Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is Tourbillon always more Accurate than a regular Watch?

A discussion with some of the Roger Dubuis sales executives at Pacific Place Today about the basic theory of the Tourbillion… whereas some of us many not know.

As per the basic, if you know all about tourbillon watches then none of this should be surprising or new to you. If you don't, you might have a couple of outstanding questions as to what a tourbillon is, why prestigious watch makers say you should want one, and why they are so expensive. The tourbillon has been around for a long time and only started becoming popular in 1990’s. Nowadays, an entry fee for a Swiss branded Tourbillion is HKD$400,000.00.

Tourbillon was patented by watch making Master Abraham Louis Breguet as I mentioned in last post. That patent has long since expired. Tourbillon is French for "whirlwind." This is because the mechanism literally spins on itself. Breguet's ideas was essentially to house a clock within a clock.
If you have a balance wheel that rotates, rotating on itself. If you understand the concept of a balance wheel, you know that it does not just turn endlessly in one direction. Rather, it moves in a back and forth manner, like a revolving pendulum. This is often referred to as balance wheel oscillation. In fact, a balance wheel is a pendulum, and the consistency of its back and forth rotations are the basis for mechanical watch movement accuracy. Of course, if the frequency is higher, likely by right, it would be more accurate. That is why Grand Seiko has a Hi Beat of 36,000 cycles per hour.

A tourbillon is a in fact a balance wheel that itself rotates, but the balance wheel rotates in one direction (not oscillation), and it typically make full rotation every 60 seconds, but some design rotates every 30 seconds. For this reason, the tourbillon is often used at the seconds counter when it is used in a watch. A convenient way of putting in a seconds counter.

The main theory behind how a tourbillon is supposed to work, is that the balance wheel rotates to all positions in purpose of off setting the effect gravity might have on it being stuck in one position consistently. So if the balance wheel is constantly moving, then minor deviations here and there will be canceled out. But that is purely theory, as our hands are moving in all direction, the watch is not placed in juts one position., the cancellation effect is multi-degree-variation-complex. There is no fixed rate of gravity cancellation in each of the gesture position.

Most watch manufacturer actually agree that even if the tourbillon is able to perfectly cancelling out rate affecting effects of gravity on a balance wheel, this is not the key to ensuring accuracy.
As such, tourbillon watches are far from the most accurate watches around.

There are different types of tourbillons. You may hear of traditional tourbillons of one axis, Roger Dubuis’ Double Flying Tourbillons and some other flying tourbillons, along with various terms to refer to multi-axis tourbillons. Traditional tourbillons use what is called a bridge that is part of the mechanism that holds it in place. This is literally the metal piece over the tourbillon, around which is free viewing of the tourbillon in operation.

A flying tourbillon is a special type of construction purely for aesthetic purposes that removes the bridge for "unobstructed view" of the tourbillon operating in its natural environment. Here there is no bridge, but rather the tourbillon is connected to the movement from underneath. A flying tourbillon is entirely a complicated cosmetic touch.

 A tourbillon is placed in what is called a "cage." Like a gyro compass on the merchant vessel. The German C Plath Gyro was a ball floating inside a cage filled with electrically conductive liquid. The Gyro will rotate at high speed of over 10,000 r.p.m. That magnetic biased gyro will point to one pint in the universe. That was being employed as a Compass on the ship after magnetic biasing it.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Milesime Double Flying Tourbillon Skeleton tilized the concept of the rear axial shaft of the automobile, when we turns the inner tire will rotate less and the outer more.. The Twin Tourbillon will be housed on a centre gear and that minor difference in speed of rotation of the right and the left will be offsetting the centre wheel in speed. That was the theory I got from the sales of Roger Dubuis. Well This Twin Tourbillon costs over HKD$2M

No matter what type of tourbillon used, the purpose is the same, to counteract the effects of gravity that may alter the accuracy and reliability of a balance wheel's oscillations.

Breguet's initial theory was that pocket watches, which are usually carried in almost vertical position, suffered from accuracy deviations due to the effect of gravity on the ever moving balance wheel. There are researches that have shown that Breguet's theories on tourbillon’s improvement are neglectible or even not effective at all on accuracy.
This carries a result that all effort in making and implementing a tourbillon movement does almost nothing to increase accuracy. Instead, a well constructed traditional watch that is finely tuned will beat out a tourbillon based watch anytime in terms of accuracy.

I, like most of watch collectors might admit that when we first learned about tourbillon watches, we were under an impression that they must be the most accurate mechanical watches out there, beating out any kind of chronometers. Now I know this is not correct, moreover, I think that they are simply not even very accurate at all.

The migration of the tourbillon from pocket watches to wrist watches was instigated by a bunches of the most expensive, oldest and complex watch manufacturers purely for "I can make one" prestige.

Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Blancpain, among others headed this movement. The first tourbillon-based watches were interesting, but lacked much of what people needed in a watch. Like the AP introduced in 1985, it is delicate, semi auto-wound of low efficiency, and often not very easy to read.

