Tourbillon watches: a feat of technical virtuosity and a delight to watch

IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc watches embellish their timepieces with the graceful gyrations of the tourbillon.

Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama combines a tourbillon with a triple time zone indicator. The global world-time indication is graphically represented by the two blue globes on the dial.

By Rebecca Doulton  

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama had his day at Montblanc watches this year, as the brand used his intrepid voyage around the Cape of Good Hope - and consequent discovery of a sea route to India - as inspiration for its own explorations into new watchmaking waters.

If you are as adventuresome as Vasco da Gama and want to consult the time at home in Lisbon, the local time in Calicut, and the time in Australia and Alaska, then the triple time zone Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama is the watch for you. This remarkable watch combines a tourbillon with a global world-time indication graphically represented by two blue globes on the dial. Hand-painted with land masses in silver, the globes represent the world's 24 time zones in the Northern and Southern hemispheres respectively - with longitude and latitude lines engraved on their surfaces - and even give you a day and night reading when compared with home time. A Rose of the Winds compass at 6 o'clock tells you the home time, while the hands on the dial are adjusted to local time.

The tourbillon showcased in the upper half of the dial is mounted on a cylindrical hairspring - a miniaturised version of the ones originally used on the high-precision marine chronometers, which were vital instruments used to calculate a ship's longitude at sea. Montblanc watches has equipped this exclusive timepiece with an in-house, hand-wound mechanical movement, presented in a 47mm rose gold case, with the names of 24 cities engraved on the rim of the caseback. The watch is a limited edition of just 18 pieces.

Jaeger-LeCoultre watches looked up into the heavens this year to celebrate astronomy as the grandfather of all timekeeping developments. One of my favourite tourbillons is the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon Moon watch, with its crisp white dial and elegant aperture on the left side for the tourbillon show. Gravity is what keeps us on Earth but it also wreaks havoc on watch movements and compromises the accuracy of Moon-phase indications. A classic Moon-phase watch will show a one-day discrepancy every two and a half years - the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon will keep the Moon waxing and waning with no need for adjustment for a full 3,887 years. Here, the Moon is set against a lovely lapis lazuli night sky, with a sprinkling of stars in the hours and minutes disc, and the tourbillon has been given its very own stage with a stairway providing a ringside seat to the show.

IWC watches' Portugieser family feted its 75th birthday with the handsome Portugieser Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde watch. The mysterious part refers to the tourbillon at 12 o'clock; the effect of the tourbillon floating in mid-air has been achieved with a flying tourbillon set in a mirror-finished ring. The retrograde refers to the date display that sweeps in an arc on the lower left side of the dial, and a smaller semi-circular arch on the right side will tell you how much power reserve you have left on a full tank of seven days. The model with the slate-coloured dial and dark brown alligator strap by Santoni provides a wonderful contrast to the warm 44.2mm rose gold case and protects IWC watches' in-house automatic calibre.

My only wish is that they would come up with shorter names for these masterpieces.

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