The accuracy of a watch is always subject to the influences of gravity. Changes in position can have significant effects on how effectively a watch keeps time, particularly disturbances in the balance wheel isochronism. Traditionally speaking, watchmakers have tried to counter the negative effects of gravity by using rotating devices to average out positional errors: the tourbillon – patented by Breguet in 1801 – and the carrousel – patented by the Danish horologist Bonniksen in 1892. Today, Monochrome goes hands-on with the stunning Blancpain Tourbillon Carrousel, which for the first time combines both systems, coupled by a differential gearing mechanism.
The first thing to catch your eye with the Blancpain Tourbillon Carrousel is the mesmerizing ballet of its two regulating organs, at once similar and yet completely different. A technical feat, the watch is regulated by a tourbillon at 12 o’clock and a carrousel at 6 o’clock. Both are designed with “flying” cages, which means that they are not secured by bridges but cantilevered – somehow floating over the movement and rotating on ceramic ball-bearings.
The two systems pursue the same purpose and have often been confused, although they differ in terms of construction. Even the reference book used in most watchmaking schools – Théorie d’horlogerie – provides an erroneous definition of the carrousel. The main difference between the two devices is that the tourbillon is based on a fixed wheel to drive the carriage, which is clearly stated in 1801 by Breguet himself, as he described his tourbillon:
… Il est donc évident que tout artiste qui donnerait au balancier le double mouvement d’oscillation et de rotation continu autour d’un axe fixe par rapport à la boite serait un contre-facteur, et son plagiat ne pourrait être masqué par aucune des dispositions différentes de celle décrite ci-dessus, qu’il pourrait donner aux autres pièces du mouvement.
(… It is therefore obvious that any artist who gives to the balance the double movement of oscillation and continuous rotation around a fixed axis with respect to the case would be a counter factor, and its plagiarism could not be masked by any of the dispositions different from that described above, which he could give to the other parts of the movement).
In the case of the tourbillon, the carriage is linked to the barrel via a single gear train, which means that if this mechanical connection is interrupted, the tourbillon also stops rotating. The carrousel is connected to the barrel by two gear trains: the first delivers the energy required for the operation of the escapement, while the second controls the carriage rotation speed. The difference between the two systems thus consists in a more elaborate construction involving more components for the carrousel. The result of this combination of both devices remains mesmerizing.
The hand-wound caliber 2322 is stunning, both technically and visually, and has a power reserve of 168 hours (i.e. one week). It is 35.3 mm in diameter, 5.85 mm thick and it comprises no fewer than 379 parts. Its construction features two barrels, two gear trains and two regulators, linked by a differential system to average the rate of the tourbillon and of the carrousel. A single crown allows for the simultaneous and equal winding of both barrels thanks to a smart, large winding wheel encircling the movement. The date is displayed at 3 o’clock.
The movement is lavishly decorated with traditional finishings, including beautiful anglages and flinqué pattern on several components. The dial side is open-worked to reveal its intricacies and features a white grand-feu enamel chapter ring with applied pink gold Roman numerals. Depsite its classical look, it features cutting-edge innovation in the form of silicon hairsprings for both balance. This choice was driven by the intention to improve chronometry, which is the ultimate purpose of the tourbillon and Carrousel. Both balances are fitted with gold regulating screws.
The Calibre 2232 is housed in the elegant Le Brassus pink gold case with smooth lines and its characteristic double stepped bezel. Although it is rather large at 44.6mm, it wears extremely well. Its crown is unusually positioned at 4 o’clock endowing its design with a strong identity. The sapphire case-back reveals the inner workings of the movement which is impressively finished, while also allowing the wearer to check the power reserve.
The Blancpain Tourbillon Carrousel is worn on a soft alligator leather strap with triple-blade folding clasp ensuring optimal comfort. With its impressive technique and top-notch finishing, it is priced at 298,000 CHF. More information on www.blancpain.com.
Technical specifications – Blancpain Tourbillon Carrousel
- Case: 44.6mm x 11.94 mm – 18k pink gold – sapphire crystal and sapphire case back – 30m water resistant
- Dial: grand feu enamel
- Movement: calibre 2322 mechanical with manual winding, in-house – 168h power reserve – 21’600 vibrations/h – 70 jewels – 379 components – hours, minutes and date, tourbillon-carrousel with differential, power-reserve indication on the movement side
- Strap: alligator leather strap with folding buckle
- Reference: 2322-3631-55B
- Price: 298’000 CHF