Tourbillon (watchmaking)

In horology , a tourbillon , also called “rotating cage,” is a complication watch, added to the mechanism of exhaust , designed to improve the accuracy of mechanical watches by offsetting the disruption of the isochronism of the balance due to gravity earth. This mechanism was invented by the French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801.

This device is very complex to realize, which is why it equips very few mechanical watches.


Animation of a carousel, variant of the tourbillon
Animation showing the different positions of the vortex and the delaying or accelerating effect of gravity

Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), a watchmaker for French royalty, worked alongside physicists and scientists from Tout Paris, where he was installed. It was through his encounters that the sketches of his future inventions were born. Like any watchmaker, seeking the search for “Perpetual Perfect Motion”, he crossed works and physical theories to adapt them to the science of watchmaking mechanics. In particular, it seeks to solve a long-standing problem: the fact that terrestrial gravity affects the regularity of clockwork movements 1 .

On June 26, 1801, Abraham-Louis Breguet obtained a patent from the French Ministry of the Interior explaining the principle of the revolving movement. This invention was not revealed to the public until 1806. development mechanism proved so complex that dies before seeing it function properly 2 .

Since 1801 the mechanism has been improved by many watch houses. Some watches of very high watchmaking use vortices on several axes, or several vortices whose average is used to give the time.

How it works

The postulate of its invention is based on the fact that the movement of a watch differs according to the vertical position in which it is positioned. The generating effect comes mainly from the imbalance of the pendulum and that of the balance spring. To compensate for these differences and to obtain the perfect movement, it would be necessary for the center of gravity of the balance-balance system to be at the center of rotation and to remain there during the oscillations. The purpose of this mechanism is not to remove these differences, but to mitigate them to the point of completely compensating them.

To achieve this, Abraham-Louis Breguet devised a mechanism capable of making the whole escape- balance balance all possible positions. To do this, he imposed this set rotation that defines a revolution per minute, whereby he obtained a brewing vertical positions, which ultimately results in an average march called balance 3 .

The effectiveness of the tourbillon to improve the accuracy of wrist watches is challenged by some experts. The disorderly movements of the wearer of the watch create an effect of average identical to the tourbillon, moreover the vortex is really effective only in vertical position 2 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ ” The tourbillon exposes place Vendôme [ archive ] , on ,
  2. a and b ARCHIVES # 10:” The vortex provides absolutely no improvement to the running of the watch “(Vincent Calabrese) [ archive ] , on ,
  3. ↑ ” Le tourbillon [ archive ] , about Swiss watchmaking

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