Tourbillon

tourbillon diagram

tourbillon

A tourbillon [tor-bee-yon] (French for ‘whirlwind’) is an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement (the device which converts continuous rotational motion into an oscillating or back and forth motion; the source of the ‘ticking’ sound produced by watches and clocks).

Developed around 1795 by the French – Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet from an earlier idea by the English chronometer maker John Arnold a tourbillon counters the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage. Originally an attempt to improve accuracy, tourbillons are still included in some expensive modern watches as a novelty and demonstration of watchmaking virtuosity. The mechanism is usually exposed for display on the watch’s face.

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