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The Tourbillon Infothread

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semperfi55

The Tourbillon Infothread

Since I discovered this forum, I have gone down many horological rabbit holes. None have been more expensive and mesmerising as the tourbillon. I was initially attracted to the moving pieces, and not interested about its mechanism. How it works is just too confusing; it was easier to just sit there and admire the action.

 

That was six months ago. Since then, I have collected more watches (gross understatement of 2018), disassembled a few, and barely have a grasp on what makes watches tick/sweep. While doing my research for buying a tourbillon, it struck me that there was no central thread for reference. Sure, there are a few extremely useful threads on here and RWI, but they don’t give a more comprehensive picture of replica tourbillons and tourbillons in general.

 

This is my humble attempt at compiling all the useful information pertaining to tourbillons on RWG and RWI into one thread. As my 1,000th post, I would like to contribute to this wonderful forum:

For the new and the baffled, I will explain what a tourbillon is and show you some examples.

For the mechanically-inclined, I will summarise the progression in tourbillon complexity.

For the bargain-hunters, I will touch upon the more ‘accessible’ Swiss tourbillons out there.

For the Orientalists, I will discuss Chinese and Japanese tourbillons.

For the curious, I will summarise the advice I have found on buying replica tourbillon watches.

For the cynical, I will reaffirm your doubts of Kickstarter campaigns.

For the bored, I have included a few interesting tourbillon examples for you to gawk at.

 

Acknowledgements

This Infothread would not have been possible without the groundwork put down by @BigDee62 thread on various Chinese Tourbillon Movements. His post was a useful resource and the inspiration to expand on that knowledge. I have copied and hosted many of his brilliant photo examples on PICR.me to avoid a photobucket fate. The same goes to Tourbillon Movement Reviews by Alex Lee from Perpetual Watch, a Chinese watch brand. His reviews have been posted on various forums before. I have incorporated invaluable information and photos from his review. 

@Hyjynx also deserves a mention for his superb Knights of the Round Table: Tourbillon Edition collection thread. There is no doubt he is on the hit list of many a Communist country for such a decadent display. It was also the thread that encouraged me to research and ultimately collect replica tourbillon watches. 

Last but not least, I would like to thank our resident baguette @Glaude who has had to put up with my constant droning about this infothread and his constructive input. Somehow he manages to meddle in everyone's affairs.

 

History of the Tourbillon

The term “Tourbillon” comes from the French word for whirlwind. This mechanism was developed in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet and subsequently patented in 1801. The tourbillon is what happens when you mount the escapement, balance spring and balance wheel within a rotating cage.

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The Breguet No. 1176, an important pocket watch created in 1809. It was Breguet’s third tourbillon watch and the first with a four-minute tourbillon regulator (instead of the classical one-minute tourbillon we know today)

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An example of a 19th century (1860) tourbillon pocket watch by Girrard Perregaux. The pocket watch was sold by a dealer, a Hermann Piaget based in Cordoba. The seller’s name and location are detailed on the dial.

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Three bridge design, patented in 1884 but this is a pre-patent example. Tourbillon on left and mainspring barrel on the right.

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Modern-day pocket watch tourbillon by Wilhelm Rieber, made to commemorate the 220th anniversary of the Rieber family’s involvement in watchmaking.

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Early wristwatch tourbillon by Omega

But why bother with such a complicated mechanism?

Because gravity. No matter how you position a watch, gravity will always affect the escapement. And if a watch is left in certain position for a prolonged period, the effects of gravity can diminish the accuracy of the watch.

By continuously rotating the entire assembly at a slow rate, the escapement will go through all possible orientations, and that would cancel out/average out the positional errors caused by gravity. This slow rate is usually one revolution of the entire assembly (my way of describing escapement and balance wheel) per minute, which can helpfully double as a seconds hand.

 

The master will always have a simple and succinct explanation. Here is what George Daniels had to say about the tourbillon:

"The purpose of the invention was to eliminate errors of poise in the balance by revolving the escapement continuously to produce a uniform average rate."

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Types of Tourbillons

There are many terms used to describe different types of tourbillons, so let us go through some of the more common ones.

The traditional tourbillon is usually mounted on a bridge, this bridge can be above or below the tourbillon. For reference, we will call it the Breguet type tourbillon.

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A Breguet type tourbillon. It has a bridge for support.

In 1920, Alfred Helwig from the German School of Watchmaking did away with the bridge. His tourbillon is supported only on one side, giving the visual illusion that it is a floating, or a flying tourbillon. This is mostly an aesthetic change from the Breguet type tourbillon.

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Alfred Hewing example of a flying tourbillon.

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Modern day Parmigiani Tonda flying tourbillon, note the lack of a bridge above or under the tourbillon.

So far, we have the Breguet type tourbillon which is supported by a bridge. The flying tourbillon does not have a bridge, but otherwise has the same design as the Breguet type tourbillon.

The carousel, like the tourbillon, continually rotates the balance wheel and escapement. However, there are some notable differences. The Karrusel was first designed by Bahne Bonniksen in 1892.

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Karrusel example

Here is a good descriptive comparison between the tourbillon and karrusel:

“In the tourbillon, invented by Breguet in 1795, the escapement (balance, escape wheel, etc.) is mounted on a carriage which carries a pinion driven by the third wheel. The fourth wheel is fixed and is concentric with the carriage shaft. The escape wheel pinion meshes with the fixed fourth wheel which will cause the pinion to rotate and operate the escape wheel and balance in the normal way.

 

In the karrusel by Bonniksen (UK patent 21421 of 1892) the carriage is mounted on a karrusel wheel driven by the third wheel pinion. The fourth wheel staff passes through the centre of the karrusel bearing to allow the fourth wheel pinion to mesh with the third wheel and power is transmitted to the escapement in the normal way rather than through the carriage rotation as in the tourbillon. The rate of rotation of the karrusel is about once per hour compared with the tourbillon which may rotate once per minute. Both these designs require considerable skill to manufacture, and are only found in watches of high quality.”

