Few things tickle the interest of watchmakers like tourbillons do, so imagine what double tourbillon watches do to them. But the little whirlwind of minute metal components and springs wasn’t born out of vanity; it was designed as a mechanical solution to quite a perplexing problem at that time.
Way back before 1795, when wristwatches were still a concept unbeknownst to man, pocket watches were many gentlemen’s timekeeping tool of choice, and they either sat vertical in pockets or horizontal on desks. This caused an uneven distribution of gravitational forces and friction within the movement of the watch, eventually causing damage.
To solve this conundrum, French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet mounted the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage to negate the effects of gravity when the timepiece was placed in fixed positions for prolonged periods of time. This not only increased its accuracy, but also reduced wear and tear within.
However, unless you’re living the fantasy of being on Downtown Abbey, you’re more likely to own a wristwatch now, which means few timepieces actually spend their time exclusively vertically or horizontally. Like many complications, the tourbillon has evolved from being a technical solution to a show-off of watchmaking virtuosity. It wasn’t long before the single tourbillon started becoming “mainstream”, and so the horological hotshots started outdoing each other by doubling the stakes with two tourbillons instead.
Besides rotating at different speeds and offering higher accuracy, double tourbillon watches are often also highly fascinating in their sheer complexity. Here are five of the best in the market now.
Of course, it was only right we kicked off the list with one by the creator of the tourbillon. Two independent tourbillons are affixed by a bridge to the centre plate, which also doubles up as a stunning hand-engraved guilloche dial and the hour hand. The intricacies do not end there; behind, the baseplate sees engravings of the night sky and the earth alongside a partial view of the movement — an ethereal finish to the decadent 44mm rose-gold encased timepiece.
Greubel Forsey is no stranger to creating mind-bending and super-complicated watches, but it didn’t stop its famed Double Tourbillon 30° Technique watch from trumping all the others when it was launched in an all-sapphire case. Besides an unobstructed view of every carefully engineered part, every incredible interaction of the movement’s perfectly synchronised dance is also in full sight. Fashioned from a single sapphire crystal, the 38.4mm watch is the perfect vessel for the two tourbillon escapements within the hand-wound calibre. The outer one rotates once every four minutes while the inner one, every 60 seconds, achieving an unprecedented score of 915 out of 1,000 points at the International Chronometry Competition. Explains the S$1.49 million price tag then.
‘Conventional’ often gets thrown out of the window when it comes to Louis Moinet, so it’s no surprise its double tourbillon watch received several unique features. Instead of rotating the same direction, the tourbillons rotate in opposition of each other, and are raised above the movement’s plane for an unobstructed view. Limited to 12 pieces, the time dial at 12 o’clock is a stunning recreation of the night sky, crafted from genuine dust from Mars, the moon and rare fragments of the Rosetta Stone.
It seems that Roger Dubuis has found a way to cater to the discerning but edgy watch clientele. In partnership with racing tire maker Pirelli, the Swiss watchmaker launched the blue Excalibur Spider Pirelli in a limited series of just eight pieces. The bread-and-butter range gets a bold upgrade with double flying tourbillons within a highly skeletonised movement. The tourbillons both act as sub-seconds registers, each encompassed by speedometer-inspired seconds tracks. The 47mm watch is made of black DLC-coated titanium with blue rubber accents (the official Pirelli colour). On the bright side, the S$397,000 you shell out for this watch will entitle you to an invitation to a two-day VIP motorsports event.
Nestled adjacent to a delicately enamelled dial are two one-minute tourbillons, linked by a limited-slip spring clutch that evens out any differences in rate between the both of them, and links them to their gear trains. The manually wound Calibre SM6 powers this limited edition watch, which also powers the 72-hour power reserve and day/night indicator on the dial. Peter Speake-Marin perfectly conveys the poetic passing of time in an animated presentation.