CIGA Watchers

Your Guide to Tourbillon Watches

Are you wearing a mechanical watch? If so, then you have a good status in life, mainly because such watches are not cheap. In fact, there are some that have intricate designs and you can marvel at its amazing display of technical prowess.

Mechanical watches have a rich and colorful history. There was a time that it was highly criticized mainly because it was unable to keep track of time as accurately as possible. Watchmakers attribute this to the forces of gravity as it affects how the smaller components of the watch moves.

To help counter this, the tourbillon was created. It is essentially a mechanism that protects the watch’s intricate components; making sure that it is still somewhat accurate despite the threat of natural forces.

The term, ‘tourbillon’, is a French word for “Whirlwind” and if you can see a tourbillon watch, you will know why the mechanism was given that name. Tourbillon watches are considered luxury watches because creating one is not that easy. Not to mention that the components that are going to be used are, well, expensive as well.


The creation of the Tourbillon is thanks to the “forefather of modern watchmaking”, Abraham-Louis Breguet back in 1801. He knew that the mechanical nature of the watch, at that time, was subject to the forces of gravity. That meant that using the traditional mechanism could lead to inaccurate timekeeping, mainly because the escapement and its smaller components veer off course thanks (or no thanks) to gravity.

To help solve this problem, Breguet would make use of the watch’s geartrain to not only help the watch create its movement but to also make sure that it spins the entire escapement mechanism 360 degrees once per minute to ensure that gravity’s work is not going to lead to inaccurate timekeeping.

Although the entire mechanism was created a long time ago, it was only until the 80s when it was really introduced in mechanical watches. It was pioneered by Franck Muller in 1984, but then Audemars Piguet also created their own version in 1986 and it all went well since.

How Does It Work?

A traditional mechanical watch moves by giving power directly from the winding barrel to its lever mechanism inside the escapement. However, in a tourbillon watch, the power will be sent from the geartrain directly to the tourbillon cage which encapsulates the entire watch’s mechanism.

The tourbillon cage would then rotate just on top of a fixed gear wheel and the power will then trickle down to the escapement, powering its smaller components.

For the entire mechanism to still be relevant in this day and age, the entire cage should be lightweight, according to Stephen McGonigle. This is so that when the watch moves, the inertia of the movement is significantly reduced, ensuring accurate timekeeping at all times.

Things to Consider

Keep in mind that because of how hard it is to truly implement a tourbillon inside a wristwatch, you’re going to spend a lot of money. You also have to spend your hard- earned cash for its servicing and maintenance as well.

What I am trying to say here is that if you are going to buy a tourbillon watch, are you really going to buy one for practical reasons or are you purchasing one to truly appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of the art of watchmaking?