viability, as the K1 serves as the basis of Bremont’s ENG300 calibers.

Eventually, Horage added the micro-rotor wound K2, featured in the Supersede. Another rarity, in addition to being thin, as micro-rotors tend to be, the K2 also featured modular design allowing for complications without increasing the base movement’s thickness by much, as well as a silicon escapement, 72-hour power reserve, and within chronometer accuracy. Another movement that would be impressive coming from a large luxury group, let alone an independent brand like Horage.

While neither are small feats, today we’re looking at a watch with a movement that is perhaps even more impressive. The Lensman 1 features the K-TOU caliber, which is Horage’s in-house, Swiss-made tourbillon. Yes, you read that right. And the watch, despite featuring such a rare and exotic complication, comes in at under $10k. There’s a lot more to the watch as well, which incorporates photographic themes into the design in addition to the tourbillon which we will look at below.


Hands-On: Horage Lensman 1

Grade 5 Titanium
Black Leather
Water Resistance
41 x 49mm
Lug Width

Notable Specs and Features

There is obviously a pretty notable aspect to the Lensman 1, it features a tourbillon in a sub $10k watch. That alone is incredibly uncommon, but there are many more aspects of this that make it special. It’s their own movement, which is to say, the K-TOU was developed in-house. On the rare occasion that one finds a more affordable tourbillon, they tend to come from a third-party manufacturer, such as La Joux Perret, or more commonly a Chinese manufacturer. In-house is basically unheard of. To make matters even more exceptional, the movement is Swiss-made in Biel and the surrounding area, with all components sourced locally, save a few from Germany

Additionally, the K-TOU has a full silicon escapement (hairspring, anchor, and escape wheel), a titanium tourbillon cage to reduce weight, and a 120-hour (5-day) power reserve. It’s also manually wound, beats at 25,200bph, has 19-jewels, and is within chronometer accuracy (-4/+6), though is not chronometer certified. While it might lack the hand-finishing of other Swiss-made tourbillon movements, it makes up for it by having uniquely skeletonized elements, contrast plating, fine brushing, and by costing far less.

Apart from the movement, which, let’s face it, is why you’re here, the Lensman 1 features a grade 5 titanium case that measures 41mm x 49mm x 10.3mm, with a 22mm lug width. That puts it in medium territory, though surprisingly thin considering the movement, making the K-TOU all the more impressive. In terms of the diameter, judging by the size of the movement, which fills out the case back, it’s unlikely they can get much smaller.


The thing with the Lensman 1, is that it’s really two watches in one. Or, at least that’s how I see it. First is the camera-inspired watch. Second is the tourbillon. One is telling a visual story that relates to a concept somewhat outside of the world of watches if spiritually connected through gear and mechanics. The other is about technical watchmaking and luxury, as that is how this complication manifests itself in the modern market. What ties them together, as per Horage, is the spirit of innovation. Oskar Barnack and Abraham-Louis Breguet, together at last, huzzah! The question is, of course, is it successful as both, just one, or neither?

First, I’ll ignore the tourbillon. As a watch inspired by photography, the Lensman takes some elements very literally, while others are merely suggestive. On the sides of the grade 5 titanium case are small numerals one might find on an f/0.95 lens. Which, for the non-photo types, is an incredibly fast and thus rare and expensive type of lens. By the crown are the f-stops, and on the opposite side and between the lugs are distance markings. Immediately, these details are going to narrow down the audience for this watch. Either you know and care about these numbers, know and don’t care, or they make no sense and have little aesthetic value. I’m in the second camp.

The other details are less on the nose. The bezel is inspired by the focus ring of a lens, which is to say it features a grip. Not an unusual detail for a bezel, however in this instance the bezel is fixed. I want to turn it. It communicates “turn me”. So, in a sense, the design is effective, as a lens focus ring features a grip. But, if you put a textured bezel on a watch, it means something. So, I can’t help but find that a bit frustrating. Similarly, the crown is suggestive of a shutter release button. At the center of a concave depression is a black cap that protrudes out (which is actually a black onyx stone). Like a button. But, it’s not pressable. Sigh. (OK, there aren’t any complications for it to actuate either, but it would be cool if it jumped the hour hand or something).

Moving to the dial, things get more abstract. In fact, save one major detail, the dial surface is perhaps only related by being matte black, which is generally the color of cameras and lenses. The surface is black with a stamped textured of radially positioned grooves and applied markers at the hour. The markers are made of polished black gold but feature black lume, which comes off as very matte. While there are no overt references here, the shapes and mixed finishes do catch the light in a dynamic fashion as the watch moves through space. And what is photography if not capturing light?

Of course, I’ve danced around the – ahem – focal point of the watch: the giant cyclops on the crystal. This is the lens, man. This is the point of the watch. The massive, oversized, perhaps record-holding (I’m just guessing here) magnifying glass stuck on the crystal at six putting into focus (sorry, again) the pièce de résistance, the tourbillon. The tourbillon is the subject, eternally framed. And as far as subjects go, it’s a pretty one. This is perhaps where the concept is most successful.

