How to identify 3 types of tourbillons.
Today we get to tell you all about tourbillon complication and answer all the most common questions about tourbillons.
A tourbillon is a mechanism found in certain high-end mechanical watches.
It is both hypnotic and fascinating to watch and watches with tourbillons are usually a bit expensive compared to watches without them.
They are not the most common complication that you ll find on a watch, but certainly one of the most entertaining.
What Does a Tourbillon Look Like.
Sometimes an unsavvy watch dealer might mistake a watch with a semi-skeletonized dial showing a visible balance wheel known as an Open Heart for a tourbillon.
Be sure to read further to learn how to quickly identify a genuine tourbillon watch when you see one and avoid running into a disastrous nightmare.
Why Do Some Watches Have Tourbillons.
The purpose of a tourbillon is to address an issue that many mechanical watches have with regards to the way physics affects precision and accuracy.
Gravity is a force that creates a drag on watch s movement when they are in certain positions.
How Does a Tourbillon Watch Work.
One of the most challenging things watchmakers face when regulating a watch is the effects that gravity plays in the caliber or movement.
A tourbillon acts as the way to counter the drag effect that gravity plays on some of the smaller components in a watch s escapement when held in certain positions.
A tourbillon places certain parts of the watches internal mechanics, the balance wheel and escapement into a rotating cage.
The escapement is a component of the movement which is comprised of the hairspring, balance wheel, and pallet fork.
The tourbillon watch will then slowly rotate this cage holding the escapement, usually at a rate of 1 RPM, and this mechanism counteracts the adverse effects that gravity creates when the watch is in certain positions and helps to iron out positional errors in accuracy.
The video below demonstrates how the escapement is mounted onto the tourbillon s cage and also depicts how it steadily rotates the escapement around the cage.
Who Invented the Tourbillon.
It was 1795 when Abraham-Louis Breguet developed the mechanical mechanism AKA complication that we call the tourbillon.
Breguet was also famous for inventing other revolutionary devices in watchmaking such as the rotor that we find in self-winding, automatic watches.
It s no surprise that many Breguet watches often have tourbillons.
The word tourbillon is a French term which means whirlwind.
If you take one close look at a tourbillon watch in action, then the name makes perfect sense.
It has a mesmerizing spiral motion that can be quite hypnotic.
What is the World s Thinnest Tourbillon.
BVLGARI released the world s thinnest tourbillon in the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon which uses the ultra-thin Bulgari in-house manufactured Caliber BVL 268 shown below.
The 11-jewel movement is only 1.
95mm thick and has an approximate power reserve of 55 hours.
Are There Different Types of Tourbillons.
Tourbillons have evolved quite a bit since they were first invented.
In fact, there are quite a few types of tourbillons.
Some luxury watchmakers are really creative in the way they implement a tri-axial tourbillon.
Below you will find a few video examples of some of the more innovative ones.
Double-Axis Triple-Axis Tourbillons.
A multi-axis tourbillon is an innovation to the traditional tourbillon mechanism where the escapement is mounted in a cage that is rotated on more than one axis.
A triple-axis tourbillon also known as a tri-axial tourbillon is a tourbillon that rotates on three different axes.
A double-axis tourbillon only rotates on two axes.
Wasn t that sweet.
Below is another triple-axis tourbillon v .
Double and Quadruple Tourbillons.
A double or quadruple tourbillon is a watch that has more than one tourbillon complication such as the Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon À Différentiel Sphérique featured in the video below.
A flying tourbillon is mounted differently than a traditional tourbillon.
Most are mounted with a support system such as a bridge or cock on both sides.
What makes the flying tourbillon different is that is supported from only one side.
Should You Get a Tourbillon Watch.
Yes but only if you can handle a whole lot of watch.
A tourbillon is a serious watch and will draw lots of attention to your wrist.
Many collectors would consider their tourbillon watches to be some of their most prized possessions.
So to answer the question Only get one if you think you can handle it.
Swiss Made Tourbillons.
For the most part, tourbillons are highly associated with Swiss watches as they were invented by a Swiss watchmaker and are to this day predominantly manufactured in Switzerland.
There are other countries though that produce them but few that can make them anywhere near as well as the way the Swiss watchmakers.
There are, however, a few exceptions.
Possibly the only country that produced high-quality tourbillons is Saxon-German watchmakers in the watchmaking town south of Dresden called Glashutte, Germany.
Many Swiss watchmakers make tourbillons, and they are usually quite costly.
However, there are some that are more affordable than others.
Recently, TAG Heuer released the Carrera 02T Tourbillon Chronograph which is considered to be the most affordable high quality, in-house tourbillon from a respected Swiss watch brand.