(M. Cutmore - Watches 1850-1980 (1989) p. 71-72)

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In summary, the karrusel counteracts the effects of gravity using a different design from the tourbillon and rotates once per hour.

 

Fast forward to the present day, Blancpain is well-known for reintroducing the karrusel, which they market as the Carrousel. They have even helpfully included both the flying tourbillon and carrousel on the same watch.

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A carrousel, with a helpful label next to it, courtesy of Blancpain.

 

Blancpain released a video comparing how the two mechanisms work.

Spoiler

 

 Official Blancpain Comparison Video

 

Aesthetically pleasing video, but I was still confused after the first viewing.

 

 

The Axis Power(s)

We have looked at the classic Breguet type tourbillon, the flying tourbillon and the karrusel. Each different in their own way, yet very similar in others.  When we glance longingly at tourbillons in boutique windows, we are hypnotised by the elegant rotation of the tourbillon along a single axis which is perpendicular to the dial. In a sense, the tourbillon is also rotating “clockwise”.

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Red circle and arrow showing the direction of rotation

Blue arrows show direction of gravity effect

Green line shows axis of rotation

In a dial vertical position, the effect of gravity is different for the assembly at different points of the red circle.

 

In this diagram, the watch is in a dial vertical position. The watch can have the crown up, crown down, crown left or crown right when the dial is vertical.

As the tourbillon rotates “clockwise” on a dial vertical watch, the continuous rotations put the assembly through all possible vertical positions, cancelling out the effects of gravity influencing the assembly when the watch is placed in a dial vertical position for a prolonged period.

But what about dial horizontal positions, which consists of dial up and dial down?

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Red circle and arrow showing the direction of rotation

Blue arrows show direction of gravity effect

Blue line shows axis of rotation

In a dial horizontal position, the effect of gravity is the same for the assembly at different points of the red circle, as all points are on the same flat plane.

 

In the diagram, the axis of tourbillon rotation is parallel to gravitational forces. As the assembly rotates “clockwise”, the effect of gravity on the assembly at each minute of rotation is the same. This axis of rotation does not help cancel out the differences between dial up and dial down positions. If a tourbillon rotated out the “front” of the dial (towards you) and then went back “behind” the dial (away from you) and back front again, that would help dial horizontal positions.

So why did Breguet built tourbillons to rotate in that clockwise plane? Because pocket watches were kept in dial vertical positions when in pockets. Sure, as Mr Breguet walked around town, the pocket watch might slide from crown left to crown up position, which is also a dial vertical position. It’s less likely the pocket watch would be in a dial horizonal position in the pocket. Therefore, the clockwise rotation plane was the most useful for a tourbillon that counteracts gravity effects on a vertical pocket watch. This arrangement does nothing for the dial horizontal positions.

Unless....you have a double-axis tourbillon! The first tourbillon to rotate on two different axes was developed by Anthony Randall in 1977. This was subsequently refined and fitted into a pocket watch (2003) and then in a wristwatch (2004) by Thomas Prescher of Thomas Prescher Haute Horlogerie. Now you have a tourbillon that can correct for dial vertical and dial horizontal positions.

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Double axis tourbillon developed by Anthony Randall for a clock.

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Double axis tourbillon minituarised and fited in a pocket watch, by Thomas Prescher.

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First double axis tourbillon in a wristwatch, by Thomas Prescher.

Another variant of the double-axis concept was envisioned by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, who developed, you guessed it, Greubel Forsey in 2004. They came out guns blazing with their Double Tourbillon 30 (DT30). The DT30 has one tourbillon rotating once per minute and inclined at 30 degrees, inside another carriage which rotates once every four minutes. Conceptually, it works like a double-axis tourbillon, but they called it the Double Tourbillon.

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Greubel Forsey DT30

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DT30 Tourbillon carriage

In 2005, they doubled their efforts and released the Quadruple Tourbillon à Différentiel (QDT), essentially two DT30s working independently. Interestingly, the four rotating carriages are connected, allowing torque distribution to two wheels rotating at different speeds.

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Greubel Forsey QDT

A double-axes tourbillon insufficient for your horological needs?

Never fear! The free market will provide. Enter the triple-axis tourbillon, developed once again by Thomas Prescher in 2004.

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 Triple axis tourbillon, by Thomas Prescher.

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From left to right: 1, 2 and 3 axis tourbillons.

Jaeger LeCoultre, who are renowned for their movements, also have skin in the tourbillon game. They have their own triple-axis tourbillon which is marketed as the Gyrotourbillon.

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JLC Master Gyrotourbillon 1 (2004)

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JLC Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 (2008)

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The Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 movement out of the case.

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JLC Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 (2013)

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It’s a spherical balance spring! Used in the Gyrotourbillon 3.

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JLC Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon (2016) is 30% smaller in size to its 2008 predecessor, JLC Reverseo Gyrotourbillon 2

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Reverse side of JLC Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon (2016)

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Balance spring and cage of the Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon.

 

It's a Numbers Game

Moving away from the multi-axes tourbillons, other brands have released relatively more straightforward but still impressive timepieces. Let us ignore number of axes for now, and focus on the number of tourbillons.

Below are some watches with two tourbillons.

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As previously alluded to, Blancpain has even made one with a carousel and a tourbillon, complete with helpful labels.

 

The Price of a Tourbillon – Cheaper and Cheaper

Since the time of Abraham-Louis Breguet, tourbillon watches have always been at the pinnacle of watchmaking; and this is reflected in their finishing and price. Today, a tourbillon by a Swiss/German brand would cost in the high tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.

