From the first-ever watch with jewels made using a drilling method in 1700 to the five-minute repeater created in 1710, to the creation of the ring-watch (wound by using a key) made for Madame de Pompadour, the 18th century witnessed some of the most stunning inventions in watchmaking. However, one of the most famous gifts of the 18th century to the watch industry was the birth of the “king of watchmakers” - Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Today, Breguet commands a place of pride in the upper echelons of high watchmaking. Amongst its many inventions and innovations, the tourbillon created on June 26, 1801 commands exceptional importance amongst watchmakers. Created to minimise the effects of gravity on the accuracy of a watch, the invention of the tourbillon was way ahead of its time. This new type of regulator was said to embody the scientific thinking of the 'Age of Reason'. Breguet earned a patent on the tourbillon from the French Ministry for Interior.
The Tourbillon works on a simple concept, here we explain you how.
Gravity is inherent to all human activity. It is also the root cause of the irregularities of horological movements as it provokes a timing adjustment, each time the position of a timepiece changes. Abraham-Louis Breguet solved this problem with one simple solution – the Tourbillon. He fixed the balance spring, the escape-wheel, and the level, in a single mobile cartilage, since they were all sensitive to the effects of gravity. The cartilage would complete one full rotation each minute, thereby mutually compensating all the flaws which were being regularly repeated. Moreover, this also ensured enhanced lubrication as the balance pivots would constantly undergo a change of contact each time. At the end of the day, the tourbillon could average out all the positional errors by rotating the entire balance and escapement around the common axis, once a minute.
The Tourbillon was one of the most difficult and time-consuming components to produce, thereby giving Breguet a complete head start. However, the first Tourbillon did not get commercialised until 1805, making the regulator a constant source of fascination thereafter.
Today, almost three centuries after it was created, the tourbillon is recognised as one of the most significant features in watchmaking.
Here is a peek into some of the marvels created by Breguet: