Invented by the master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1795 and then patented in 1801, the tourbillon has since become one of the world's most complicated and most impressive complications. The mesmerising dance of the escapement and balance wheel spinning around in a rotating cage is tantamount to watching the theatre play out. Built to negate the effects of gravity by continuously rotating the entire balance wheel and escapement, the tourbillon is unquestionably difficult to make.
Watchmakers around the world flock to the illustrious tourbillon complication to flex their horological might, with brands like Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Ulysse Nardin creating some of the most incredible tourbillon examples. We've put together a handful of watches that best showcase the tourbillon in all of its glory. Enjoy!
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph
From one of the holy trinity of watchmakers comes one of the maison's most complicated pieces, the incredible Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph. Combining impeccable finishings of the highest quality and an eye for detail, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph is a connoisseur's delight.
The combination of that monopusher chronograph with the enormous tourbillon at 12 o'clock with Vacheron Constantin's Maltese Cross emblazoned on the tourbillon carriage really makes the Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph one of the watchmaker's most interesting watch, both aesthetically and technically.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon
Jaeger-LeCoultre just knows how to make a good watch, and the Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon is just primo. Crafted in pink gold and featuring a silvered dial, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon perfectly balances complexity with simplicity in what is an absolutely gorgeous package.
I love how timeless and traditional the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon looks. The case is super subtle, the dial is minimalistic and all of the focus is on that magnificent tourbillon at 6 o'clock. Jaeger-LeCoultre doing what Jaeger-LeCoultre does best.
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon
Modern tourbillon perfection. That's what comes to mind when I see Vacheron Constantin's Traditionnelle Tourbillon. Executed with contemporary design in mind and in stark comparison to Jaeger-LeCoultre's classical Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Tourbillon is a sight to behold.
I love how thick the bezel is, I like the integration of the railway track chapter ring and I absolutely adore that tourbillon. I might even go out on a limb here and say that out of the three watchmakers in the holy trinity, Vacheron Constantin does the best tourbillon carriages. Case in point: the Traditionnelle Tourbillon.
Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport
Slightly avant-garde, slightly against the grain and definitely outside of the box is the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport. This is a fairly unique take for the independent watchmaker, especially given how classical its approach has been thus far to watchmaking. The Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport has a cushion style case with highly modernised details throughout.
The true magic of course is the caseback, where the magnificent and downright impeccable hand-wound Calibre LF 619.01 greets you. But that's not to say that the dial of the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport is at all lacking. This is a very interesting tourbillon timepiece that hits the mark from all angles.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon
Another tourbillon from Jaeger-LeCoultre, this time with the Geophysic Tourbillon. Precision, artistry and innovation are all traits Jaeger-LeCoultre employed when they executed the Geophysic Tourbillon. This is an incredible spectacle, both of drama and of haute horlogerie.
There is little to fault with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon. Dimensionally, fine. Proportions, smack bang on. Balanced, detailed and supremely complex. Yep, check all. In other words, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon is as close to perfection as you can get.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon
Another odd choice after the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon but perhaps one of the most wearable tourbillon watches in this list after the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon. It's a great balance of complexity, of discreteness and of functionality.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon actually has a power reserve of a whopping 8-days and is more than suitable to diving the depths of the ocean with its 300m water resistant rating. The subtle rose gold details round off what is a super cool tourbillon.
Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon Skeleton
Crafted in rose gold and titanium, Ulysse Nardin's Blast Tourbillon Skeleton is the next piece in the watchmaker's adventure down the path of modern haute horlogerie. The openworked tourbillon of the Blast Tourbillon Skeleton is on full display here and it is absolutely incredible.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon Skeleton is contemporary, it's forward thinking and it's an example of where we might find the direction of tourbillon watchmaking heading towards.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph is a revelatory piece, introduced to the world as an affordable take on the typically super expensive tourbillon. Sporty and casual, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph wonderfully combines the high-end complex nature of the tourbillon in the typical Carrera package.
Relatively speaking, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph is fairly affordable for a Swiss-made tourbillon watch. It's also got the benefit of being functional, versatile and supremely wearable. Hats off to TAG Heuer for pushing the boundaries.
Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon
Perhaps not the most beautiful tourbillon you'll come across but one that is, like the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph, actually quite affordable, is the Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon. This model is super classical in its design and execution, with this particular variation finished off with a green theme.
The Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon won't be the first choice for many, but for those wanting to expand their collection to include a tourbillon but don't have the budget for something more premium, then this might just fit the bill.
Arnold & Son Te8
Arnold & Son (No, not Arnold Schwarzenegger and his son...) is one of my favourite watchmakers. I feel that it doesn't get the attention or the plaudits it truly deserves. One such piece, the Te8, really captures the incredible watchmaking that this maison is capable of. Complex, unique and supremely well made, the Arnold & Son Te8 is high horology at its finest.
I love the unique dial pattern and the exposed tourbillon. I feel that it really gives the Arnold & Son Te8 a distinct look that's full of character and individuality. For sure it's a polarising piece, but I think it oozes personality.
Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon GMT PAM00330
Last but not least is the Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon GMT PAM00330. As fly-under-the-radar as you can get from a tourbillon, the Panerai Radiomir Tourbillon GMT PAM00330 combines its historic Radiomir case construct with the mesmerising complexity of a tourbillon.
I really like how Panerai has combined a closed dial with a tourbillon. It creates a sort of air of mystery about the Radiomir Tourbillon GMT PAM00330. Some people may not like the fact that the tourbillon is hidden or that the watch on a whole looks so simple, but I really like this super low-key, undercover look.
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