But what do you get for all that money? The modern wristwatch tourbillon serves no purpose in improving timekeeping; the tourbillon was only useful in stationary pocket watches. It is more of a stage for watchmakers to demonstrate their horological expertise. Just as the Swiss luxury watch is viewed as a marker of social status, the tourbillon watch places its owner above all other collectors. Or rather that is the narrative brands use to justify the eye-gouging prices.

Over the last decade, various brands have unveiled cheaper tourbillon watches; a more accessible range for a different budget.  I have included a few examples here that sell for under USD 50, 000. Prices quoted are their initial marketed price, with the going price today (based on chrono24 Dec 2018).

In descending order:

5) Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon ~ USD 40, 000 (USD 22,000 - 33, 000)

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This is a 45mm diameter skeleton flying tourbillon, with a titanium case and brushed ceramic bezel, housing the UN-171 in-house movement.

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4) Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon FC-980N4S6 – USD 40, 000

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This is a 43mm diameter flying tourbillon watch with a rather novel day/night indicator.

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3) Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon with Guilloche Enamel Dial – USD 32, 000 (USD 19,000-21,000)

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This flying tourbillon watch has all the identifying features of the well-known Marine collection. It has the subtle bezel, power reserve indicator, large Roman numerals and striking blue dial. The difference in this 43mm diameter watch is the guilloche Grand Feu enamel blue dial.

 

2) Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon – USD 22, 300 (Could not find any on chrono24)

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This watch is a flying tourbillon crossed with a perpetual calendar. The in-house FC-975 Calibre has a silicon escapement wheel, combining the glamour of the past and technological advancement of the future. Initially marketed at USD 22,300, this 42mm diameter watch packs great value for money, especially when considering that the more established peers sell Perpetual Calendar Tourbillons for over EUR 100,000.

 

1) TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T – USD 15, 950 (Could not find any on chrono24)

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In 2016, Tag Heuer released the cheapest Swiss tourbillon watch on the market. Selling at USD 15, 950, this chronograph tourbillon watch is machine-finished with no finishings done by hand. It has a 45mm diameter titanium case and semi-skeleton dial design. At this price point, the watch was met with much consternation by the Swiss watch industry. So much so that the chairman of Patek Philippe then called the watch “nearly a joke” and that Tag Heuer was undercutting the other brands with a tourbillon watch this cheap. I feel that says a lot about the industry rather than this specific release.

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Based on these five Swiss examples, we can see that these relatively accessible watches range from the sporty to the dressy. These brands have shown that a Swiss tourbillon watch can be produced at a much lower cost than previously marketed. Of course, they are no Breguet or Patek Philippe. But these prices do shatter the myth/façade that a Swiss tourbillon should cost a certain amount.

 

Japanese Tourbillons

If we are going to discuss Asian Tourbillons, then we cannot ignore the Japanese. Unlike the Western brands that have an established tradition of crafting tourbillons, the Japanese have made tiny forays in the tourbillon world. So far, I have only been able to find three examples, two by Seiko Credor and one by Citizen. Clearly, they are not fussed by the tourbillon.

The FUGAKU tourbillon by Credor, which is a brand by Seiko, is the first tourbillon watch ever released by the Japanese giant. The motif on the dial is obviously inspired by/copying the almost iconic (overused stereotype) artwork The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

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Only 8 pieces were made. Yours for USD 462, 000. Although Seiko may not be known for their tourbillons, the level of craftsmanship on this watch is undeniable.

 

Credor has also released a second tourbillon model. However, there is not much information available.

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Bathroom tiles anyone?

 

Citizen, better known for their mass-produced affordable watches, released their first tourbillon, the Citizen Tourbillon Y01 in June 2017. This in-house timepiece was made to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Daimaru, a Japanese department store. A grand total of two pieces were made, priced at USD 90,000.

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Chinese Tourbillons

As they do in other industries, the Chinese start off by copying established designs, producing low price, low quality versions of the original article. After many years of copying, they develop the necessary technical expertise, experience and machinery to come out with their own brands.

I have used photo examples from a RWG thread on Chinese tourbillon movements and another referencing a review of various Chinese tourbillon movements. Information from both these threads have been used, alongside additional information from Chinese websites, including the official websites of various Chinese brands.

The big Chinese watch brands are names of different Chinese cities. This harks back to older, more communist times, where these watch factories were just named after the cities they were built in.

There are three types of Chinese tourbillon movements available:

1)      Breguet Type Tourbillon

2)      Flying Tourbillon

3)      Flying “Blancpain-style” Tourbillon

Regarding type no. 3, this aesthetic and design is based off the flying tourbillon made by Blacnpain,  which was achieved by offsetting the balance wheel from the axis of the tourbillon carriage (as opposed to the Breguet Type Tourbillon where balance wheel is co-axial to the tourbillon carriage).

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The flying “Blancpain-style” tourbillon

TL;DR

A Breguet tourbillon is a tourbillon supported by a bridge either over or under it.

A flying tourbillon does not have that bridge.

A flying “Blancpain-style” Tourbillon is just a flying tourbillon that is not co-axial.

 

Now onto the examples:

1) Breguet Type Tourbillon Movements

1a) Shanghai “Classic”

I could not find much concrete information regarding this movement. It is a hand wind movement with a bridge over the co-axial tourbillon. Watches with this movement often have some form of second hand above the carriage, which allows the tourbillon to double as a “seconds subdial”. Derivatives of this movement also have a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. This movement appears to have a favourable reputation on the forums (both replica and genuine watch forums).

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2) Flying Tourbillon Movements

2a) Hangzhou (PTS) FD3310

Handwind movement

Power Reserve: ~40 hours

BPH: 28,800

Jewels: 20

Diameter: 33.00mm

Thickness: 6.45 mm

Complications: Day/Night Indicator (3 o’clock), GMT (9 o’clock)

This movement can be found in genuine and replica watches alike.