Click here to read the review or watch our in-house video demo below to see it in action.
German Made Tourbillons.
A few noteworthy German watchmakers that produce high-quality tourbillon complications are Lange Sohne and Glashutte Original.
These are two watches from highly respected watchmakers that manufacture excellent tourbillons.
A Lange Sohne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Merite – Read the review below .
Glashutte Original Senator Sixties Square Tourbillon.
Still can t get enough tourbillons.
Click the button below for a few more.
If you were about to pay an exorbitant amount of money on a watch say something in the six figures ballpark you d almost certainly be looking at a tourbillon watch.
Tourbillon watches are considered some of the most mechanically beautiful timepieces available and have become sought-after items for watch aficionados.
So, what exactly is the big deal.
Why would anyone pay so much for any watch that wasn t made of diamond-infused pure gold.
To understand what a tourbillon watch is, and why one can carry such a high price tag, we need to first unpack a mechanical watch to understand what makes it, well, tick.
Table of Contents.
Looking inside a watch.
There are many different kinds of timepieces, but for our purposes, all we re interested in are mechanical watches.
The main parts that you will find inside a mechanical watch are a spring known as the mainspring , the gear train three separate gears , the weighted wheel, and the escapement.
Mechanical watches can be assembled in various configurations and styles, but they will have some variation on these four parts.
The spring, which is either manually or automatically wound, provides the energy.
That energy travels through the gears, through the escapement, and into the weighted wheel.
The weighted wheel, also known as the balance wheel or just balance is the equivalent of the pendulum in older clocks its oscillating motion is the timekeeper.
Watch this informative video for a visual representation of the process.
The mechanical watch is a remarkable invention, but it s by no means perfect.
For one thing, considerable amounts of energy are lost in this process, which is inevitable when that much energy transfer is occurring between gears.
In addition to the loss of energy, mechanical parts, no matter how securely designed, are affected by gravity, magnets, temperature, and other outside forces.
All of these factors result in timepieces that grow less precise with time.
With different materials and designs, some of those issues had been mitigated, but gravity remained a persistent issue that all horologists faced.
Enter the tourbillon.
A brief history of the tourbillon watch.
Invented at the turn of the 18th century, the tourbillon watch was the creation of French watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Due to gravitational forces, the escapement acts slightly different depending on its positioning.
If a watch is stuck in the same position for an extended period of time say, held vertically in a pocket the cumulative effect of gravity will alter its motion.
For this reason, watches needed to be regulated regularly.
Frustrated by this effect that gravity had on his watches, Breguet conjured a clever solution place the escapement and balance wheel in a constantly rotating enclosure so that the natural wear of gravitational pull would be spread evenly.
It wasn t a perfect solution some now argue it wasn t a solution at all but at the time, it was a unique, and lucrative, fix.
For a visual of how a tourbillon works see this short video .
Since Breguet s time, other horologists have augmented his original design.
There are double – and triple-axis tourbillons, double and quadruple tourbillons, flying tourbillons, and more.
These variations on the basic tourbillon are intended to better counteract gravity and, supposedly, make watches more accurate.
For modern watches, tourbillons are mostly superfluous.
Breguet didn t have the benefit of the technology, science, and materials that modern horologists have access to today.
Plenty of watchmakers still use tourbillon, especially in the Swiss industry.
These modern watches often have a window in the face to show off the tourbillon.
But that is all tourbillons are useful for now showing off.
Why do tourbillons cost so much.
If tourbillons don t serve any actual function in modern watches, why do companies charge so much for them.
Short answer because they can.
Like much in the luxury goods industry, the value of a modern tourbillon watch isn t in its functionality, but in its style and complexity.
A tourbillon is an incredibly intricate contraption, often made up of 40 separate pieces, and requires an impressive amount of craftsmanship and skill.
There is a reason most tourbillon watches are Swiss Made.
For many years, the cheapest tourbillon watches on the market were in the range of 40-50K, an example would be the Extreme Tourbillon Regulator by Alpina retails for 52,500 while many tourbillons still cost north of 100,000.
That s a lot of money for what is essentially the most complex thingamabob you will ever wear.
In the past decade, though, changes have been coming to the industry, and as has so often been the case in the watch industry, the revolution is occurring in Asia.
Finding affordable tourbillon watches.
Before diving in too deep, it needs to be stressed that affordable is a relative term.
Now then, well-known Swiss watchmakers, TAG Heuer, produced their first affordable tourbillon watch in 2016, releasing the 15,000 Heuer-02T like we said, relative .
For a watchmaker of TAG Heuer s stature to produce the Heuer-02T was a definitive signal of an industry shift.
