next

Tourbillon: the sublime expression of the art of watchmaking

Marina Milojević | 02.15.11 | 05:32 AM

Tourbillon is a term often used in horology. This French name literally translates as the “whirlwind", and it has long been considered the ultimate achievement in mechanical watchmaking.

Tourbillon is an addition to the mechanics of watch escapement that was first developed around 1795 by the French - Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet. This man, who was also the founder of the famous Breguet manufacture, finally patented his invention in 1801.

This very exclusive watch complication was intended to compensate the gravitational error that was to be expected in most delicate parts of the escapement system: the pallet fork, a balance and a hairspring. The goal was to distribute the error evenly over a single plane, by putting the balance, pallets and escape wheel in a cage that would rotate around its own axis once every minute.

The tourbillon has the escape wheel, lever and balance wheel mounted on a cage that is usually made from very light material. Manufacturers often use titanium, which is very durable and lightweight. The cage rotates in 360 degrees at regular intervals usually completing one rotation per minute. Like this, the general effects of gravity get balanced out, as the escapement never spends any noteworthy time in the vertical position.

Tourbillion was first used on the pocket watches and the original wristwatch equipped with tourbillon was not issued before 1930s. First manufacturers to produce tourbillon wristwatches were Breguet, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Their chronometer watches are designed to offer the ultimate precision. They are often equipped with other innovations able to increase their efficiency. The mechanical movements are fitted with hard jewels such as diamond, ruby, and sapphire, to decrease friction and wear of the pivots and escapement.

In late 1960’s the Swiss watch industry was faced with the most difficult crisis triggered by the invention of the quartz oscillator. The quartz revolution, which took place in the 1970s and early 1980s, slowly overtook mechanical watches in popularity, plunging the Swiss watch industry into crisis. However, the Swiss watch industry remained focused on traditional mechanical watches, and today the chronometer watches remain prestigious items, produced only by the most exclusive watch brands.

Lately, Swiss industry is faced with another possible affordability crisis, as the several Chinese manufacturers now produce a selection of tourbillon movements. These movements, known as ébauche, or blank movements, are being sold as a collection of unassembled parts to be used as the basis for assembling a watch movement. Foreign-finished Chinese ébauches may be found in some very exclusive watches, for example, the tourbillon watches of Cecil Purnell, Switzerland, whose prices start around $22,000. The availability of cheap tourbillons has led industry spectators to be concerned that a new Quartz crisis may take place.

Today, most of the luxury watches are mechanical and officially certified by the COSC. They are greatly appreciated by the connoisseurs for their aesthetic attributes and as a statement of refined personal style. The quartz technology is available to the average customer while the mechanical watches, produced mainly by Swiss watch industry, preserve the same idea that watchmaking is an industry and science but more than anything: it is an art!

Breguet collections

Advertisement

Right now 100+ watches on sale!

Latest News from Breguet

Breguet Type 20 Only Watch 2019

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description

The eighth edition of the biennial charity auction of one-of-one timepieces, Only Watch, takes place on 9th of November 2019 in Geneva. No less than 99% of the proceeds of the sale of the auction pieces goes directly to research projects on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an inherited disorder of progressive muscular weakness that primarily affects males, but, in rare cases, can also affect females. In previous 7 editions of the event, the finest brands in the watchmaking industry managed to collect no less than 40 million Swiss Francs. This year,...

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette 5395

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description

The house of Breguet has finally revealed its new 2019 collection featuring the magnificent new Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat 5395 that enriches the Classique Grandes Complications line. This extraordinary watch with a fully skeletonized movement is a beautiful example of both technical and artistic achievements in the field of watchmaking. The proprietary calibre 581, used in this watch, is heavily skeletonized and decorated in-house. There are two versions to choose from: one in 18k rose gold, and one in platinum. The Extra-Plat in its n...

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367 for BaselWorld 2018

image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description

While SIHH 2018 previews are trending on social networks around the world, the house of Breguet goes one step further. The famous Swiss watch manufacture previews the first new model of its 2018 collection, the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367, which will be officially unveiled on the occasion of the BaselWorld watch and jewelry show in March 2018! The Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique is an ultra-thin automatic tourbillon, this time, for the first time, equipped with a gorgeous white enamel dial. The referenc...