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Blow-up of the PTS catalogue. Apologies for poor quality image.

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Examples of FD3310 in replicas

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The Aatos Tiago LSB sells for around GBP 400, further underscoring how overpriced the Swiss tourbillons are, and the good sense of replica makers in hiding the cheap day/night indicator.

 

2b) Hangzhou (PTS) FD3900

Handwind Movement  

Power Reserve: ~60 hours

BPH: 28,800

Jewels: 21

Diameter: 36.00mm

Thickness: 6.30mm

Complications: Day/Night Indicator (3 o’clock), Power Reserve Indicator (9 o’clock)

This movement has its tourbillon at 12 o’clock which is relatively rare in the world of Chinese tourbillons. However, it still retains the awful day/night indicator which cheapens its aesthetic. I would rather it have a moonphase disc and masquerade as a “moonphase” that completes one revolution per day. That would add a touch of ersatz class to the watch.

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I couldn’t find any examples of watches using the FD3900. A BHI member showcased his project involving the FD9300 in the April 2014 Issue of The Horological Journal.

 

2c) Hangzhou (PTS) FD3320

Function: Day/night indicator at 3 o’clock, power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock

Diameter: 33.00mm          

Thickness: 6.78mm

Power Reserve: ~80hours

Bph: 28,800

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PTS image of the FD3320

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FD3320 movement in a Jiusko. The clous triangulaire pattern in flinqué style adds a touch of class to the watch but clashes with the sporty look of the power reserve indicator.

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Back of the FD3320 movement.

 

2d) Guangzhou/GuangDong (Dixmont) DG8101

This is one of the first Chinese automatic tourbillon movements. A salient feature of this movement is the off-centre hour and minute hands.

Accuracy: + / - 20 seconds / day

Power Reserve: ~36 hours

BPH: 21,600

Jewels: 28

Diameter: 30.00mm

Thickness: 6.67 mm

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A photo of the movement clearly demonstrates the off-centre hour and minute hands.

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Examples of watches using DG8101.

 

2e) Seagull ST8260

A Seagull manual wind movement with a flying coaxial tourbillon.

Bph: 21,600

Power Reserve: 60 hours

I am unable to find any replicas using this movement.

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Front view of ST8260

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Back view of the ST8260 with spiral brushing.

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The ST8260 is not found in full-fledge replicas but found in borderline replica/homages. This Sugess watch is practically a Breguet replica.

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Seagull watch housing the ST8260 with an impressive enamel dial.

 

3) Flying “Blancpain-style” Tourbillon

3a) Liaoning(Million Smart) 5010

This Liaoning 5010 is one of the earlier Chinese tourbillon movement. It is on the cheaper end of the Chinese tourbillon range and known to be less reliable. It has been used in a British Horological Institute (BHI) tourbillon watch.

The movement is easily recognisable by its distinctive tourbillon aesthetic of 4 decorative screws, metallic ring and second pointer.

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BHI Tourbillon watch

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Liaoning with power reserve

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Close-up of the mechanism. This photo and below are taken from a German watch blog. The owner showcases a stripdown of the Liaoning 5010 tourbillon. Google translate needed.

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Tourbillon carriage out of the movement

 

3b) Beijing TB01-2N

The manual winding Beijing TB01-2N movement also has a distinctive look to its tourbillon carriage, but aesthetically more pleasing than the Liaoning.

Beijing movements are not seen in replicas. The Beijing Watch Factory does not sell its movements to other brands.

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Beijing tourbillon watch with bi-retrograde date and power reserve indicator. The two characters in steel by 3 o’clock says “Beijing”. The flatter, red 5 characters running from 12 to 4 o’clock says “Chinese Tourbillon”. Those 5 characters are stylised to look like ancient Chinese characters.

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The back of the same watch.

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The same movement housed in a more modern, sporty looking Beijing piece. The brand uses the Tiananmen Gate as its logo.

 

3c) Tianjin (Seagull) ST8000

The flying “Blancpain-style” tourbillon by Tianjin Watch Factory. This manual winding movement has a 42 hour power reserve. As with other Tianjin (Seagull) movements, this movement is relatively more reliable, but also more expensive.

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I have barely scratched the surface of Chinese tourbillon movements. There are many iterations of each type of tourbillon by different companies in manual or automatic versions. I believe I have presented a good range of tourbillon movements of watches sold at the USD 500-USD 3,000 range.

 

The Chinese have gone far since then.

Beijing Watch Factory is one of the brands at the forefront of the Chinese watch industry. They have their own dual tourbillon movement.

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The 43-jewel TB-02 movement with a thickness of 6.98mm has a flying “Blancpain-style” tourbillon at 6 and 9 o’clock. The tourbillons do not have the swallow imagery as found in their TB01 movement, which gives them a much cleaner look.

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I will be honest. Impressive feat it may be for the Chinese watch industry, this watch is ugly.

 

Beyond that, the Beijing Watch Factory released this Double-Axis Tourbillon in 2013. 

The watch, the “Wu Ji” or “Infinite Universe” houses a double-axial tourbillon AND a flying “Blancpain-style” tourbillon. Due to the space requirements of a tourbillon that rotates along two axes, the hour and minute hands have retrograde mechanisms so that the hands do not have to traverse the lower half of the dial.

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Back of the Wu Ji.

 

Beijing has also made a watch with a minute repeater and tourbillon. Unfortunately, there is not much information about this relatively old release. Only 20 pieces were made.

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The watch uses the 30-jewel movement MRB-1 which has a diameter of 34mm and thickness of 9.11mm with a 63 hour power reserve.

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MRB-1 movement: Tourbillon and Minute Repeater.

