Tourbillons and Carrousels

Blancpain has a workshop in Le Brassus, Switzerland for crafting high-quality complex timepiece components. Although there is another shop nearby, this is the older one and has been in existence since 1860. Blancpain was founded in 1735 and is considered to be the world’s oldest watch brand. The company employs more than 700 technicians, engineers and watchmaking specialists today.

One of the brand’s most interesting pieces to study is the “Tourbillon Carrousel,” combining both a tourbillon and a carrousel. Watch the clip below to get a better understanding of the difference between the two complications:

The individual tourbillon and carrousel components are both designed to reduce gravitational impact on the running movement. The best way to appreciate the unique beauty of this timepiece is to understand its intricate construction.


How Blancpain’s Tourbillon Carrousel Watch Is Made

When viewed under a special lit microscope that is connected to a monitor, it is easier to see the complexities of this piece. Although the tourbillon cage’s color appears to be matte black material, it is actually very shiny in the proper lighting. On one end of the cage, there is a balance wheel. The other end holds an escapement.

Older versions of the tourbillon had the balance wheel centered in the cage, and bridges on the bottom and the top. The company took risks when it first started making tourbillons. They first eliminated the top bridge to add visibility to the piece’s components. Eliminating the top bridge created the challenge of having to suspend everything from the bottom. Blancpain solved this with ceramic bearings and a de-centered balance wheel. By doing that, they created a slim construction that allowed components to be fitted correctly between the top and bottom parts of the power-delivering cage.

In 1801, Abraham-Louis Breguet patented a tourbillon design that addressed running time discrepancies. If a watch ran fast or slow in different positions, rotating the timekeeping components by 360 degrees allowed the watch to run smoothly in all positions. This is exactly what happens once per minute with Blancpain’s Tourbillon Carrousel watch. Errors cancel each other out, and the result is a smooth and precise movement. This particular tourbillon is driven from behind with a power train and pinion behind the cage. These parts provide the cage with energy for turning.


The Carrousel Component

The other major part of the timepiece is the carrousel, and it has its own interesting history. When a Danish watch craftsman in England heard of Breguet’s 1801 tourbillon patent, he wanted to create something similar but different enough to avoid copying Breguet’s patent. He called his invention the “carrousel.” He wanted to also rotate the components by 360 degrees. However, he had to come up with a different method, and that is exactly what the carrousel does.

When examined under a lit microscope next to the tourbillon, it is easy to see how the cage rotation is different in the carrousel. The pinion is behind the cage in the tourbillon design and features only one power train to supply power. With the carrousel design, there are two power trains. One power train connects to a small wheel instead of a pinion. Also, there is no fixed gear in the carrousel. There is extra power coming to the carrousel from a separate power train for the escapement.

There are two versions of this watch. The original was released in 2013, and the L-Evolution C was released in 2015. When compared, it is easy to see that the newer version has a bolder style. Each one has a tourbillon and carrousel in the watch. However, they feel and look different from one another. The bridges and other internal components are somewhat different, and the cage construction is very distinct in each watch.


Blancpain’s 12-Day Tourbillon Watch

The company has other watches with tourbillons, and one of the top products is called the “12-Day Tourbillon.” As its name implies, it has a power reserve that lasts for 12 days. This is the longest reserve of any automatic-winding watch. This watch has a fascinating creation process as well. For this timepiece, the tourbillon movement is placed in a special tool, which has a wheel at the bottom. A movement is placed into the tool. When the watch builder turns the wheel at the bottom, it automatically lifts the tourbillon into the correct position for mounting. The pinion that powers the tourbillon is in the center. There is a wheel on the side, which drives the pinion and delivers power to both the escapement and the tourbillon.

For this watch, the tourbillon is similar to the other tourbillons in Blancpain’s watches. It has a flying tourbillon, which is a de-centered balance wheel. However, it incorporates a very unique construction because of its larger balance wheel in comparison with other tourbillons. Also, its spiral is made from silicium. When the watch’s movement is wound, it comes to life.


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IBG Worldwide is a video platform dedicated to demonstrating how the finest timepieces are made. It hosts documentaries that educate collectors in the many techniques used in the creation of sophisticated mechanical watches.