Recently we already discussed how the tourbillon turned from a relatively obscure device to increase the precision of a watch or clock, to the favorite complication of collectors. Nowadays there is a wide variety of different tourbillons, but in this article, we are exploring the most traditional configuration, the one in which the back of the tourbillon is secured on the main plate, with a bridge securing the front.
It was Abraham-Louis Breguet who invented the tourbillon and filed a patent for it on June 26th, 1801. In those days the tourbillon was more admired as a technical marvel, its aesthetic appeal hidden within the closed case of the pocket watch. This changed rapidly with the renaissance of the mechanical wristwatch after the quartz crisis. This created the perfect stage for the tourbillon to claim a leading role, yet now not hidden in a case, but in the center of attention, on the dial.
Girard-Perregaux actually created a wristwatch of their Tourbillon with three gold bridges, which was introduced in a pocket watch and won the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889. As a wristwatch, what used to be the back of the movement now became the front, taking full advantage of its aesthetic appeal, and of course the mesmerizing dance of the tourbillon itself.
As the interest for the tourbillon remained, or actually even grew, the traditional tourbillon, those secured on both sides, evolved as well, and in various ways. Breguet continued in the tradition of its founder and incorporated various innovations, such as a titanium tourbillon carriage and a silicon balance spring for example.
Aesthetically did the traditional tourbillon also develop quite a bit. While the tourbillon in the Richard Mille RM 53-01, which the brand created for polo champion Pablo Mac Donough, doesn’t look anything near traditional, the basic configuration still follows that of the tourbillon Abraham-Louis Breguet made over 200 years ago. Another clear example that a traditional tourbillon can be anything but traditional!