 

The Shanghai Watch Company is also known for pushing the limits of Chinese watchmaking. However, they have a less than helpful website, unlike their Beijing rivals. As such, there is not much reliable information available for their impressive tourbillons. But here are some photos!

Orbital Tourbillon

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The movement and dial rotate once an hour.

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The orbital tourbillon with its movement in a different position.

 

They have also developed their own orbital double tourbillon.

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The watch was released in 2010 for the 55th anniversary of their founding. It is a limited edition with only 55 made.

 

Next up is the Shanghai double-axial tourbillon released in 2015 for the 60th anniversary of the brand’s founding.

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The watch has an interesting crystal bubble to accommodate the tourbillon rotating on two axes.

 

Replica Tourbillons

It is all very well to describe the evolution of the tourbillon and the many impressive feats, but how is it relevant to a replica forum? Tourbillons, both Occidental and Oriental, command fantastical prices, far removed from the budget of most watch collectors.

What, then, can we find in the world of replicas?

Anyone who has had a cursory browse of any Trusted Dealer websites will find at least a few tourbillons. On average, these listings tend to hover in the USD 600 – USD 900 range. There will be the odd USD 500 tourbillon and of course there will be ones that cost above USD 1000. A reasonable variety of brands are represented: Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Tagheuer, Parmigiani Fleurier, Hublot, and A. Lange & Sohne.

 

But why do we see so few tourbillons on the forum? I observed the following aspects that discourage people from buying replica tourbillons:

1)      Price – The large price tag for these replicas, replicas that are sourced and sold by opaque sellers, however trusted they may be, will put off many collectors. Why risk USD 800 for a watch that may not be available, confiscated, lost, damaged in shipping? The idea of paying such a large lump sum to essentially a stranger on the other side of the world sounds insane as well.

2)      Complexity- Tourbillons are extremely intricate mechanisms. Collectors will understandably be concerned about Quality Control issues and the risk of damage during shipping. The worries do not end there. Complicated mechanisms mean that there are more things that can go wrong. What happens then?

3)      Servicing and Repair- One may be fortunate enough to have a replica-friendly watchsmith nearby or know a trusted forum member to repair regular timepieces. Most watchsmiths however will not be comfortable working on tourbillons, let alone replica tourbillons. The only recourse available to the collector is to send the replica back to China, assuming this happens within the “warrantee” period. Many new members find it difficult to get their replicas repaired as it is, a replica tourbillon will be even more challenging.

4)      Low Demand- With the potential cons stated above, many will be discouraged from purchasing a replica tourbillon. Why risk time, money and effort on watches that may cause more grief than fun? Better to stick to the well-trodden paths, or at least watches with less things that can go wrong. I cannot fault that logic! The low demand will continue to keep demand low: potential buyers have less information available to them, less reviews to follow. This further feed into the uncertainty behind buying a replica tourbillon.

5)      Likeness to Genuine- For the collector who prizes detail accuracy above all, the tourbillon game will not be their cup of tea. The replica “factories” will not invest as much resources to improve on the tourbillon. It is a low yield product to them, thanks to the low demand. As such, there are no V8, V9, etc for the tourbillon. That said, improvements between production runs have been reported---e.g. spelling mistakes have been corrected in a Vacheron Constantin Malte Tourbillon. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. In most replicas, the case dimensions will be off; movement decorations will not match the intricacies of a hundred-thousand-pound watch; the type of tourbillon/carrousel used may be inaccurate too. In conclusion, the replica tourbillon is not for the super-rep fans.

 

RWI has a Tourbillon Thread which is more than 150 pages long. The thread provides very useful information to potential buyers. It makes for a very good read as one scrolls through the photos. Photo after photo posted by fellow collectors; these are not the Photoshopped seller images. Many share their thoughts on their recent tourbillon purchases. Even more voice their doubts for this expensive toy. My observations are based off the concerns voiced on that thread. The experienced members there have also given their opinions in reply to these doubts. Their arguments can be summarised as:

1)      Reliability- The term “replica tourbillon watches” makes it easy to forget that the movements are not replicas. The Chinese tourbillon movements are used in many replicas are the same movements used in watches sold by legitimate brands. Of course, the movements used tend to be towards the cheaper end of the spectrum. One cannot expect a replica with a high-end Beijing tourbillon movement to be under USD1,000.

2)      Value for money- Replica tourbillon watches provide the tried-and-tested Swiss aesthetic (as opposed to some of the awful ‘original’ design of cheap Kickstarter tourbillons) with a lower price tag. At this point, almost all replica tourbillon watches are sold between USD500- USD1,000. Tourbillon watches of similar “Swiss” aesthetic with the same movements by legitimate Chinese brands are almost always marketed above USD 1,000. Assuming you want a tourbillon watch with Swiss-like aesthetic and generally reliable movements, replica tourbillons are in a pricing sweet spot, compared to watches by legitimate Chinese brands using the same movements.

3)      Less is more- There are a wide range of tourbillon replicas that come with a multitude of complications: separate small seconds, day/night indicator, GMT, and power reserve indicator. As with non-tourbillon movements; a less complicated tourbillon movement will be more reliable. A simpler movement will have less things that can go wrong. This is one way to manage the risk of a replica tourbillon watch breaking down.

4)      Buying from Trusted Dealers- If you are concerned about servicing and repair, buying direct from TDs may alleviate some of your worries, albeit with some caveats. The TDs’ “warrantee” period might only last a year, so you’ll still have the same repair dilemmas after a year. Again, like buying any other replica watch, the purchase is a compromise between what you can tolerate and where is your red line.

 

Kickstarter Tourbillons

Potential tourbillon enthusiasts may sit down and consider their options.

Replica tourbillons? Perhaps one is not ready to pay that much for a replica.

Chinese Brand tourbillons? Perhaps paying over USD 1000 for unknown brands is a step too far.

