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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.
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.
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.