The tourbillon is one of the most fascinating horological complications. Since 1947 it has distilled one of the key skills of the watchmaking universe – that of the house of Omega.
The Tourbillon And The Watchmaking Revolution
It is to Abraham-Louis Bréguet that we owe the first tourbillon in watchmaking history, in 1801. The pioneer was indeed at the origin of this watchmaking revolution. It must be said that at the time, Bréguet’s invention took the place of a solution to a watchmaking problem, rather than an eminently beautiful and fascinating complication.
At that time, the vogue for pocket watches indeed required a solution to stopping the pendulums; stop caused by the immobility of the timepiece kept in the pocket. Sensitive to positioning, subject to magnetism and gravity, the pocket watch thus requires a solution in order to maintain its precision for an exact reproduction of the time.
The invention of the tourbillon in 1801 thus opened the world of watchmaking to a much more relevant solution than that which hitherto consisted in raising the balance wheels. The vortex, also called a rotating cage, adjusts the balance of the center of gravity by counterbalancing disturbances due to gravity
Freed from gravity and inaccuracies, mechanical watches with a tourbillon accurately reproduce the time, whatever their position. The tourbillon works in effect like a rotating cage. Inside this cage reduced to the extreme, the balance and the exhaust are rotating on themselves. But rare and demanding, the tourbillon cannot equip all mechanical watches.
And even today, the vortex is considered to be one of the most difficult mechanisms to execute. But here, in more than 200 years, watchmaking has found even more relevant solutions. This is the case with the wristwatch – where the natural movement of the wrist provides the same effect as that allowed by the tourbillon against the pull of gravity.
But the beauty and the fascination of such a horological complication led the most daring houses to inventions blithely complementing that of Bréguet. And in particular the Omega house!
The Omega Craft, Tourbillons For Wrist Watches
Founded in 1848 by Louis Brandt , Omega has forged itself, throughout its history, an unrivaled reputation for its innovations in the art of tourbillon. To start with this revolution of 1947!
1947, First A Tourbillon Bracelet Watch
1947- When Omega launched the development of the first tourbillon wristwatch, it was first to enter a chronometry competition. Omega competed in the “wristwatch” category of the Kew-Teddington, Geneva and Neuchâtel observatory competitions.
At that time, the tourbillon was only animated pocket watches, or table clocks.
One of the first movements of a tourbillon wristwatch was imagined in 1947 under the name of Caliber 30 I. A tourbillon of the caliber 30I performed a rotation every 7.5 minutes. A pleasure for the eye, and the milestone of exceptional expertise.
That year, Omega actually imagined twelve “30 I” tourbillon movements, only 30 mm in diameter. Between 1947 and 1952, the twelve calibers participated in several tests for these competitions.
And the house wasted no time in winning its bet. Omega indeed obtained the best results ever recorded by a wristwatch. Highly precise, thanks to its tourbillon escapement with Guillaume balance, the first tourbillon wristwatch revolutionizes the world of watchmaking, forever. Omega has just responded once again to the primary ambition of its founder. That of making the most precise watches in the world.
Clean and simple to look at, this 1947 prototype watch simply says ‘Omega tourbillon’ – seeing the tourbillon is enough to fascinate its wearer.
In 1950, Omega also won the best score ever obtained so far in Geneva in the wristwatch category. With unparalleled precision, Omega watches were making history.
Pieces of history that remain in the prototype state. Real collector’s items that are snapped up during everyday sales events. At the Phillips sale in Geneva in November 201, a unique prototype of a 1947 tourbillon wristwatch was auctioned off after 19 minutes of auction. For 1,222,247 euros, the most expensive Omega watch in history.
The Omega Tourbillon Watch from 1994
1994 – Omega perfected its craft and presented the first modern tourbillon movement. Called ‘Omega 1170 caliber’, the tourbillon is positioned in the center of the watch dial. Better still, it’s an automatic tourbillon! The seconds trotting through the tourbillon are placed in the center, while the minute and hour hands are applied directly to sapphire crystals.
A technical and aesthetic wonder that recalls all the audacity of Omega expertise.
Besides, the Omega tourbillon timepieces are always about masterful craftsmanship. The Omega tourbillon department is only working to push the limits of watchmaking manufacturing a little more. With beauty and profession in mind.
1997 also marks a development on the tourbillon movement. It became the caliber 2600A. Again for the first time, the automatic winding system is now part of the movement itself.
Between 1994 and 2010, Omega produced almost seven variations of the tourbillon movement. A complication showing the expertise of the house in the miniaturization of this system invented in 1801.
The Co-Axial Escapement, Icon of Omega Expertise
It was in 1999 that the Omega house resumed the invention of the brilliant George Daniels. Co-axial exhaust.
He notes: “The Co-Axial escapement is in fact revolutionary and radical. It solves a question that has preoccupied watchmakers for 500 years: the problem of lubrication. Mechanical watches have a long history. Improving them presents challenges that centuries of master watchmakers have attempted to meet. The problems of the viscosity of lubrication and the need for lubrication caused by sliding friction have been studied by watchmakers for centuries and they were not resolved until the appearance of the Co-Axial escapement. “
The Co-Axial is based on the energy provided by the exhaust, which transmits the force generated by tangential movements of its components. An impulse is then transmitted clockwise directly from the tooth of the escape wheel to the plate. Balance is achieved when the impulse is delivered to the platform via the anchor, counterclockwise. The escape wheel is then at rest, while the pendulum perpetuates its oscillations freely. Without disturbance.
In 2010, Omega presented at Baselworld a Skeleton Tourbillon Central Co-Axial Platinum watch. Exceptional, it highlights all the poetry of this Co-Axial movement.
“The result is spectacular. They seem to float freely above the movement” specified the house. And the know-how itself is spectacular.
The watchmakers of the house have purified the superfluous matter of the tourbillon bridges. Each tourbillon is the result of the perfect mastery of a single watchmaker, who has spent up to 540 hours on the making of this Squelette Tourbillon Central Co-Axial Platinum watch!
Ten years later, in 2020, here is the new wonder born from Omega’s workshops and extraordinary know-how. The De Ville Tourbillon Edition Numbered watch . An even more fascinating vision of the complication invented by Bréguet, almost 220 years ago!