Swiss brand tourbillons? Why are you still on this site?

 

There is another option: Kickstarter start-ups.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A bunch of people come in. They pitch to you the best product since sliced bread.

“We have the Holy Grail product. Something that looks a million bucks, but it won’t cost you a million bucks. No sir, not you. Because you’re smart. Unlike those schmucks with more money than sense, you can tell the true worth of a product. One hundred thousand Euros for a Swiss tourbillon? Total Swiss baloney. We can have that sweet Swiss swirling action for the low, low price of USD 599.

And how do we do this? By cutting out the middlemen. You see, in the Swiss watch industry, there are loads of different parties involved in production and distribution. Each of them will throw in their mark-up and it is you, dear consumer, who must foot the bill.

‘Damn this injustice!’ we say, ‘The Swiss brands can go hang!’

And indeed, they should. This is what we’re all about. By cutting out the middlemen and working directly with our manufacturers, our tourbillon timepieces have minimal mark-up, and you can buy a tourbillon watch at its cost.

So, buy now, during the campaign, for the low, low price of USD 599. Watches from our previous collection were sold for USD 500 during the campaign, but now sell for USD 1, 000 retail. Support our campaign now, be the smart guy.”

Or some similar pitch. Same snakeoil, different day. What’s new?

 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kickstarter campaigns come and go fast; it is difficult to provide Kickstarter links here that would not go out of date within two months. Therefore, I will give a brief summary of my observations of the Kickstarter tourbillon.

Ultimately, the old adage stands true: “You get what you pay for”, to a certain extent. Sure, there is an argument for saying that Swiss watches are priced exorbitantly. However, you will not be able to get a watch that looks a million dollars for less than USD 2, 000, no matter how creative you are with mathematics.

Therein lies the problem of Kickstarter tourbillons. The skeletonised finishing is cheap, the movement is cheap, the design aesthetic overall feels cheap. And yet you are paying equivalent or more than a replica tourbillon watch (which uses genuine Chinese movements, like these Kickstarter projects).

Of course, that is not to say all Kickstarter tourbillons are rubbish. I would say less can go wrong with a simpler watch. None of the skeletonised design or various additional complications. A simple dress watch aesthetic and a simple tourbillon? Kickstarter might be able to achieve that.

 

Interesting Examples

Thomas Prescher Double-Axis Mystery

oRM8h.jpg

This section would not be complete without a Thomas Prescher watch. This watch houses a double axis tourbillon and has date complication. The design is such to allow viewers to see the double axis tourbillon in all its glory. The movement itself is hidden on the left and right side of the case.

 

Jacob & Co Astronomia Tourbillon

SmZ7L.jpg

The triple axis tourbillon on this watch is but one of the features of this piece of jewelry. Apart form the tourbillon, the 50mm diameter watch also has a magnesium lacquered globe, a 1-carat Jacob-cut diamond and (yawn) a small dial showing the time, which always stays the right side up as the whole ensemble rotates in the case.

Of course, this is just one of many impressive watches by Jacob & Co. Don’t hold your breath for a replica though.

SmEnK.jpg

 

Cabestan Triple Axis Tourbillon

SmJdQ.jpg

The watch of course would house a triple axis tourbillon, the bare minimum one would expect. The case and crystal are designed in such a way to maximise visibility of the ornate movement.

But even that is not the main attractions. The watch uses a fusee and chain transmission system. The fusee and chain system is an extremely old concept which acts to move power from a slowly unwinding mainspring to the rest of the movement. The conical shaped gear helps ensure a consistent transfer of power, which makes this system one of the most traditional and basic (yet effective) forms of ensuring that as a mainspring winds down, the accuracy of the watch does not wildly fluctuate. The chain used here is produced entirely by hand, all 305 links and 202 rivets for a total length of 204mm.

 

Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Grand Complication Phoenix

SrDlG.jpg

This watch is set to debut in SIHH 2019. Grand complications is probably an understatement for this timepiece. It features a tourbillon (with a distinctive Maltse-cross-motif bridge), minute repeater, perpetual calendar, power-reserve indication, sunrise and sunset times, equation of time, sky chart, age and phase of the moon, sidereal hours and minutes, seasons and zodiac signs, and even a mechanism indicating the torque of the repeater’s striking mechanism. There is so much to show that it requires a second dial on the back.

Sm5Ay.jpg

Because one dial is too common.

 

Franck Muller Giga Tourbillon

TMYwK.jpg

Because bigger is better…

These tourbillons are 20mm in diameter and take up approximately half the dial. Four barrels are needed to power this tourbillon, giving the movement a whopping 9-day power reserve!

 

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic

TMl7I.jpg

On the other extreme, we have the thinnest tourbillon movement ever. This BVL288 movement is a mere 1.95mm thick, while the case is a svelte 3.95mm. The watch is a record breaker, on three counts. It is now the:

1)      Thinnest self-winding watch (Previously Piaget Altiplano Automatic 910P at 4.30mm thick)

2)      Thinnest automatic tourbillon (Previously Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic 5377 7mm thick with 3mm Calibre 581DR)

3)      Thinnest tourbillon (Previously Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon 5mm thick with hand-wind 1.95mm BVL 268 movement)

TMgRo.jpg

TMFmL.jpg

Good luck picking up this movement from the floor, mate.

 

Omega De Ville Central Tourbillon

TMq7T.jpg

Tourbillons are placed at 3,6,9 and 12 o’clock…. Or at any angle in between. But no other brand has placed the tourbillon dead centre of the dial.

TMdpe.jpg

The hour and minute hands are two superimposed rings around the tourbillon cage, with arrows sticking out as the hands. The conventional 3 o’clock crown is purely for winding whereas the crown for setting the time is on the caseback.

