A whirl of… tourbillons !

Queen of the functions in the kingdom of the Haute Horology, the tourbillon is this week at the centre of all attentions at Frank Sans C. Simple, flying, extra flat, skeleton, double or multiple axles, the Breguet models, Bvlgari, Roger Dubuis and Girard-Perregaux gathered on the set of the programme have litteraly hypnotised all eyes.

By Nicolas Yvon

Visually fascinating and technically hard to make, the tourbillon is for sure a fantastic function in all senses of the word. Let us put it back in its context : itw as invented at the very beginning of the 19th century, time where the bracelet-watches did not exist yet. The bracelet-watches stayed most often vertically put away in the fob pocket.This inaction was bad for the setting mechanism – real heart of the mechanical watches – because it suffered with full force the the Earth gravity effects. This ended by damage the chronometric precision of the calibre.

The ingenious dispositive consists in placing the setting mechanism in a rotating cage that makes by principle a complete turn in one minute so that it is never in the same position. Gravity is then exerted at every point of the mechanism and, in fact, cancels itself out. Not bad, isn’t it ?

It is to cancel the effect of gravity on the setting mechanism that the tourbillon was invented

Let us give to Caesar what belong to Caesar, as says so rightly Frank Sanc C : this is Abraham-Louis Breguet who patented the tourbillon on the 26th of June 1801. The eponymous watch-manufacturing became, later and far before all the other, the great expert of this hypnotic function.

Breguet est considéré comme l'inventeur du tourbillon
Abraham-Louis Breguet patented its tourbillon dispositive in 1801.

Well, we need to admit that the tourbillon lost its scientific interest since the coming of the bracelet-watches that are always in movement. But it remains one of the most difficult function to make. So much that only a few watch-manufacturing have in their factory floors some masters of horology specialised in this delicate art. In particular, the tourbillon has lost nothing of its huge power of visual attraction and it still makes as much turn the great collectors’ head.


The Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic 5377, the beauty by the fineness

Superb, the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic in platinum (€167,600) reflects without contest the horology masters and Breguet’s craftsmen talent. True mechanical feat, this diameter 41 mm piece is 7 mm thick and has a – winding automatic and with a tourbillon – movement 3 mm thick only.

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5377
Horologic fineness and technicity for this Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic.

It organises the gyratory dispositive on a grey gold dial. The dial is hand guilloché what is another great speciality of the manufacture. We find also a power reserve (80 hours) indicator.

Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5377
The engineturning artisans of the Maison of Breguet have adorned the dial but also the parts of the visible extra-thin calibre on the verso of the watch.

Not as « classical » as that, the tool illustrates also the Breguet’s innovation force. The Tourbillon cage is indeed made in titanium. Regarding the escapement and balance spring, they are in silicon : an high tech anti-magnetic material. At the case back, the calibre is also guilloché and has an outer oscillating mass.

The Breguet Tradition Tourbillon Fusée 7047 Watch, an ancestral modernity

We could believe that the ultramodern and atypical design of this watch comes straight from future but it is not the case. Actually, the Tradition models take the architecture over the first Breguet calibres. Some movements then created more than two hundred years ago!

Breguet Tradition Tourbillon Fusée 7047
The Breguet Tradition Tourbillon Fusée 7047 Watch, the perfect balance between horologic tradition and technological innovation.

As it name let it be understood, this platinum model (€194,100) has a fusee and chain drive system. This mecanism is extremely rare in horology. It allows to optimise the regularity of the watch’s operation by garanteeing a constant couple. It transmits at the movement a continuing force no matter what is the winding level of the barrel.

Breguet Tradition Tourbillon Fusée 7047
The drive system looks like a miniature bike chain.

For further information, it is simple, you need to go on our technical specifications sheet of the Breguet Tradition Tourbillon Fusée 7047 Watch.


