Tourbillons have been prized by watchmakers since their invention in the late 18th century, and are still coveted today. This guide will explain what a tourbillon is, its origins, and what makes it such a special complication in watchmaking.
What Is a Tourbillon?
A tourbillon (French for “vortex”) is a complex mechanism used in mechanical watches to counteract the effects of gravity on timekeeping accuracy. Tourbillons are highly sought-after among collectors and watch enthusiasts due to their aesthetic beauty, intricate craftsmanship and collectability. They have become one of the most recognisable and luxurious watch complications, although they can be very expensive.
Origins of the Tourbillon.
Developed by watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet in the late 18th century, the tourbillon was created to counter the effects of gravity on timekeeping precision. Tourbillons turned long-held assumptions about watchmaking on its head; since then, tourbillon watches have become highly desirable among luxury watch collectors, thanks to their sense of prestige, rarity and collectability.
Benefits of a Tourbillon Watch.
Often made with rare materials, tourbillon watches offer a number of benefits to a luxury watch collector, including increased accuracy, improved readability and legibility in low light conditions. For those looking to invest in a quality timepiece, the prestige factor of owning a tourbillon watch also makes it an ideal choice. Tourbillons remain highly desirable among watch collectors because of their rarity and craftsmanship.
Components of the Tourbillon System.
The main components of the tourbillon system consist of the cage, balance wheel, and escapement. The tourbillon cage is an intricate assemblage of gears, bridges, and other metal components that keeps the watch’s movement battery safely in place while providing a platform for the balance wheel and escapement to function properly. The metal cage which houses these small parts rotates at a consistent speed to counteract any adverse effects gravitational forces may have on accuracy.
Different Types of Tourbillons.
The two main types of tourbillons are single-axis and double–axis. Single-axis tourbillons rotate once per minute, while double-axis tourbillons feature a cage that spins around two axes at different speeds to offer greater protection against gravitational forces and effects on the watch’s accuracy. Additionally, there are other variations such as triple-axis tourbillon watches, which feature three separate movement cages that rotate at different speeds.