Today, exactly 216 years go, Abraham-Louis Breguet was awarded the patent of the tourbillon. Little did he know that he had just invented one of the most prestigious complications in watchmaking for centuries to come, which was to him just a way to minimize the influence of gravity on the escapement of his watches.
He did this by placing the balance and spring, lever and the escape-wheel into a carriage that made a full rotation every minute, compensating for the effect that gravity has on the regulating organ of the watch. Even for a Master-Watchmaker with the skill and genius of Breguet the tourbillon was hard to make in the early 1800’s and it wasn’t until 1806 that he first presented this invention to the public at the National Exhibition of Industrial Products in Paris. It received a warm welcome from Breguet’s loyal clientele, and up until his death in 1823, 35 watches and clocks containing a tourbillon were made by Breguet.
Today the tourbillon has obtained a different position, that of an object of art, as well as the testimony of a watchmakers skills and expertise. Not only have modern production techniques created more precise movements without the help of the tourbillon, but we also moved over to wearing watches on our wrist instead of in our pockets, automatically bringing the regulating organs of the watch in various positions thus reducing the impact of any errors. Nevertheless is the tourbillon still one of the most esteemed complications one can purchase.
Although adopted by almost all Haute Horlogerie brands, it is not surprising that the tourbillon is still a very important part of the Breguet collection. They have even continued the technical development of the complication, featuring, for example, an escapement in silicon and the tourbillon carriage and balance made from titanium to eliminate weight. They also combine the tourbillon with other complications of which the new Marine Équation Marchante 5887 is a prime example.
So on June 26 we pay tribute to the genius that was Abraham-Louis Breguet and his perhaps most prestigious accomplishment: the invention of the tourbillon!