TMORA.jpg

 

Lego Watch

Finally, here is a genius video of someone building a simple timekeeping device with Lego pieces. It gets more complicated after that…

Spoiler

 

First the pendulum....

 

The Wonders of Lego...

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

If you are still reading at this point, well done and thank you. The tourbillon is a fascinating mechanism designed in the perpetual quest for accuracy, another step towards perfection. However, its function and what it represents has changed over the centuries. What was once the forefront of timekeeping technology is now an obsolete contraption. Yet, it now stands at the pinnacle of horological craftsmanship and commands high prices; truly a masterclass in marketing. This façade, built up by years of marketing, is now cracking as Swiss brands start selling tourbillon watches at ever lower prices.

Although the tourbillon was born in the West, it will continue to flourish in the East. This is thanks to the low cost of Chinese-made tourbillons. A whole generation of watch factories went from imitating Western designs to developing their in-house tourbillons. Their continued efforts at imitating Swiss designs while keeping costs low benefits us, the replica collector.

The very movements manufactured by these factories are used in replicas(albeit the cheaper movements). This will alleviate some doubts regarding reliability. However, one would still be hard pressed on finding someone to service/repair their tourbillon watch. The relatively high prices and sparse reviews discourages would-be collectors and keep demand low. This feeds into a cycle where replica makers invest less into improving replica tourbillon watches. Therefore, a replica collector would need to see past some of the inaccuracies on these replicas. Despite the various caveats, replica tourbillon watches are still a better deal than Kickstarter campaign tourbillons. The replicas cost less and have a better aesthetic (as they are copying Swiss designs); the warrantees of the Kickstarter company only provide a marginal advantage as the brand may not even survive the entirety of the warrantee period.

 

I hope this thread has been useful to the reader and has helped made up some minds. Do post up photos of your own tourbillons, or tourbillons that have caught your eye, be it genuine or replica :) 

 

Bibliography

Images and Information on some Chinese Tourbillon movements

1) https://forums.watchuseek.com/f72/chinese-coaxial-tourbillon-review-4431274.html

2) https://www.rwg.bz/board/index.php?/topic/36615-popular-chinese-tourbillon-movements/

3) https://rwg.cc/topic/134586-comparison-of-chinese-tourbillon-movements/ 

4) https://forum.replica-watch.info/forum/replica-watch-general-discussion/127127-official-rwi-tourbillon-club

Comparison between tourbillons and karrusels

1) https://forums.watchuseek.com/f72/tourbillon-karrusel-carrousel-tourbillon-what-124053.html

2) http://forumamontres.forumactif.com/t88672-tourbillons-carrousels

General Tourbillon Articles

1) https://gearpatrol.com/2016/03/04/why-tourbillon-watches-are-expensive/

2) https://www.hodinkee.com/watch101/tourbillon

3) https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/does-the-tourbillon-have-any-real-benefits-in-a-wristwatch

4) https://www.ablogtowatch.com/tourbillon-watches-in-a-nutshell-expensive-fun-to-watch-serve-little-purpose/

5) http://www.europastar.com/watch-knowledge/1004082417-the-tourbillon.html

6) https://www.hautetime.com/4-most-impressive-multi-axis-tourbillons/79971/

Chinese Tourbillon Brands

1) http://www.ptsresources.com/watch_tourbillon_01.htm

2) http://www.millionsmart.com/e/default_home.asp

3) https://www.seagullwatchstore.com/SeaGull-Tourbillon-Watch-s/1828.htm?searching=Y&sort=13&cat=1828&show=10&page=1

4) http://www.shwatch.cn/Watch/watchbrowser?go=6

 

 

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semperfi55

Reserved

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10:10 Watch Repair

I didn't get all the way through.... but

"Alfred Helwig from the German School of Watchmaking did away with the cock (the more serious term for bridge)."

A cock is held onto a plate on only one side, a bridge by more than one.

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GulfGT40

Thanks for taking the time to write that up. After an hour of reading, theres many shiny pictures to distract me, I'm just starting to understand the tourbillon. I need to read and re-read again, then its off looking for one to add to my collection...

Thanks again

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MetalMickey

A good read, thanks. @Del a new contender for a sticky?

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Mystery Shopper

Thread pinned- this is too good to go missing.

 

Great work semperfi55

 

:Applause:

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Foxindebox

Fantastic article @semperfi55 

Great job mate :thumbsup2:

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DefinitelyNotGingerBubba
6 hours ago, semperfi55 said:

For the new and the baffled, I will explain what a tourbillon is and show you some examples.

For the mechanically-inclined, I will summarise the progression in tourbillon complexity.

For the bargain-hunters, I will touch upon the more ‘accessible’ Swiss tourbillons out there.

For the Orientalists, I will discuss Chinese and Japanese tourbillons.

For the curious, I will summarise the advice I have found on buying replica tourbillon watches.

For the cynical, I will reaffirm your doubts of Kickstarter campaigns.

For the bored, I have included a few interesting tourbillon examples for you to gawk at.

 

Wowsers. Awesome piece mate, thanks for educating and entertaining me, and congratulations on your 1000 post! After all your efforts, I hate to be critical, but I'm afraid you did forget one important RWG group....

Where the hell are the naked goats!!?!

Also, you say your were consulting with Glaude, but there was a distinct lack of Franglish in this thread. In fact, the entire piece was intelligible. I'm sure Glaude wouldn't have signed off on that. Maybe tweak your next super thread?

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semperfi55
5 hours ago, 10:10 Watch Repair said:

A cock is held onto a plate on only one side

Kinky, but different strokes for different folks.

Cheers for pointing it out, updated the thread :thumbsup2:

5 hours ago, BarryB said:

After an hour of reading, theres many shiny pictures to distract me

Thanks for taking the time :lol: Agreed I might need to re-format the thread as the many (necessary) photos breaks up the narrative too much.

