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What were tourbillons created for? Today many people think tourbillon is a pure marketing product; however, in due time this complication was necessary condition of evolution. The movement of longcase and tower clocks is balanced independently, while the movement of pocket watches is influenced by gravitation in many ways, resulting in degradation of accuracy. So Abraham-Louis Breguet understood once that keeping watch first in one position, if it is, for example, fast, then in another position, if it is slow, would lead to accumulation of inaccuracy differences and keeping time. The only problem was teaching an owner to do such balancing acts, that’s why it should be solved inside the movement itself. And Breguet invented the tourbillon in 1795. After 6 years of tests he patented the carriage with scroll, balance and escapement at one rotation per minute.
Disputes over tourbillon’s effectiveness have been continuing since its creation. Simple outlook is a weighty con: Breguet invented tourbillon for pocket watches, which were kept vertically in a waistcoat’s pocket. And the carriage of classic tourbillon is designed for vertical position, rotating in the same space with gravitational vector. You can’t but agree that it’s not very effective for wrist watches, which an owner keeps often in horizontal space, working on the computer or driving. So how can tourbillon cover inaccuracies, if the position of its details is unchanged in relation to gravitation?
The decision was found by master of complications Franck Muller, who presented in 2003 Tourbillon Revolution 2 (ref. 7850 T REV 2) with the first double-axis tourbillon in the world. It consists of two carriages, put one into another and rotating both horizontally and vertically. Such tourbillon fulfils its functions in any watch position.
However, innovations of genius Franck Muller are not limited by this. While the tourbillon was double, it was made rotating at two different rates: 60 seconds and 8 minutes. The rotation cycles are counted by two retrograde hands, situated near tourbillon at 5 and 7 hours.
You’ll be surprised but this is one more company, which created double-axis tourbillon first in the world. There is the third one - Greubel & Forsey. The point is that watchmakers had such idea long ago, from the beginning of 70s, but nobody could dare to embody it. And as someone once risked making such experiment, the competitors couldn’t stand off and also started developing.
The double-axis “whirl” in watches of Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon I (ref. 600 64 20) is faster than in Franck Muller’s one: traditional 1 rotation per minute and in opposite direction 1 rotation per unexpected 18.5 seconds. Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 (ref. 233 64 20) has the same features, plus balance rim with enlarged diameter, which increases accuracy – the more the diameter, the higher the accuracy.
Double-axis tourbillon is protected with as many as 6 anti-shock systems: by one pair per carriage and balance wheel. The winding balance joint in Gyrotourbillon 2 is made of sapphire to reduce the winding spring friction and provided with lock, which prevents the spring from winding too strong and also stops the movement several hours before the power runs out. This sacrifice to reliability reduced the power reserve of model to 50 hours.
The company added its name to art of tourbillons as a creator of orbital tourbillon, i.e. rotating not only round its axis, but round the dial center.
In addition, the Breguet Double Tourbillon (ref. 5347PT/11/9ZU) watches are provided with two tourbillons, connected with bridge, a half of which is watch hand. These two restless tourbillons are situated on rotating dial. Together with watch hand, “keeping” tourbillons, the dial makes one rotation per 12 hours. Both tourbillons traditionally make a full rotation per 60 seconds.
The creator of “live adornments”, as Antoine Preziuso calls them, became popular thanks to his tourbillons and ones of Opus for Harry Winston. Speaking about several tourbillons, we should mention his unique watches “3 Volution Triple Tourbillon” – a true gift for connoisseurs of this irresistible complication.
These watches are provided with as many as three one-minute tourbillons, which all together rotate round the double dial axis in addition, making a rotation per 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
The size of double dial watches is 51x34 mm; the thickness is only 8 mm. A hand-wound movement is provided with 72 hours power reserve.
The watch is provided with hand-wound caliber 1790R, platinum or 18-carat gold case of 40х50 mm with strap of alligator leather. The tourbillon is adorned with stylish pattern of the Malt Cross – brand emblem of Vacheron Constantin.
The company doesn’t release any watch with tourbillon to the market until each of them is observed during several months – perhaps, that’s why its tourbillons deserve the status of the most reliable ones. The computer tests are no doubt good, but real life is quite a different thing. Patek Philippe keeps this in mind and, probably, this is one of the main reasons why Patek is considered to be the king of complications (this company indeed produced the most complicated watch in the world).
Maybe that's why the owner of Patek Philippe watch with tourbillon is the richest man on our planet – Bill Gates. It is Sky Moon Tourbillon (ref. 5002), released in 2001, at the dawn of new millennium. Its tourbillon looks like to perform only its first purpose, and it is mentioned only in the name of model. The watch is provided with one dial on each side of case: one dial shows the sky map, another one – time indication and calendar.
This is likely to be the most honest, reliable and modest brand of all. Panerai has never demonstrated sky maps or tourbillons on its stylish dial – a window on back case is designed for these complications, if they are necessary at all. Only one model is an exception (apart from 2000 Edition Radomir Tourbillon, produced only in 2 pieces).
Radiomir Tourbillon GMT Ceramica (PAM 00348), issued in a number of 30 pieces. Its tourbillon is demonstrated as a result of skeletonized watch. It is situated not as a primary element – in depth of movement between 10 and 11 hours. The way this watch is skeletonized – like diving grating – draws much attention. Even in the smallest details Panerai remains faithful to its brand navy style.
The most unusual tourbillons among aforementioned watches. A sophisticated titanium case reminds the shape of Lamborghini Murcielago car.
So, is tourbillon a very useful complication for movement accuracy or an aesthetic detail? The presented watches demonstrate all variants. The only question is whether you agree with the phrase that there are four things that could be watched endlessly:
“Fire burning, water flowing, others working and tourbillon rotating”.
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