Before going further : a big thank you to the Maison Dubail that has accepted to lend us the extraordinaries tourbillons that follow for the programme.


Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton, a world record 

With its Octo Finissimo, the Bvlgari Italian and Swiss manufacture breaks all the records of horologic fineness since a few years.

Under the Frank Sans C’s captivated eye, this 40 mm black DLC titanium limited edition (30 models, €100,000) is a variant of the world record for a skeleton tourbillon with manual winding. Case thickness ? 5 mm ! Calibre thickness ? Brace yourself : 1.95 mm !

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Squelette
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton with manual winding is the thinest of its category.

Positionned at 6 o’clock, the tourbillon is called « flying » because it is kept by its rotation axle, without superior bridge, what, naturally, increases its power of fascination.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Squelette
Captivating on the dial side, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton is also fascinating on the back case side.

This pure wonder, contrasted of hands and a red timer, is placed on a bi-material with leather and rubber strap.

Bvlgari Octo Roma Naturalia Malachite, precious and mineral 

There is only Bvlgari to imaginate such a piece, a watch that merges as well the two constitutive entities of the self-proclaimed manucure watch-manucaturing : « The jeweller of the time », between Helvetian horologic rigour and Latin creative extravagance.

Bvlgari Octo Roma Naturalia Malachite
A very original combinaison of rose gold and green malachite for the Octo Roma Naturalia Malachite by Bvlgari.

This diameter 44 mm Octo Roma on green alligator (€130,000) displays natural malachite pieces. These green stone blocs are directly inserted in the rose gold case middle and at the heart of its skeleton calibre with flying tourbillon.

Bvlgari Octo Roma Naturalia Malachite
The green natural stone is part of the heart of the watch, in its mechanical movement.

So is it really still a skeleton movement then ? That is not the question, the beauty of the tool speaks for itself.  



Roger Dubuis Excalibur Double Tourbillon Eon, two times more pleasure 

Why make things more complicated when we can complicate them even more ? Ask the Roger Dubuis horologist masters who have imagined this Excalibur with two synchronised tourbillons by a differential (€287,500). They control the operation of a mechanical movement chiselled in the star shaped extreme, true hallmark of the manufacture tools.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Double Tourbillon Eon Gold
The Excalibur Double Tourbillon Eon Gold is a horologic micromechanical wonder that has a mecanism of two synchronised tourbillons.

Certified from the prestigious Poinçon de Genève, this diameter 45 mm model is water-resistant to 100 m, what is very rare in the tourbillons’ country. Nevertheless, we really advise you against trying the double salto dive in a swimmingpool and even less the snorkeling session in marine environment.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Double Tourbillon Eon Gold
Exploded view of the Roger Dubuis RD108-SQ skeleton calibre with double tourbillon.

A little info to end with: its case is in « Eon Gold ». This is an alloy of specific rose gold, very resistant to tarnishing.



Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon Earth to Sky Edition, the face of excellence 

Prepare to be amazed ! The name of the topic announces directly the functions existing. This diameter 48 mm for 21.24 mm of thickness rose gold watch – yes it is impressive – combines indeed a minutes repetition (striking mecanism on demand of the hours, quarters and minutes) and an evoluting tourbillon according to three different axials.

Girard-Perregaux Répétition Minutes Tri-Axial Tourbillon Edition Earth to Sky,
Combine a minute repeater and a tri-axial tourbillon in a same movement is a feat of the Girard-Perregaux masters of horology.

18 models were produced, its price matches its complexity and rarety : €561,000. In other words, the watch is even less for Mr. Average than the other pieces of the programme !

Girard-Perregaux Répétition Minutes Tri-Axial Tourbillon Edition Earth to Sky,
The mechanical « face » of the Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon.

The watch has also an alligator strap and, as Frank Sans C rightly precised it, the watch has on the dial side, a face of a “controller” type watch. These hands are placed each on a different axial, with the hours to the left and the minutes to the right.


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