4 hours ago, MetalMickey said:

A good read, thanks.

Thanks! :) 

2 hours ago, Mystery Shopper said:

Great work semperfi55

Thanks for the sticky :lol:

1 hour ago, Foxindebox said:

Great job mate :thumbsup2:

Cheers mate! 

1 hour ago, AskGinger said:

Also, you say your were consulting with Glaude, but there was a distinct lack of Franglish in this thread. In fact, the entire piece was intelligible. I'm sure Glaude wouldn't have signed off on that. Maybe tweak your next super thread?

LOL he's Tech Admin now, this here is small fry. He'll convert the entire forum into Franglish behind the scenes. :fearlessleader:

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Glaude

Already told you, but will tell you again : excellent research paper for the board mate :) 

Oh and by the way, before I forget

5 hours ago, semperfi55 said:

LOL he's Tech Admin now, this here is small fry. He'll convert the entire forum into Franglish behind the scenes. 

:finger: 

& same thing to the ginger ! :D 

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Hyjynx

What a scholarly, thoroughly researched article! The intellectual curiosity is deep, yet with enough pictures and humor to engage even the most attention-challenged till the very last sentence. For want of a better term, this is a magnum opus on tourbillons and deserves a stickie. With your kind permission, I’d like to link to it in my signature here and other forums.

Take a bow,@semperfi55.

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trailboss99

Wow, just wow! great piece of work of which we are barely worthy. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into what must be close to the definitive piece of work on the subject without going to book length. 

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semperfi55
16 hours ago, Hyjynx said:

The intellectual curiosity is deep, yet with enough pictures and humor to engage even the most attention-challenged till the very last sentence.

Cheers mate, for the kind words. There might be too many pictures though :blush: Of course you're more than welcome to share it on your sig!

10 hours ago, trailboss99 said:

great piece of work of which we are barely worthy.

Thanks boss! I have learnt a lot from this forum so about time I added something too :) 

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Sigg

Wow. That is an incredible amount of work. Thanks for a great informative read. Well done.

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Mr_B

 Bravo sir. Bravo. 

200.gif

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Mange4953

I’m learning so much in this forum, a few months back my knowledge was so far away from where I am today! 

Thank you @semperfi55 for a great post that increased my knowledge 100% on tourbillions! Awesome! 

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Luxuracer

Bravo ... @semperfi55

This is one of the greatest threads in RWG. The Baron of the Bagel has met his challenger.

gooooal.gif

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Glaude
20 minutes ago, Luxuracer said:

Bravo ... @semperfi55

This is one of the greatest threads in RWG. The Baron of the Bagel has met his challenger.

Competition brings quality threads ;) 

@semperfi55 this one is also worth the look

http://www.audemarspiguetreview.com/vianney-halter-deep-space-tourbillon-watch-hands-on/

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McGilli

This was all so good.... I really, really had to contain myself not to be one of those a-holes that quote the entire post - just to say 'Great!' at the end.

Then I was just going to copy some of the photos saying it was my favorite - but after like 20 photos lined up I had to stop that.

Glad it's pinned, Great work @semperfi55

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Aren

Incredible watch and movement review Semperfi55.  Just amazing.  Thanks so much!

I will need to study this thread.  A great research, info, photos ~ just everything.  It's fantastic!

I can see why you didn't find a replica for the Sugess.  I don't think it would be profitable to make a Sugess replica. 

It appears to be only $499 on the bay and $509 on Amazon.  (Low Beat, Seagull)

Thanks again Semperfi55.  Wonderful job!

:cheerleader:

 

 

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paccbet

Wow is all I can say

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Junior88

That's one hell of an article, @semperfi55

I love tourbillons.  And while I can honestly say I had no idea what it is they do, I now have a much better understanding of them now than I did yesterday.  And while I may not be able to appreciate what they do, I can say this: I love the aesthetics of a tourbillon, in whatever form it takes.  The level of care and craftsmanship that goes into ANY working tourbillon is amazing, and I love watching them work. 

 

Thank you for putting such thought and effort into an article like this.  Members like you make this the best forum for rep watches on the 'net, as far as I'm concerned. 

 

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semperfi55
On 04/01/2019 at 21:40, Sigg said:

Well done.

Cheers mate :) 

On 04/01/2019 at 21:49, Mr_B said:

 

200.gif

hM4X2.md.png

:lol:

On 04/01/2019 at 22:50, Luxuracer said:

The Baron of the Bagel has met his challenger.

Vive la révolution! :decapcheer:

On 04/01/2019 at 23:11, Glaude said:

Thanks for the rec, will update the thread! :thumbsup:

On 05/01/2019 at 00:09, McGilli said:

 I really, really had to contain myself not to be one of those a-holes that quote the entire post

That might actually break RWG... or at least my internet...

On 05/01/2019 at 00:09, McGilli said:

but after like 20 photos lined up I had to stop that

LOL believe it or not, the hardest part of writing this thread was copying in all the picr links!

 

On 05/01/2019 at 00:33, Aren said:

It appears to be only $499 on the bay and $509 on Amazon.  (Low Beat, Seagull)

Thanks for the kind words. Wow that is good value considering the aesthetic!

On 05/01/2019 at 00:45, paccbet said:

Wow is all I can say

Lol  is all I can say :p 

On 05/01/2019 at 14:11, Junior88 said:

I love the aesthetics of a tourbillon, in whatever form it takes. 

^^ Couldn't agree more

Cheers mate :D Glad you enjoyed it! 

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MissD

Amazing article, thanks for taking the time to write it. Like somebody already said it will be worth reading it at least two times. I still lack a tourbillon in my collection but I am looking forward getting one. Looks like this is gonna be the year to loose the tourbivirginity :D

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Logixa

I just came in my watchpants...

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