A tourbillon isn’t a new invention; the first patent for it was issued in 1801. Back then, there were problems building watches that kept accurate time, and the tourbillon was invented to help offset the effects of gravity on the escapement and balance wheel.
While long used as a means of keeping better time, the tourbillon today is best known as a “me, too!” addon that’s frequently found on high end watches. They might help keep accurate time, but high quality watch movements have been pretty accurate for decades now, with or without a tourbillon.
Still, they do look interesting, and that’s where the problem comes in. As a tourbillon adds thousands of dollars to the price of a watch, watchmaking companies feel that they must be seen. That’s OK, except that they’re really not all that attractive. Nevertheless, if you’re paying for that amazing, gravity-defying gadget, then the watchmaker is likely to put it where you can see it.
That may be on the back of the case, visible through a transparent case back, but most of the time, they put them in the case where you can see them from the front. More often than not, the tourbillon appears at roughly 6 o’clock on the watch face and is visible through a part of the face that’s transparent.
All of that is fine, but most watches with a tourbillon simply don’t look that good. They tend to have this “look at me!” vibe to them, and the complication is usually prominently placed on the watch, perhaps with other complications, as well, and the whole thing ends up looking rather busy.
Busy is not what most people want in a watch. It’s certainly not something they want in a watch that’s really expensive. When you’re spending a lot of money, it’s OK to have a watch that attracts attention. It’s not OK to have one that attracts attention because it looks like a pile of wreckage in a junkyard.
That’s where the new Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes comes in. Admittedly, at $325,000, this watch is jaw-droppingly expensive. It’s also one of the most handsome watches I’ve ever seen that had a tourbillon as part of the movement. It’s there, at 9 0’clock, and you can stare at it all you like.
But you won’t be staring at it because it’s some sort of monstrosity. You’ll be staring at it because it’s an attractive and surprisingly understated watch.
The Tourbillon 24 Secondes has a yellow (or red, blue or chocolate) gold case with a leather strap, and the case measures 43.5 mm across. The mechanical movement features a 72 hour power reserve, which is fairly generous for a mechanical watch.
The price is steep, and availability will be problematic. The company intends to produce only about 100 examples of this magnificent timepiece. They will be sold through their own network of authorized sellers, so if you’re looking for one, now is the time to track down a dealer.