Friday, January 29, 2010

The Whirl of a Tourbillon

Blancpain 2188F-3618-53 Leman Ivory Dial Leather Alligator Men's Automatic Troubillon Chronograph Flyback Watch

The very first time I glanced at a tourbillon, I was captivated by the rotating movement. It was as though the watch was living, and the tourbillon its beating heart. Invented in 1795 by Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Bregeut, a tourbillon was said to counter the effects of gravity on a pocket watch. Back in 1795, precision, as it is today, was in high regard and it was noticed that stationary watches kept better time than pocket watches. Pocket watches were kept vertical most of the day and then held in a different position when read, and thus was not as accurate as a stationary watch.
The premise was that while the watch was kept in a vertical position, the axis of motion was perpendicular to the watch face causing gravity to exert a force on the movement being that the movement was parallel to the ground. In this regard the movement had to work harder against gravity than if the timepiece was in a horizontal position - with the axis of motion perpendicular to the ground. Thus gravity had different effects on the motion of the parts in different positions and possibly effect the accuracy of the watch.

Thus, with this in mind, Abraham-Louis Bregeut invented the tourbillon. In a tourbillon, the entire escapement assembly comprising of the balance wheel, the escape wheel, hairspring and pallet fork rotates dispelling any effect of gravity. The accepted rate of rotation is one rotation a minute.

Today, the question of gravity exerting a force on a watch is negligible. First of all most watches are wristwatches and thus not held in one position all day; second, the entire concept of gravity slowing down a watch movement is questionable and for the most part unproven and thirdly, accurate timekeeping is a given. One would think the tourbillon complication would have been phased out- deemed useless. On the contrary this complication has become increasingly popular. The crafting of a tourbillon is exceedingly difficult, thus watch manufacturers produce the complication to prove the depth of their skill to the world of horology. In addition a timepiece sporting a tourbillon complication is worth a lot more than watches that merely tell the time, as this type of complication takes many hours of painstaking craftsmanship. The result is marvelous, a watch collectors passion, a watch enthusiasts dream.
(inset -Gerald Genta Octo Black Dial Leather Alligator Men's Automatic Tourbillon Watch )

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