A tourbillon (French for “whirlwind”) is a complication designed to counter the effects of gravity, by placing the watch’s escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage. It was patented by watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801. A tourbillon continuously rotates the contained balance wheel and escapement, averaging out positional errors to, in theory, achieve more accurate timekeeping. Today, it’s primarily a complication to display to others how rich you are. Because of advancements in engineering and design, tourbillons are not needed to create a more accurate movement; in fact, there is often debate as to whether they ever actually served this purpose. Either way, they’re typically considered one of the most complex achievements in haute horology.

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