A tourbillon is an exceptionally complicated and expensive category of timekeeping movement that only the most skilled watch companies are able to manufacture. Specifically, a tourbillon is a type of escapement – the mechanism that transfers energy to the timekeeping element and allows the number of oscillations to be counted. First developed by the Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1795, the tourbillon was designed to counter the effects of gravity. Named after the French for “whirlwind”, the mechanism is able to rotate on itself, thus automatically returning to a position where it can perform at maximum efficiency.
For many years tourbillon mechanisms were used only in luxury pocket watches. In 1930, however, the French watchmaking company LIP produced a tourbillon mechanism that was small enough to work with a wristwatch for the first time. Unfortunately, LIP never found a way to make its design commercially viable, and it was not until other luxury brands such as Omega, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Breguet made their own versions that a tourbillon watch was available to buy – if you had the money to do so.
During the 2000s there was a surge in popularity of tourbillon watches as they become seen as the must-have watch for the super-rich, with prices starting anywhere upwards of £30,000 ($45,000). These watches tended to be particularly ostentatious, with the complex tourbillon mechanism on display through the watch face. This resulted in watches that, while remarkable and undeniably beautiful, were primarily status symbols. A handful of Chinese companies, however, have now begun to make tourbillon watches that, while not made to the same quality or with the same heritage as their European counterparts, are available at a tenth of the cost.
This Double Tourbillon Technique 30º Bi-color highlights the intricacies of the tourbillon mechanism which has become a powerful status symbol in recent years. The visibility of the mechanism is further enhanced by the opened hands and transparent back of the watch.