Breguet Marine Équation Marchante 5887

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description

Earlier this year, on the occasion of the BaselWorld watch and jewelry show, the house of Breguet introduced its new Marine Équation Marchante 5887, a highly complicated timepiece that features a running equation of time, a perpetual calendar and a tourbillon. This exclusive new timepiece is inspired by historical marine chronometers that A.-L. Breguet supplied the French Royal Navy in the 19th century. Following in the wake of this unique heritage, Breguet introduces the Grande Complication Marine Équation Marchante 5887, featuring the rare...

Breguet Tradition Dame 7038 | BaselWorld 2017

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
Breguet unveils its Pre-Basel 2017 timepiece: the Breguet Dame 7038. As announced by the renowned Swiss watchmaker, its 2017 pre-Basel launch is devoted to women.

Breguet presents an exclusive glimpse at a new version of its Tradition Dame model, which is, this time, clad in rose gold. The delicate new timepiece, aimed at women who appreciate fine watchmaking, is powered by a highly complex self-winding movement, which is partially revealed from the dial side. The barrel is hand-decorated with a rosette motif engraving, and overlapped at 12 o’clock by a graceful hours and minutes dial in genuine white mother-of pearl. The center of the dial is finely adorned with hand-made, engine-turned Clou de Paris ho...

Breguet Type XXI 3817 chronograph

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
At BaselWorld 2016 watch and jewelry show, the house of Breguet revealed a new version of its Breguet Type XXI. This military-inspired chronograph is modeled after the historical pieces designed in the 1950's for French air and naval armies.

In its modern-day variant, the legendary Type XXI returns as a civilian version fitted with a self-winding movement. While most of the Breguet's watches are classical, elegant, high-complication, or jewelry creations, the Breguet Type XX.. series is distinctively technical, inspired by solid and technical military tools. Breguet's family was not only involved in fine watchmaking, but also in aviation! The great-great-grandson of Abraham-Louis Breguet, founder of the Breguet workshop, was the genius behind the invention of the gyroplane, which...

Breguet Reine de Naples Princesse Mini 9807 and 9808

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
Introducing the Breguet Reine de Naples Princesse Mini 9807 & 9808 models

In 2015, the historically inspired Reine de Naples collection welcomes two new Reine de Naples Princesse Mini models, both elegantly sized to fit the delicate ladies’ wrists. Breguet is one of the oldest surviving Swiss manufacturer of luxury timepieces, a brand that is historically associated with the European monarchy and aristocracy of the 18th century. The current Reine de Naples collection takes its aesthetic cues from an early bracelet watch A.-L. Breguet created for Bonaparte's sister Caroline, Queen of Naples. Each of the timepieces fro...

Breguet Tradition Automatique Seconde Retrograde 7097

image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
Breguet offers the exclusive preview of its Baselworld 2015 timepiece – the Breguet Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde 7097.

Breguet presents the Tradition Automatique Seconde Rétrograde 7097, the newest sequel to the Tradition collection, which was launched back in 2005. This high-end range is comprised of timepieces that showcase the mechanical cores of their movement on top of the baseplate. The collection is inspired by the subscription watches made by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of the brand and the most famous of all French clock and watchmakers. Breguet was among the first to produce these one-hand watches, from 1796. Called “Souscription”, these watche...

Breguet Reine De Naples Princesse 8968

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
On the occasion of the BaselWorld 2014 trade show, Breguet has introduced a couple of new models, including the lovely Reine De Naples Princesse 8968, another of its creations that proves the brand’s constant effort for innovation, classic elegance and the quest for artistic and technical perfection.

Breguet Reine De Naples Princesse 8968 is inspired by the first wristwatch created by Abraham-Louis Breguet for Caroline Murat, better known as Caroline Bonaparte, the youngest sister of Napoleon and the Queen of Naples. This watch, which is immediately recognizable by its delicately shaped case, which is said to represent an ode to femininity and the origins of all life. In its contemporary iteration, Breguet’s great classic is reinterpreted in a modern manner, while preserving its essence. As you can see on the enclosed photograph, the mod...

Breguet Secret de la Reine secret watch

image description
image description
image description
  • image description
  • image description
  • image description
At BaselWorld 2014, Breguet presented a new version of its Secret de la Reine secret wristwatch.

On the occasion of the BaselWorld 2014 exhibition, Breguet unveiled a number of timepieces designed exclusively for women. Same as every year, Breguet reminds us of how proud it is for having many historical women - such as Marie-Antoinette or Caroline Murat - among its clients. The company takes pride in creating strictly mechanical wristwatches, for both women and men, which are often fitted with the most demanding complications and most precious gemstones. One of the Breguet’s latest creations is the Breguet Secret de la Reine, a secret wris...