Photograph by Tom Schierlitz
Because it doesn’t add functionality, the most famous invention of 18th-century watchmaker Abraham Louis-Breguet fails to meet the strictest technical definition of a complication. The tourbillon has nevertheless become synonymous with the highest levels of horology. Named for the French word for whirlwind, the tourbillon encases the balance and the escapement (the device that transfers power from the mainspring to the balance) in a cage that rotates on its own axis. Originally designed to neutralize the effects of gravity on the pocket watch, tourbillons today are more form than function, since gravity’s influence on wristwatches is negligible. Some models—such as Roger Dubuis’s Excalibur Double Flying Tourbillon—even incorporate multiple tourbillons into a single timepiece.