That said, making a giant cyclops and putting a tourbillon underneath it is a pretty good way to make your point. The watch could have been called the Polyphemus, and no one would have batted an eye (I just can’t help it). Did we need the rest of the context to appreciate the mechanical achievement that underlies it all?

This brings me, finally, to the second watch, the tourbillon. And, well, a tourbillon is basically like any other time-telling watch, save the incredibly elaborate gizmo spinning away, thwarting the effects of pesky old gravity. Or, at least, that’s what it’s meant to do. In modern times, does it really play much of a role in the accuracy of a watch? Unlikely. I mean, there are far more modern and likely impactful features at play here, such as the silicon escapement, which is unaffected by magnetism, less affected by friction, and needs less frequent servicing, in theory.

So why is it really there? Well, it’s a flex. A two-part flex, in fact. One part is the owner’s. As those of us who collect watches know very well, tourbillons are rare and expensive. Like minute repeaters and perpetual calendars, they are considered by many or even most as unobtainable. So, to have one is pretty damn exciting. The other is Horage’s. They are not a big name, yet, and making a specced-out tourbillon as they did, at the price they did, is a shot across-the-bow of the industry.

As such, wearing the Lensman 1 is less about the tourbillon when on the wrist, and more about all of the other aesthetic and ergonomic features. Is it beautiful and fun to look at? Sure, but I suppose that was a bit of a letdown as I was hoping for some other horological magic. The reality of a lot of things, particularly on watches, is that what we imagine the experience to be like is beyond the day-to-day reality.

Ultimately, the design and fit are what matter most. This is where watches 1 and 2 come together. I’m here for the tourbillon, but I have to have the photography elements as well, and they just miss for me in person. The dial is hard to read, with the gray numerals disappearing and only the hands sticking out. Back lume is also always mediocre (I would have loved to see onyx inlays instead), and everything else really needs to catch light to stand out. The numerals on the case are too on the nose for my taste as well, and just feel too cute for a nearly $10k watch.

In terms of the fit, though I have 41mm watches in my collection that I wear regularly, this felt large on my 7” wrist. The dial opening is wide, and the surface being nearly all black makes it seem larger and more open. The crown also dug into the back of my hand on occasion. I will say, however, that the thickness and weight helped make it more wearable.

One thing that struck me as odd is that the crown is screw-down, despite the watch being manually wound. Sure, it’s got a 5-day power reserve (which is a lot of winds and would have made a power reserve indicator a great feature) so you don’t need to wind it daily, but I still think it’s a bad idea to have a screw-down crown on a manual watch as winding is inevitable, and it seems like an unnecessary risk and nuisance.

I asked them about this and they had a few reasons. First is that the movement has a clutch to prevent overwinding, which I imagine means you won’t get into a circumstance where you can’t screw the crown in because it’s fully wound. Next is that the watch has a 100m WR and they want to encourage you to use the watch like a sports watch, regardless of it being a tourbillon. In my experience, you don’t need a screw-down crown for that, but ok. Lastly, was that it heightens the experience of the watch in hand, which I imagine means gives it a more solid feeling. I get that, as occasionally I’ve picked up a tool watch and found the crown being push/pull counter to the otherwise solid build, but they were also automatic and likely more rugged in general.



Look. There’s nothing wrong with making a watch inspired by photography. On the contrary, it’s a logical thing to do given the overlap of appreciation in the hobbies. But, a photography-inspired watch doesn’t need to be a tourbillon, and perhaps it shouldn’t be around $9,500. It shouldn’t be more than more people’s entire photography setups. Photography is an accessible hobby, particularly in the days of digital. From phones to mirrorless, it’s easier now than ever to take some photos. And you don’t need expensive gear to be talented.

When you are spending $9,500 on a watch, your list of demands goes up. While the Lensman is a fine watch, with an exceptional movement, the decor doesn’t feel just shy of $10k. I want timelessness. I want refinement. I want something that could be the only watch in my collection. I want something that emphasizes the absurd complexity-for-complexity’s-sake complication, without having to put a literal magnifying glass over it. Though, admittedly, that’s probably my favorite design element of the watch.

Ultimately, I’m a bit conflicted. Horage has brought the tourbillon down into semi-approachable territory (I’m not pretending just under 10k is inexpensive, but it’s less than many mass-produced steel sports watches these days), but they put it in a package you really have to like to buy. It’s not just a watch, it’s a thematic watch. And if that theme isn’t for you, you miss out, frankly, on the more special element.

So, what I would love to see is Horage split the two things up. Make the photography watch, make it less expensive, and then make the tourbillon, and make it refined. If the former was a few hundred to a couple of grand, I’d have a very different opinion of it. The tourbillon and the K-TOU movement are exceptional as is, they just need an environment that is less distracting, and more befitting of their luxury essence.

Of course, I’m sure there are people for who this combination is or was a unicorn and will be thrilled with their purchase. It’s a good watch, that’s for sure. With that said, in an odd move, Horage has already semi-retired it, with plans for a Lensman 1.1 and the Lensman 2 already in the works (and I believe being unveiled soon). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what they have planned for the K-TOU, as well as their photography-inspired watches. Horage

Images from this post:
Related Reviews
Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
wornandwound zsw