A tourbillon, for the uninitiated or those ignorant of horology, is a complex mechanism on a watch, but its very purpose is up for debate nowadays.
Once upon a time, gravity, the enemy of accurate time measurement, hampered the most delicate parts of a timepiece. The pallet fork, balance wheel and hairspring, functioning together in a kind of oscillating, rotational harmony, keep the various hands moving when placed horizontally. But as watch owners of old moved their wrists, gravity would constantly bear down on those intricate pieces, subtly derailing and changing the time. That’s where the tourbillon came into play. Taking into account different degrees, the caged gears of the tourbillon would rotate effectively on their own axis, typically making one revolution per minute, counteracting any sudden movement. And, viola!—balance restored and time ticking smoothly.
Once useful for negating the effects of shock, temperature and even magnetism, tourbillons have evolved with watches over the years, and over that time have lost their earlier necessity due to stronger, more resistant materials used in overall assembly. However, such novelties make for some of the most impressive features on modern mechanical watches.
Most impressive of all might be the timepieces—and specifically tourbillons—from Greubel Forsey, an innovator in the production of Swiss luxury timepieces. Its Double Tourbillon Technique even won the 2011 International Chronometry Competition for its intricate design, which included, as the name suggests, two tourbillons, one rotating within the other.
Never to be outdone, even by themselves, Greubel Forsey have recently given the tourbillon a run for its money. A first for the history of GMT watches—(Greenwhich Mean Time, or those with a second time zone)—the GMT by Greubel Forsey features an actual rotating terrestrial globe. That’s right. While the Tourbillon 24 Secondes regulator, with it’s fast moving gyrations spins under 6’oclock, a fully realized earth steals the show, and helps keep track of 24-hour day and night indicator. A lateral window installed at the side offers an intuitive view of the time of day and reveals the southern hemisphere.
As secure as if held in the grips of Atlas, the tiny moving world spins free of gravity’s rigid force. It may also be the most unique component we have ever seen.
Stay tuned for more useful timepieces for the traveling businessman in HudsonMOD’s first issue of 2014: Travel, Taste & Drink.