Scoring that first tourbillon is a rite of passage for watch collectors. It’s like unearthing the Holy Grail—an initiation into the upper echelons of horology.

What’s so special about this timepiece? What motivates people to spend years and thousands of dollars to get their hands on the best tourbillon watches they can find? 

Well, to put it simply, the tourbillon isn’t really a necessity. It’s more like a badge of historical high-watchmaking honour. Today, we’re diving into the allure of this exclusive timepiece: its history, types, future, and more.

What Are Tourbillon Watches?

Abraham-Louis Breguet, a famous Swiss watchmaker, invented the tourbillon in the late 18th century to fix a major problem with pocket watches. With gravity pulling on their parts, these watches weren’t very accurate. 

Breguet decided to make a rotating cage that held the essential bits of the watch: the escapement, balance wheel, and spring. This cage, known as a tourbillon, was made to cancel out gravity’s effects for a more precise watch. 

The word “tourbillon” comes from French and means “whirlwind” or “whirlpool.” That’s because the cage looks like it’s spinning and swirling around like a whirlwind. 

How Does a Tourbillon Watch Work?

A tourbillon traps the main parts of a watch inside a rotating cage. This cage spins, usually once a minute, to counteract gravity’s pull on the watch’s movement. 

As it keeps turning, the tourbillon manually changes the escapement’s position instead of letting gravity run its course. Over time, this cancels out any positional errors, making the watch more and more accurate. 

But tourbillon watches are more than just accurate; the spinning cage is actually pretty mesmerizing to watch.

Breguet patented the tourbillon in 1801 – a groundbreaking step in watchmaking history. Since then, it’s become a symbol of precision and mechanical excellence. Even today, it’s considered the pinnacle of watch complications, especially in luxury watches.

Types of Tourbillon Watches

As if tourbillon watches weren’t complicated enough, they have more than one type! Here are the different types of tourbillon watches throughout the decades.

Single-Axis Tourbillon

The single-axis tourbillon was made to reduce differences in rates and positions caused by poise errors. It works with the split bi-metallic balance, which used to be very hard to poise. 

In this setup, the tourbillon carriage is supported by the fourth pinion inside a stationary fourth wheel. The escape pinion connects to the fourth wheel, so when the carriage turns, the escape wheel moves, too. 

Each time the balance vibrates, the carriage is released and then locked again.

Double-Axis Tourbillon

Anthony Randall introduced and patented the idea of a double-axis tourbillon in January 1977. Inspired by Randall’s creation, Thomas Prescher introduced the first ever flying double-axis tourbillon pocket watch in 2003. 

This tourbillon has a special feature: it rotates around two axes, each completing a rotation every minute. To power the entire mechanism, Prescher created a constant-force system known as a “remontoir.” 

The remontoir was made to offset the effects of a wound or unwound mainspring, friction, and gravity. This puts an even force on the oscillation regulating system of the double-axis tourbillon. 

Triple-Axis Tourbillon

Aaron Becsei of Bexei Watches created the world’s first tri-axial tourbillon wristwatch in 2007. Its third (external) cage has a unique shape that allows the use of jewel bearings instead of ball bearings. 

Today, several wrist and pocket watches feature the triple-axis tourbillon complication. You’ll see it in pieces like:

  • Vianney Halter’s “Deep Space”
  • Girard-Perregaux’s “Tri-Axial Tourbillon”
  • Purnell’s “Spherion”
  • Jaeger LeCoultre’s “Gyrotourbillon”

Flying Tourbillon

Unlike traditional tourbillons supported by bridges or cocks at both the top and bottom, the flying tourbillon hangs from just one side. Alfred Helwig, a teacher at the German School of Watchmaking, created the first flying tourbillon in 1920. 

Nearly a century later, Chinese watchmaker Kiu Tai-Yu introduced a semi-flying tourbillon. It had a shortened carriage for the escapement wheel and pallet fork, with the upper pivot of the balance wheel supported by a sapphire bridge.

Gyro Tourbillon

In 2004, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Gyrotourbillon I. This watch had a double-axis tourbillon working with a perpetual calendar and the equation of time. Since then, they have created multiple versions of the multi-axis tourbillon concept. 

The Tourbillon Watches of Today

Modern mechanical watches no longer need a tourbillon to be super accurate. Some even argue that tourbillons never made watches more accurate in the first place. 

Even if that’s true, tourbillons are still a cool feature to have in your watch. Swiss watchmakers still produce tourbillon watches, which come at a premium – hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can usually see the tourbillon through a little window on the watch’s face. It’s more of a decoration, but some watches use it as a second-hand if it spins once every minute. Some spin even faster, like Greubel Forsey’s tourbillon, which spins every 24 seconds. 


Best Tourbillon Watches

Now that you know everything there is to know about tourbillon watches, you may be in the market for one. Here are our top ten picks.

