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.
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.
Victoriaoscuro tourbillon automatic watch features a 72hr power reserve.
10 15 am February 26, 2020 By Julian Horsey.
The Victoriaoscuro tourbillon automatic watch launched via Kickstarter this week offers a 72 hour power reserve offering an affordable tourbillon wristwatch with early bird pledges available from 889 or roughly 690 with worldwide shipping expected to take place sometime around June 2020.
The exquisite Victoriaoscuro tourbillon automatic watch timepiece is constructed using stainless steel parts with 20 components in the case alone.
Watch the overview video below to learn more about the individual polishing and electroplating processes used to create the unique automatic watch.
Leather sourced from Tuscany has been used to create the watch strap which is finished with a stainless steel clasp and is available in either black or blue finishes depending on your preference.
Each watch is presented and supplied in a wooden watch box on each timepiece is etched with an individual number and will be a limited edition production run of just 300.
For more details and full specifications jump over to the official Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign page by following the link below.
In-Depth Does The Tourbillon Have Any Real Benefits In A Wristwatch.
For a clear-cut answer, we went to Roger Smith.
It s indisputably true that Breguet invented the tourbillon with the intention of creating something that would improve the performance of a watch.
At the same time that Breguet created the tourbillon his patent is from 1801 he also created a controversy.
The tourbillon is supposed to do something very specific reduce the rate variation between the flat positions of a watch, and the vertical positions, to an absolute minimum.
Enthusiasts who are interested in precision know that a watch runs at slightly different rates in each of the classic positions in which a watch is timed.
These are the vertical positions or hanging positions which are crown up, down, left, and right, and the flat, or horizontal positions dial up and dial down.
George Daniels succinctly states the purpose of the tourbillon in his book Watchmaking , The purpose of the invention was to eliminate errors of poise in the balance by revolving the escapement continuously to produce a uniform average rate.
Breguet four minute tourbillon, 1806, made for Count Stanislaw Potoki, no.
1176, with Breguet natural escapement and 21,600 vph frequency.
Auctioned at Christie s in 2014 for 935,442.
The biggest discrepancies are between the vertical and flat positions, thanks to the effects of gravity on the balance and balance spring Breguet s thought was well, if I put the balance and its spring as well as the escapement, including the escape wheel inside a rotating cage that turns in the same plane as the dial, I ll get a single, average rate for all the vertical positions.
Daniels remarks, The close vertical rates obtainable with a tourbillon will last longer than similar rates from a conventional watch.
He also points out, The tourbillon watch is expected to keep better time than a conventional watch.
If its potential to maintain a closer rate for a longer period of time is to be fully exploited, it should be fitted with an escapement that does not need oil at the impulse surfaces.
The reason for this is obvious as lubricant deteriorates, the rate of the watch will vary.
Now, all this seems relatively straightforward.
The notion that a tourbillon should be an aid to rate stability seems intuitive enough and yet it has become more or less a matter of conventional wisdom nowadays that the tourbillon is not a help in fact, it s often expressed that it s more of a hindrance than anything else.
Against the theoretical potential of the tourbillon, there are a number of practical arguments, which can be divided into arguments against the tourbillon in a wristwatch, and arguments against the tourbillon, period.
Patek Philippe observatory tourbillon movement, with 50 second tourbillon; mid-20th century; obtained a first-class bulletin.
To take the second set of objections first, the tourbillon creates some issues while attempting to address another.
You do get a single average rate for all the hanging positions, for sure, but you also need a more powerful mainspring because instead of the movement just moving the balance when the escapement unlocks, you have to move the mass of everything in the cage as well balance, spring, lever, and escape wheel.
On top of that you have to move the mass of the cage.
Every single time the balance unlocks and the escape wheel advances a tooth, the whole kit and kaboodle has to move which is a major additional inertial load, as well as a lot of additional load on the pallets and escape wheel teeth.
If you want to get around this nowadays, and you re making a tourbillon on the cheap, you can overcome lower manufacturing precision by throwing in a stronger mainspring; traditionally, however, making a tourbillon involved manufacturing to very high precision so as to avoid excess wear.
Audemars Piguet ultra thin cal.
In a wristwatch the objections become even more pronounced.
The space issue is perhaps less urgent in a pocket watch, but in a wristwatch, the tourbillon really starts to hog available space; building a tourbillon into a 50mm or larger pocket watch is one thing, but fitting one into, say, a 30mm diameter watch movement is another.