To be clear, though, TAG Heuer was not the first company to release an affordable tourbillon watch.
The first Chinese tourbillon watches were mostly knockoffs of Swiss design and still came with a four-digit price tag, not exactly the ideal choice for your average watch shopper.
In the more than ten years since those first cheaper tourbillon watches started entering the market, the technology has gotten more refined and more affordable.
Nowadays, it is possible to find a tourbillon watch starting in the 500 to 700 range without skimping too much on quality or style if you re seeing a 50 tourbillon watch online, buyer beware .
Something like this Akribos XXIV Tourbillon Moonphase Watch see on Amazon would be a good starting point if you are shopping for your first one.
Are cheap tourbillons any good.
Whether or not you re going to like your cheaper tourbillon watch is essentially dependent on why you re buying one.
If you are under the misconception that tourbillon watches are the most accurate on the market, you are buying a tourbillon for all the wrong reasons.
Most non-mechanical watches will be more accurate.
Go with an atomic watch if you re wanting accuracy.
If your main interest in a tourbillon watch is because they re cool which they are then there s no reason a Chinese watch won t satisfy you just as much as its Swiss counterpart.
The only reason you would be better off getting a Swiss Made tourbillon watch is the same reason you would buy any Swiss watch the Swiss make the most precisely crafted and impeccably stylish watches on the market.
If the price is no concern for you and you have your eyes set on a tourbillon, go with the Swiss.
For everyone else, rest assured, a tourbillon watch doesn t have to cost more than your apartment.
Speaking of astronomical prices, check out these watches that have been worn in space.
So What Is It.
The ultra-complicated part was originally built to fight gravity.
Now, it s extremely valuable proof a watch is special.
Reading about watches can often feel like cracking open a textbook.
Browsing and even buying means being barraged with inscrutable words and phrases like tourbillons, perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and so on.
So here, we ll be breaking down the meaning, history, and importance of different watch terms.
Welcome to GQ s Watch Glossary.
Even if you don t know much about watches, you might know what a tourbillon does to one it adds a couple extra zeros to a timepiece s value.
Last year, Tag Heuer made headlines when it unveiled an affordable tourbillon watch.
The piece cost 20,000.
The tourbillon was once a breakthrough in watchmaking, but today, like spinners on a Hummer, is more useful for showing off.
How did we get here.
The tourbillon was invented by watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet around 1795, during the era of the pocket watch.
Unlike the modern wristwatch, a pocket watch typically remained in two positions vertical in a pocket or horizontal on a table.
Breguet discovered that gravity pulled on the time-telling mechanisms in the watch the balance wheel and hairspring, originally a coil of steel or gold that swung like a pendulum and kept time and created imperfections.
In his fight against gravity, Breguet created a cage that could hold all the pieces necessary for keeping time.
He made it so that cage rotated in a circle, effectively preventing gravity from yanking the spring too far in one direction.
Now, it s an incredibly complicated mechanism made up of roughly 70 different parts that live inside the diameter almost half that of a dime.
The whole thing is typically placed right on the dial, where the rotating gears can easily be called on to impress whoever s looking at a timepiece.
But the tourbillon didn t truly catch on until about two centuries after its invention.
Watches powered by quartz were invented in the 1980s they were much more accurate, and powered by batteries that kept ticking without interruption much longer than any mechanical watch.
All of a sudden all the mechanical movements became much less precise than the quartz, said Stephane Belmont, Jaeger-LeCoultre s director of heritage.
The movement is the heart of the watch, the series of pieces that keep it ticking.
Plus, wristwatches strapped onto flailing arms didn t have the same problems with gravity as their pocket-bound predecessors.
So, in response to the so-called Quartz Crisis, watchmakers started relying on beauty, more than precision, to sell their watches.
To wear a watch with a tourbillon was a sign that you would wear a very high-level watch and that you have something quite special, Belmont said.
That s how actually it became much more attractive and much more popular.
People knew if you had a tourbillon on the wrist it means you have a mechanical watch.
Wearers weren t the only who used the tourbillon to show off.
Watchmakers, too, used the tourbillon as an excuse to flaunt their skill and ability to assemble dozens of parts inside a tiny space.
Jaeger-LeCoultre, for example, upped the ante on a tourbillon that rotated on a single axis with the gyrotourbillon, which rotates around like a globe.
Luckily for modern watchmakers, Breguet s invention wasn t just practical in its time but mesmerizing over 220 years later.
Today, quartz isn t even the greatest threat to mechanical watches.
Most people now carry a device around in their pockets that knows the exact time, down to the second.
The tourbillon s greatest advantage isn t that it keeps time well, but that it does so beautifully.
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