*Bonus Tip* Don’t get overwhelmed by the prices as these timepieces are a good investment.

Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon

This watch is one of the most desirable tourbilon watches in the industry. Introduced in 2001, the Patek Philippe Sky Moon is the first watch from the company with double displays. Yes, you heard that right, it had displays on front and back.


It comes with 12 complications – including a retrograde date display with a perpetual calendar, display for sidereal and mean solar time, and a minute repeater. Other notable features include moon phase display and a leap year indicator.

Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Extra-Thin White Gold

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon watches represent precision, luxury and exclusivity. The case if usually made with high end material like stainless steel, gold, or platinum that adds durability and class to the overall design.


The dial features a “Grand Tapisserie” style, which when combined with different colors make the watch more desirable.

Richard Mille RM 21-02 Mechanical Tourbillon

The Richard Mille RM 21-02 Mechanical Tourbillon comes with manua winding movement and is a testament to aerospace innovation. The futuristic design and technical brilliance make this time piece a dream for most watch lovers

The RM 21-02 is considered slightly costly but when you look at its value for money, it’s worth every buck.

Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 Quai de l’Horloge

Released in 2020, the Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon pays direct homage to Breguet and the Parisian atelier where he made watches. 

The watch has a dual-tourbillon movement, linked by a differential device and displayed under a sapphire dial. The manually wound Caliber 588N has multiple hand-finished components, including solid gold mainplates and bridges. Meanwhile, the barrel bridges are shaped to mimic the iconic Breguet “B” signature. 

If that wasn’t enough, the backside depicts the iconic “House on the Quai,” the workshop on Paris’s Ile de la Cité where Breguet worked during the 18th century. The watch is also encased in a round, 46-mm platinum case with Breguet’s signature fluting along the sides.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Black Panther Flying Tourbillon

Audemars Piguet teamed up with Marvel to create a collection for the Royal Oak collection’s 50th anniversary. Once completed, the collection had 250 pieces.

The first release, a unique piece in white gold, had a large case with a hand-engraved design inspired by Wakanda. A tiny, hand-painted 3D figure of Marvel’s Black Panther is fixed right above the flying tourbillon. 

Believe it or not, this piece sold for $5.2 million at an event hosted by Kevin Hart in 2021. Today, it’s one of the most expensive watches out there.

Omega De Ville Central Tourbillon Numbered Edition

Omega played a major role in creating one of the earliest wristwatch tourbillons back in 1947. Now, they have a new achievement: the first hand-wound tourbillon wristwatch that also meets Omega’s own top-notch Master Chronometer standards.

This watch, made from Canopus gold, comes in a 43-mm case. Meanwhile, the bezel, lugs, and case back are made from their special Sedna gold-blend. The dial is also Sedna gold, with a sun-brushed black PVD coating. 

The tourbillon cage is at the watch’s heart, surrounded by black titanium edges. A big sapphire window on the back lets you see into the Caliber 2640 movement. This movement’s tourbillon spins once every minute and even works perfectly in magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss. 

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Traditionnelle 14-Day Tourbillon

In 2013, Vacheron Constantin released the Patrimony Traditionnelle 14-Day Tourbillon. This watch isn’t just special because it has a tourbillon; it has a groundbreaking two-week power reserve. 

Its sandblasted dial isn’t just for telling time; it has a pretty unique setup. It features off-centred hands, a window at the bottom to show off the tourbillon, and a power reserve indicator at the top. The indicator is detailed enough to give you a half-day reading.

The tourbillon itself is shaped like Vacheron Constantin’s Maltese cross logo. The watch, with its 42mm platinum case, comes on an alligator strap stitched with silk and platinum threads.

Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon

In 2020, Grand Seiko launched the T0 Constant-Force Tourbillon. This piece combined a tourbillon with a constant-force mechanism on one axis for the first time ever. 

It led to the creation of the Kodo (“heartbeat” in Japanese) wristwatch in 2022. The Kodo features a 43.8mm case made from platinum and titanium.

At its core, the Caliber 9ST1 movement is essentially a better version of the original concept. The best part about this watch isn’t the calfskin strap or hand-painted Urushi lacquer. 

It’s the tourbillon and constant-force combination that literally echoes a heartbeat when you listen closely. How cool is that? 

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical

Francois-Paul Journe started his brand with the groundbreaking Tourbillon Souverain in 1999. This wristwatch featured both a tourbillon and a remontoir d’egalité for maximum accuracy. 

In 2003, Journe updated the design with a “dead-beat” or jumping seconds display, inspired by Breguet. In 2019, he introduced the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical, featuring a vertical tourbillon rotating every 30 seconds. 


The tourbillon started as a mechanical genius but has turned into pure artistry. In fact, its practicality and accuracy are second place to its craftsmanship. 

Birthed by Breguet and perfected over two centuries, this feature has truly redefined the art of watchmaking.