There were certainly tourbillon wristwatches built in the days before the post-quartz luxury watch boom, but they were very few in number Patek Philippe made several wristwatch tourbillons for the observatory trials, as did Omega, but these are rarities, and the search for winning timekeeping solutions in the observatory trials was largely taken up with refining the lever escapement watch, and improving fine adjustment techniques.
Audemars Piguet s ultra-thin tourbillon watch, caliber 2780, from 1986, was intended as a demonstration of tour de force watchmaking prowess, not a serious contribution to precision timekeeping.
Finally, it s doubtful whether, as the saying goes, the game is even worth the candle.
We asked watchmaker Roger Smith, who s known in the watch community for his advocacy of simplicity and robustness as traits of paramount desirability in a watch movement, for his views on the tourbillon in a wristwatch.
I think George Daniels would have happily admitted that a tourbillon has no practical purpose within modern horology, and I would agree.
The tourbillon was invented to cope with the vagaries of a split bimetallic balance, which due to its nature two flexible arms is impossible to poise, due to the varying temperatures, centrifugal forces and repeated shocks that a watch will receive.
The tourbillon moderated these issues.
Today, the industry all use mono metallic balances which do not move once poised in the factory or workshop, and so for practical purposes relegates the tourbillon to the history books.
Where a tourbillon does have a role today, is when a watchmaker is wanting to show off their skill, artistry and flare for miniaturized mechanics and to stand out from the crowd.
I would still put one in a watch.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic is a slim, modern take on the tourbillon.
It s conventional wisdom that the natural home of a tourbillon is in a pocket watch but Smith makes an interesting and often forgotten point the split balances used in pre-Glucydur balance watches, which were paired with steel balance springs, were extremely difficult to poise both statically and dynamically, and moreover would have any poise errors amplified by the expansion and contraction of the balance.
In this context, a tourbillon could be effective, or at least it would seem so from observatory time trial records a Girard-Perregaux observatory tourbillon from the 1890s, was recorded at the observatory at Neûchatel as having a difference in rate between the flat and hanging positions of just 0.
19 seconds day.
But in a modern watch with a monometallic balance, the device seems superfluous at best and parasitic at worst, purely from a chronometry standpoint.
Modern Rolex watches, to take just one obvious example, leave the factory adjusted to 2 seconds per day, which a tourbillon wristwatch certainly one of the same proportions as, say, a 39mm Oyster Perpetual would be hard pressed to match.
Dial and movement, Girard-Perregaux observatory tourbillon, 1889.
Still, there are interesting outliers in the data on tourbillon wristwatches.
The Concours International de Chronométrie was one of the few modern examples of a real accuracy competition, and in 2011, a Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique was the overall champion, with 915 points out of 1000 overall awarded a Tissot, the winner in the Classique category, scored 764 points.
The 2009 edition of the Concours also featured winning performances from tourbillons, with the JLC Master Tourbillon and Gyrotourbillon obtaining the highest overall scores.
Such a small sample size, of course, provides little in terms of solid information on the benefits of the tourbillon and as with all time trials, may say as much about the adjusters as it does about the watch, but at least it shows that the device is not necessarily inimical to accuracy which is not strong marquee, as they say, but it s something.
The Greubel-Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique Sapphire.
A final point which is sometimes forgotten in the discussion of tourbillons in watches, is that the single average rate for the vertical positions is itself subject to instability.
Having a single average rate is certainly a theoretical advantage, but that single rate is an average and itself subject to variation depending on the amount of power in the mainspring, the state of lubrication of the watch, and the amount of time it spends in varying positions where poise errors may be more or less exaggerated.
The latter issue is the one that multi-axis wristwatch tourbillons are meant to address, and certainly, such tourbillons those from Greubel-Forsey, for instance remain fascinating as intellectual exercises.
That may sound like damning with faint praise, but it isn t the intellectual interest of such watches isn t for everyone and certainly the price is not for every wallet but they remain intriguing examples of the exploration of bleeding edge mechanical solutions to long term rate stability; experimental constant force escapements like Girard-Perregaux s are another example of such experimentation, and I think the watch world is definitely richer for such things.
Lange Söhne 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst.
Asked if it s true that a tourbillon could at least proved a theoretical benefit in a wristwatch given its ability to produce a single average rate in the vertical positions Smith replied, A simple and well set up balance and spring will hold as good a rate in the verticals as any tourbillon.
In the long term, a simple watch will far out perform a more complicated tourbillon, particularly as the lubricants begin to age.
Patek observatory tourbillon no.
86115, cased for Philippe Stern in 1987.
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