20 years later, automatic tourbillon movements arrived along with a number of aesthetic and functional variations, but of course the nature of the movement provided that it would always be delicate.

As such tourbillons will always remain a piece of art and miracle for curiosity, rather than watch improving technological innovations.

There are really only two reasons for a tourbillon based watch, and neither of them have anything to do with increased accuracy or reliability. 

A tourbillon is interesting and excited to look at. It is always in motion and attracts attention and really makes the watch seem more alive beside tick-taks,. This is especially true with the multi-axis tourbillon movements with their constant gyration. The visual splendor is there, but arguably not worth the incredible premium. Moreover it brings us such tourbillon watch is pure showiness and prestige.
Yes, the entry fee to the tourbillon club, at least for a decent quality one is so high, while there many tourbillon options out there, the average price for them is between HK$400,000 and HKD$1,000,000. You can get a good quality certified chronometer watch for about HKD$34,000. There are also cheap no-name watches that call themselves tourbillon watches, but really are not… The China Seagull makes Tourbillon that is real Tourbillon and carries a much affordable price tag that would not burn holes in your pocket. But it seems not the main sales items for customers in the Windows of King Fook Jeweler.

Why? You had rather pay another HKD$300,000 for branded AP, PP, VC or JLC?
Another interesting question why Rolex Does not come with Tourbillon!? Well, most of Rolex model are Qualified for COSC watch certificate, before they are attached with the read Seal of “ Superlative Chronometers” Rolex can make Tourbillon, but they might have problem to carry this watch equipped with the Tourbillon for COSC qualification, I mean that Tourbillon may be found harder to pass the stringent Time checking requirement for 15 days, 5 position and three temperature.

So next time… do not laugh at Rolex.. Oh ,, you do not make Tourbillon. Rolex has the reason…
Attached is a HKD$2M 
 Roger Dubuis Double Flying Tourbillon Paper Weight! But that is not for sale…

PS Roger Dubuis Excalibur Millesime Double Flying Tourbillon Skeleton is so far the most eye catching and beauftiful Watch I have seen. 

HK Snob


Scott said...

Interesting article. I recently bought myself a MontieK Tourbillon. With a 2 year warranty, european qc and only losing a few seconds a day you don't need to sell your house anymore to own a tourbillon watch. It's actually a amsterdam/hong kong brand.

According to reviews online there are also many chinese brands with seagull tourbillons that don't finetune their movement and you lose 30seconds a day. That kind of accuracy would be unacceptable for me.

HK Snob said...

Hi Scott, if a watch loses 30 seconds a day, I would rather watch the Sun to tell the time. If a watch slow or gain more than 4 seconds a day is acceptable for me.
If you say a Tourbillon which is designed an made in such a way for improving time accuracy.. if They lose 30 seconds a day. The Quality is real bad... I will not buy it...
This is the first time someone told me about how Seagull is performing. As this is available in HK, represented by Chow Tai Fook Gold Smith. A Regular Turbillon is selling at About HKD$40,000.00
Well, Let me search for your Montiek Watch...
Thanks for your comment....

HK Snob said...

Hi Scott, how much is that Montiek Tourbillon?

Scott said...

Hi HK Snob,

I got the MPTS-01 for 1300euros from their website.


HK Snob said...

Hi Scott, that kind of price is really a big drive for everyone to get one. Who is making teh movement for them!?
if that can run within a few seconds a day, a good watch already.
Wow... you are right, we do nto have to sell a house to get one...
Nice deal. I will keep an eye on it.. Thanks!

JTK said...

Hi Snob,

I have a 1966 Omega Constellation with a chronometer movement that usually gains or loses no more than 4 or 5 seconds a day. So that is chronometer performance from a movement that's nearly half a century old. With that kind of craftsmanship and technology, who still needs a tourbillon?
--- JTK

HK Snob said...

That is within spec of a Chronometer.
Good Stuff, Well, Who will need a Tourbillon!? Someone who can afford HKD$500,000 or more... Time wise, many Tourbillon is not even as good as your Omega in time keeping!!

Can i SEE it?!


HK Snob

JTK said...

Hi Snob,

I purchased my Constellation from Ebay 3 yrs. ago. The acrylic crystal was a bit scratched up, but I have repolished it myself. Other than that, it's in very good condition overall.
The case is gold-capped (~10 times the thickness of an average gold plated modern watch). A solid gold version is crazy expensive --- can't afford it, and I don't think it's justified. :(
Love to show you some pictures, but I don't know to attach them to my response.

HK Snob said...

Do you have whatsapp?
then you can send me to my number +639175854633
HK Snob

JTK said...

No Snob, I don't have whatsapp. In fact, I don't use Apps.
--- JTK

JTK said...

Hi Snob,

I can email some of my Constellation pics to you, if you really want to see them. Let me know?
--- JTK

HK Snob said...

please send to

i want start a topic on Omega Constellation.

HK Snob