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.
A marvel of mechanics.
The word to describe what is inarguably the most revered complication in the world of watches is borrowed from the French language Tourbillon meaning whirlwind , as the name describes, is a component that turns 360 degrees within a watch.
To be precise, the escapement, which is found in all mechanical watches, is modified to make a full rotation every minute in order to counter the gravitational force that is exerted on it.
This is to improve the overall accuracy of the watch and because of their mesmerising mechanics and the sheer skill that goes into creating this masterpiece, tourbillons are held in very high regard amongst watch enthusiasts.
A whirlwind on the wrist a closer look at the tourbillon and its functions.
The tourbillon was invented in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the legendary watchmaking visionary.
The patent was granted to Breguet in 1801 in Paris.
The complications prime function was to compensate for inaccuracies caused by changes in a pocket watch s position relative to the gravitational force that was exerted on the watch.
The Breguet Tourbillon s escapement is placed within a carriage that makes a full revolution in regular intervals around the centre seconds pinion.
Due to that rotation, the gravitational force is exerted in equal parts at each point of the escapement, in essence negating the effect of gravity on the critical points of the movement by taking it out of the equation, thus correcting for gravitational error.
Unlike a pocket watch, wristwatches are usually in frequent motion throughout the day, thus achieving the same effect a tourbillon would on a static timepiece.
Nonetheless, the ability to create tourbillon is equatable to a badge of honour in horology, as it is at the pinnacle of fine watchmaking.
Its purpose may be primarily aesthetical, but it is a spectacular addition to a watch that is held in high regard for good reason.
Variants and innovations.
Throughout history, several different variants of the tourbillon have been created.
From the Tourbillon to the Gyrotourbillon, let us have a look at the different creations the great masters of horology have invented.
Top Selected Products and Reviews.
Price Price 39.
If you re looking for a skeleton style watch with a true tourbillon movement, this is the real deal, not to be confused with a much less expensive and much less complicated open heart movement masquerading as a tourbillon.
This is a true Flying carrousel-tourbillon built for Jiusko by Hangzhou, one of China s most experienced movement manufacturers since 1972 .
The watch has a sapphire crystal, solid stainless case, clear display back and it looks classy on the wrist, with very well balanced skeleton detailing showcasing the details of the movement.
5mm, it s big enough to look modern without being garish, and it rises low enough to the wrist to work well with dress shirt cuffs.
Comfortable and great eye candy.
Plus I own 3 Jiusko watches, and I trust the build quality which, especially when it comes to more complex movements like tourbillons, is hugely.
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.
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