Tourbillon, one of many complications.

The tourbillon was, as Alex tells below, created for pocket watches, because they always rested in the same position.

A wrist is moving in all directions, so the tourbillon is unnecessary in a wrist watch,

if you are searching higher performance.

It was once a sign of the utmost highest mastership, together with minute repeaters, to create,

when every part were hand made, by one master. 
But then came CAD CAM, microscopes and high tech machines...

Still they weren't better then a high class Swiss lever watch,

or a good marine chronometer!

I think personally that it's the most unnecessary complication of all,

and I know many who thinks the same.

A chronograph, or a split chronograph are complications you can have practical,

daily use of.
Or a dual time regulator, which is a very good complication, when you are abroad,

and even at home.

Even though I don't think my DTR is especially beautiful,
it's complication is very useable.

Same goes for minute repeaters, they were really good to have,

before the electricity.

Now most/many watches have indexes you can see in the dark.

OK, it's always amusing to hear a minute repeater,

but only very few of the wrist watch minute repeaters , Vacheron Constantin is in my ears best,

gives an attractive sound.

To get that, you must have the resonance of a pocket watch.

Both tourbillon and even more, minute repeaters are highly complicated to create,
but also very exspensive to keep in shape, and a lot more sensitive than a traditional watch,

or other complications.

It has been a boom in tourbillons last years, but much of their charm were that they were rare,
plus complicated and exspensive.

Now nearly every brand has, often several, tourbillons to show,

and they, of course, gets cheaper every day,
so even the argument that they are so extremely expensive is falling.

I personally always have seemed it pretty damaging to the dial,
to make a big hole in it, just to show that part of the movement!
Perhaps in a skeleton watch, but not in a traditional dial.

So from my point of view, if it must be a tourbillon in the watch,

I prefer it inside or on the back :-)

As an example of a almost perfect dial, if anything can be perfect,

the simplicity of the Patrimony is the utmost elegance :-)

It must not be exspensive to be beautiful,

it's often the reverse!

Just some personal thoughts before bedtime :-)

Doc

Of the necissity of the tourbillon and of the wrist watch in general
05/01/2007 - 11:38

Hi Doc, I agree with you that there is absolutely no use in having a tourbillon watch today (but we don't really need a mechanical wrist watch, or even a watch today-do we?) and the complication in its self has been devalued with the tourbillon overkill we have been seeing in the past years.

However not ever one is equal before the tourbillon, and for me its those who either make their own movements or who bring such modifications to pre existing movements that they can easily be called their own that have true legitimacy.

Finally its the market which will make its choice. No matter how aggressive the marketing of a brand clients on the secondary market will chooses real craftsmanship over hype and that's why you often see the price of high end tourbillons such as VC being quite high whereas lesser brand's offerings going for less than an entry price VC!!

As to have the tourbillon visible on the back it is a matter of taste.

I like tourbillons because they are a piece of kinetic magic when well done and the steel Malte Tourbillon I posted in the post below would be a dream watch for me!

Some musings..
05/01/2007 - 14:04

While I don't believe the tourbillon to be a useful complication, I still value it. They are visually arresting when in motion, and when still, they stand as a statement of values for the watchmaker: They showcase craft. Still, like Doc, I can't say that I like the hole in the dial that breaks up the hour and minute tracks. Make mine a skeleton! :-) Bill

Re: Tourbillon, one of many complications.
05/01/2007 - 11:57

Tourbillon is for me the nicest complication to see on a watch even if its real utiliy is not effective.

Each Grande Maison have to integrate one on one of her watches to show others she is able to do a very complicate work.

For example the very nice new Panerai Tourbillon, what a tourbillon makes on a Panerai? (it is not on the spirit of Panerai I think).

Like you said Doc, it's a shame that certain Maisons make a hole on the dial to show this complication (in the case of the VC Tourbillon, I don't like it at all :S ), but in crtain case, this big hole permits to give an atraction on the spectator!!

Tourbillon: the good, the bad and the ugly
05/04/2007 - 18:09

Love 'em, hate 'em. I would like to own one, but I think they are truely the chidlren of marketing and overpricing luxury retail strategy. If I had the money though, I would have a tourbillon (why not?).

Pretty much everyone agrees that a tourbillon has no real chronometric value in a wristwatch. So that's out of the way.

If you like horological technique and craftmanship, then it is a must have. But unlike minute repeaters which are very affordable on the pocket watch auction markets (for $2000-$3000 you can enjoy one of the most fascinating complications ever made), tourbillons were never produced to such extents even in pocket watches where they were the most useful. This means that tourbillons are and will be for a while the most exclusive "standard" complication (as opposed to those almost one of a kind OPUS complications or GP's jackpot watch for example).

Make no mistake, there pretty much isn't a single watch "manufacture" that makes its own tourbillon components either, so "in-house" doesn't mean much, the rest of the movement could be in-house.

Make no mistake 2: you are not buying hand-made, prowess-of-craftmanship watches... Computer controlled high-tech machining has replaced all this.

If you really want something to celebrate the watchmaker's art, go vintage, pre computer era (60s and even 70s is still good). Unfortunately, since tourbillons were so rare before their rebirth, you will need extremely deep pockets.

All that being said, some watch companies still make very nice tourbillons and spend hundreds of hours on the finishing, manufacturing, and especially tuning of the tourbillon. Again, you will need very deep pockets for those. 

Conclusion:

- tourbillons have no chronometric value in a wristwatch.

- if you have the money, get a Tourbillon, I would.

- you can choose the open faced ones to enjoy the show as often as you like.

- or you can choose the more understated elegance of a tourbillon that you can't see on the face, but please write it on the dial so that everyone still knows I have a tourbillon ;-)

- unless you buy from the top watch houses or independants, you are not buying much of any craftmanship, but showing the IT support and computing engineers how much you enjoy their fine machining work.

Thank you gentlemen!
05/05/2007 - 01:17

I must say that I'm impressed by the very nice reaction from you all,

to my simple personal thoughts.

Such knowledge and engagement combined with very intersting aspects,

from all of you, that I really feel astonished!

Reading your thoughts are good examples,

that all is not either black or white :-)

I'm back from Paris after some fantastic summerdays (!),

so I have to melt these answers for a while!

Once again,

thank you all :-)

Doc