What Does A Tourbillon Do? How Does Tourbillon Work?

In this article, we will be answering questions about this particular type of watch. The very first question that people want to know about these types of watches is, “What does a tourbillon do?” A tourbillon is an interesting looking addition to a watch that is intended to increase accuracy.

So now you know the answer to the first question of what it actually does. Well, at least, that’s what it’s supposed to do. As it turns out, there is a lot more to it than that. In fact, the addition of the tourbillon hasn’t even been proven to increase watch accuracy at all! So the very basis of this watch movement itself is unfounded. In the next few segments, we will be taking a much more detailed and in depth look at this mechanism by answering some of the most commonly asked questions.

How Does Tourbillon Work?

The next thing you may be wondering is “How does tourbillon work?” The main idea behind the tourbillon, is to counteract the effect that gravity has on the accuracy of a watch. This is because the internal watch components can run faster in some areas, and slower in others. So the main point of one is to balance out these areas.

The way in which this is supposed to work is by placing the components inside of a cage that is rotated by the tourbillon at 1 rpm. However, as stated earlier, it has never been confirmed that this type watch is any more accurate than any other mechanical watch! So for such complex mechanisms that may or may not have any real benefit, why is it that they are so expensive?

Why Is Tourbillon So Expensive?

So why are they so expensive? Tourbillon watches are expensive because they are arguably the most difficult watch movements to create. They require specialized tools, take a lot of time to produce, and can contain many different components. This all makes more sense when you look into the history of these watches.

The tourbillon was invented by a French watchmaker by the name of Abraham-Louis Breguet. It was patented in 1801. The feature remained a relatively obscure complication in watches for the most part, and didn’t really catch on well until the late 20th century.

It was during this time that Swiss watchmakers started touting tourbillon as a luxury mechanical watch feature. Due to the sheer complexity and detail involved in creating this type of watch, and the distinct aesthetics; they found their place in the luxury watch market.

This of course, led to more watch manufacturers producing tourbillon watches, and several different types of them watches. Being in the luxury watch market means that they carry a high market value. That being said, how much exactly do these watches cost?

High end Swiss-made tourbillon watches usually have entry level prices starting in the $45,000 dollar range, and can easily go above $100,000, while cheaper Chinese models can be as low as the hundreds. As you can see, they can be quite the expensive investment! Several different types of these watches were produced by various watch manufacturers. We will briefly outline 6 of them.

6 Different Types

1: Flying

This one definitely has the most unique name. So what is a flying tourbillon watch? A flying tourbillon watch is one that has the tourbillon supported on one side, rather than at the top and bottom like most tourbillons.

In ordinary versions of these watches, the supporting bridge or cock is mounted at both the top and the bottom of the cage for support. However, in 1920, a German watchmaker by the name of Alfred Helwig designed one to be supported on one side only. He did this because he believed that having a top bearing bridge mounted above the tourbillon cage, blocked the view of some of the inner workings of the watch.

2: Double-Axis

Invented by Anthony Randall in 1977, the double-axis tourbillon is a watch in which the tourbillon rotates over two different axes, rather than the traditional one axis. While the concept was invented in 1977, and used in a carriage clock, it was not seen in a wristwatch until 2004. It was at this time that the watchmaker Thomas Prescher released the first flying double-axis version in a wristwatch.

3: Triple-Axis

In a triple-axis tourbillon watch, the tourbillon rotates along 3 different axes. This one was also developed by Thomas Prescher in 2004, just 1 year after the release of his double-axis model.

4: Gyrotourbillon

The gyrotourbillon is a type of double-axis tourbillon watch, in which the tourbillon cage itself rotates along two different axes. It was first introduced by the Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre, in 2003.

In the gyrotourbillon, there is a circular cage that rotates on one axis, along with another cage within that one, which rotates along another axis.

5: Double

In 2004, the watch brand Greubel Forsey introduced the first double tourbillon. It was called the Double Tourbillon 30 degrees, or DT30, because the outer cage of it was set at a 30 degree angle. The outer cage rotates once every minute, while the inner one rotates once every 4 minutes.

6: Quadruple

Once again, Greubel Forsey introduced the quadruple version of this watch into the market in 2005. This one builds upon their previous double tourbillon design. The quadruple version features two double tourbillons. Each double tourbillon runs independently of the other.

Are Tourbillon Watches Worth It?

Are these watches really worth it? Ultimately, this question is going to vary depending on the individual. Historically, and even now, quality tourbillon watches are on the high end price scale of luxury watches. However, as mentioned before, there are some brands that can get you very affordable watches in this style.

Brands owned by Chinese companies such as Jaragar, and Forsining, can give you some bargain bin tourbillon styled watches, but don’t expect too much by way of quality. However, if you are simply enamored by the style itself, there is nothing wrong with getting one that is affordable for the average person.

When all is said and done though, the this is a unique watch style with a rich history. It has definitely found a place for itself in the annals of horology!

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