If there is one watch extravagance that epitomises the resurgence of horology in the 21st century, it is the tourbillon. A mechanism designed to counter the effects of gravity on timing precision, the tourbillon continues to capture the imagination of modern-day aficionados with its blend of the technical and theatrical.
The tourbillon comprises a rotating cage that houses a mechanical timepiece’s very heartbeat: the escapement. The cage typically makes a complete turn once every minute, offering visual drama and helping to negate timing irregularities caused by gravitational pull on the escapement. Appetite for tourbillon watches spiked sharply at the turn of the Noughties, when every other major watch company started rolling out its own versions. The demand continues unabated.
Tradition Répétition Minutes Tourbillon
Buying a tourbillon from Breguet is an authentic experience. After all, the tourbillon was invented by the brand’s eponymous founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet, in 1801. In this particular timepiece, the much-vaunted mechanism appears at ‘6’; its performance enhanced by a silicon balance spring that was a recent invention that helps improve the component’s longevity and precision. Here, the tourbillon shares the stage with another complication, the minute repeater. Breguet updates the chiming mechanism with unusual construction to improve sound quality. The hammers strike the gongs in a vertical position, while the gong springs have been modified and are attached to the bezel. Showcasing mechanical wizardry in the Tradition collection’s winsome open-faced style, the watch comes in 44 mm white or rose gold cases.
L-evolution Tourbillon Carrousel
First, a quick lesson: although the tourbillon and carrousel look alike, and are designed to perform a similar function, they are not exactly the same thing. Both mechanisms average out gravity-related losses in a watch movement. But there is a slight technical difference in the way they are mounted. The tourbillon carriage is fixed to a pinion driven by a wheel, while the carrousel carriage is mounted on a wheel driven by a pinion. You can compare the two with this Blancpain beauty, which places both mechanisms side-by-side on the dial to add aesthetic flair, as well as double-up on timekeeping precision. The dual-complication, exclusive to Blancpain, has appeared in various guises, mostly in the brand’s elegant Villeret collection. This year, it gets a shot of testosterone, housed in Blancpain’s macho L-evolution platinum case. Limited to 50 pieces.
Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph
A tourbillon watch is no frail timepiece meant for bank vaults. As it was back during the days of pocket watches, modern day versions are conceived for everyday use. This 50-piece limited edition from Audemars Piguet makes the point in no uncertain terms. Hailing from the Royal Oak Offshore collection which mapped the blueprint for high-end sports timekeepers in 1972, the Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph exudes machismo, clad in a hardy forged carbon case with black ceramic bezel and titanium push pieces. The sound of whirring underneath comes from a new in-house automatic movement that fuses two complications ― a chronograph and an ultra-light tourbillon, which weighs just 0.45 g even though it comprises of 85 parts.
Tonda 1950 Tourbillon
As if it wasn’t challenging enough to construct a tourbillon, watchmakers at Parmigiani Fleurier decided to make the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon. A flying tourbillon differs from a standard tourbillon in that its cage is mounted on just one bridge as opposed to two, giving the illusion of the tourbillon cage rotating without any visible support. This timepiece’s record-breaking slimness is anchored by a movement measuring just 3.4 mm in height. The watchmakers made the bridges and gears as thin as possible without compromising on functionality, and used a micro-rotor instead of a regular one to free up space. The result is an elegant timepiece steeped in classical design. Five versions of the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon are available and our favourite is the most regal looking of the range, which features a rose gold case and navy dial with Geneva stripe decoration.
H. Moser & Cie.
Venturer Tourbillon Dual Time
We love watches by H. Moser & Cie for their deceptive simplicity. Usually presented in classic round cases with austere aesthetics, H. Moser’s timepieces demand close inspection, which in turn reveal wonderful technical and decorative details. As in this travel companion, which features a one-minute tourbillon alongside H. Moser’s patented dual-time display. The second time zone is indicated with a red hand, which can be hidden from view under the main hour hand when not needed. The brand’s trademark technical highlights, such as a modular movement that allows easy servicing and double hairspring for improved precision, are also found in this watch. Available in a variety of options, the watch is housed in red or white gold cases with ardoise, red gold fume or argente dial.
Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Golden Bridges
A true horological icon, Girard-Perregaux’s Golden Bridge collection makes an excellent case for marriage between function and form. Where design is concerned, the arrow-shaped bridges are immediately recognisable, endowing the watch with character and identity. At the same time, the bridges perform a vital mechanical task: they hold key movement components in place to ensure optimum timekeeping performance. This year’s version combines a tourbillon and a minute repeater, two of the most sought-after complication among collectors. The tourbillon at ‘6’ is accorded full view via a substantially sized cage in an enlarged window; and the minute repeater, which has been engineered from scratch, has all of its components repositioned on the dial side. In case you were wondering, the third bridge here is found on the back of the movement to help hold the escapement in place.