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What Is A Tourbillon?

A tourbillon (meaning "whirlwind" in French) is a device invented in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet to counter the effects of gravity and other forces that affect the accuracy of clocks and watches. The tourbillon was originally designed to eliminate errors of rate in pocket watches, which were kept in vertical positions for long periods of time.

How Does A Tourbillon Work?

When a watch is in the vertical position, gravity either accelerates or slows the balance and escapement mechanism that regulates the speed of rotation of the wheels. A tourbillon is comprised of a mobile carriage or cage containing the regulating mechanism (balance wheel with hairspring) and the lever escapement, with the balance in the center, and this mechanism rotates the wheels. The escape pinion turns about the fixed fourth wheel. By mounting the escapement in a rotating frame, all errors were reproduced and thereby cancelled the effect of gravity when the escapement is rotated 180°. The frame makes one revolution per minute, thus annulling errors of rate in the vertical position. The rotation of the whole device around the axis of the frame suppresses the effects of friction or other effects caused by unbalanced components and gravity.

Considered as one of the most complex of watch complications, tourbillons are prized for their engineering and design principles. Building a tourbillon is viewed as a testament to a watchmaker’s skill and the sheer complexity and achievement of such miniature handmade mechanisms makes the movement one of the most valued complications.

What Is A Flying Tourbillon?

In an ordinary tourbillon, the carriages are pivot mounted on one side and bridged on the other, or bridged on both sides. A flying tourbillon, however, is much more complex as the entire cage must be supported from the bottom only. As the flying tourbillon's carriage is pivot mounted on one side with no supporting bridge, it is like a floating mainspring barrel. That means a flying tourbillon is actually a complication built onto the tourbillon complication.

Ordinary tourbillons were effective for pocket watches, as these are held in the vertical position and therefore have only one dimensional displacement from lying flat. Flying tourbillons are designed to be effective at any angle.

What Is A Regulator Tourbillon?

Regulators have the hour and minute hands on two separate axes on the dial. Even today, watchmakers have to build a regulator watch as their final exam to become master watchmakers.

The flying tourbillon regulator was invented in the 1920s by Alfred Helwig in Saxony. The tourbillon regulator began appearing in wristwatches in 1930. The tourbillon regulator is proof of a watchmaker's technical creativity and skill. The regulator tourbillon spatially separates the hours and minutes dials arranged vertically in a highly legible manner. The tourbillon builds the visual center of the dial at the 6'oclock position.

What Makes A Tourbillon Watch Worth the Price?

Historically, tourbillons have commanded top prices and were out of reach of all but the extremely wealthy. Very few watch houses have the time and experience to produce tourbillon watches, driving up prices even higher. Watch houses usually produce a few dozen pieces of tourbillon watches each year as only the most skilled watchmakers are capable of making the handcrafted movement.

The higher price is attributable to the complexity of the tourbillon mechanism, which is created within extremely tight mechanical tolerances with specialized tooling. Crafting a tourbillon requires more parts and time than in other movements. Dedicated tools and machinery are used to manufacture tourbillons and special lightweight and durable metals are required. It is critical that energy expenditure be at a minimum as the same energy from the mainspring to power the gears is also needed to move the tourbillon. Any instability or disturbance in this energy flow will decrease the accuracy of the watch. Even to adjust the tourbillon movement requires specialists who have to disassemble and reassemble the tourbillon to regulate the balance.

LuxLux is able to offer tourbillons at an incredibly reasonable prices. Collectors can now fulfill their dream of owning a true marvel of watch engineering. A Swiss tourbillon starts at $10,000 and often costs much more. Other websites sell similar tourbillon watches as LuxLux.com but charge more than twice the price! LuxLux offers quality tourbillons ranging from $799 to $3,999 with a two year manufacturer's guarantee on the movement.

See a Flying Tourbillon in Action (900KB GIF File)

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