The tourbillon watch. What is it exactly?

What is a tourbillon?

tourbillon watches cheap - luxury design
A tourbillon watch is a luxury watch that is composed of a set of mechanical elements "enclosed" in a cage that turns on itself. It is the most complex movement in the world of watchmaking.

A tourbillon is intended to improve the precision of the watch by counteracting the disturbances caused by the earth's gravity.

The tourbillon was invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), a prestigious watchmaker who founded the Breguet brand in 1775.
This brand will become the absolute reference in the field of "Haute Horlogerie".
The first tourbillon was born and patented in 1801.


Abraham-Louis Breguet



There are two basic tourbillons, the so-called tourbillon, and the carrousel.
Here is the "standard" tourbillon:



 And the carrousel :



The carrousel was invented long after the Breguet tourbillon by Bahne Bonniksen in 1892. B. Bonniksen is a Danish watchmaker based in England. The purpose of these two tourbillons is similar but their operation differs.

To return to the main question, what is a tourbillon?
As I said earlier, a tourbillon is a set of elements enclosed in a cage that turns on itself.
These elements are the escapement wheel, the anchor, and the balance wheel.
You have certainly recognized them immediately in the two previous photos.
The visual difference you notice right away is the way the elements turn.
In the "standard" tourbillon the balance wheel remains in the center of the rotation axis of the cage and you can see the escapement wheel and the anchor turning around the axis.

In the "carousel" tourbillon the balance is off-center and also rotates along the edge which gives a more complex visual effect than the "standard" one. This is personally the one I prefer.

Of course, the coaxial tourbillon is also impressive and you can see right away that it is not a fixed balance of an automatic watch which is not a tourbillon.
Technically, the biggest difference between the two movements is that on the standard, the spring (which gives energy to the watch) transmits its energy to the escapement wheel which then transmits this energy to the rotation of the cage.
Whereas for the Caroussel tourbillon, two different gears are used. The energy is distributed by the first gear to the escapement wheel and the second gear is responsible for transmitting the energy to the cage.

I am not a watchmaker, and even if I were, having the skills to build this kind of movement requires a very high technical level that only a few people on this planet have.

To give you an idea of the complexity of a "classic" tourbillon, here is a small diagram of the cut.


As you can see, owning a tourbillon watch is something very rare, and unique and makes you a specialist in beautiful things. Almost all the watchmakers and jewelers I have met in the area where I live have never seen a tourbillon in their lives.

The two previous photos of the two tourbillons (which are a little more complex than standard tourbillons) are photos of the same watch, from Blancpain, called the Brassus double tourbillon, and costing the modest sum of $250,000! A quarter of a million dollars!

Here is the pictuce of this watch:

There is some confusion when looking at websites that sell watches, it is not uncommon to see stamped tourbillon watches when it is not.
Or call a tourbillon the balance wheel that can be seen on a "simple" automatic watch.

For example :



Is this watch a tourbillon watch?

This watch is not a tourbillon watch at all. Its mechanism is complex with all the dials it has but it is not one.

What are the elements that allow us to see it quickly?

First of all, the price. This watch costs around $120 while a tourbillon is more in the range of $600 to $1000 for the entry-level.
Second, a tourbillon is meant to be seen! Designers are proud of their work and they want it to be seen. If in this example we can distinguish the balance wheel in the back, we cannot see the escapement wheel for example.
Therefore, for a tourbillon to be seen in its entirety, it is necessary to provide a large location. The hole cut for this purpose will be much larger.

Compare the two locations with the picture below for example. You can see that the hole cut in the dial goes from the very bottom of the watch to almost the hour hands.


The picture of the watch you see above is the watch from the product sheet you are currently viewing. It is also mine and I can tell you that I am a big fan of watches but even more of tourbillon watches.