Thomas Prescher Tourbillon Trilogy – Single Axis Tourbillon, Double Axis Tourbillon and Triple Axis Tourbillon

In 2003, Thomas Prescher became the first watchmaker to offer a double axis tourbillon pocketwatch. Just one short year later, he exhibited yet another world premiere: a triple axis tourbillon wristwatch as part of the Tourbillon Trilogy.

The Tourbillon Trilogy is a unique set of three tourbillon wristwatches comprising single, double, and triple axis flying tourbillons with constant force escapements. Each, encased in platinum, possesses a distinctive shape and various visual design features that share a common platform.

Although single axis wristwatch tourbillons are no longer rarities today, only occasionally are they flying tourbillons, and it is absolutely unique to find a flying tourbillon with a constant force mechanism within a tourbillon cage. The Tourbillon Trilogy is only offered in platinum in a limited series of ten sets. However, separate editions of each wristwatch are now available individually and in various case materials.

What is a Flying Tourbillon?
Conceptualizing the difference between a regular tourbillon and a flying tourbillon is really quite simple. Imagine for one moment a stick symbolizing the tourbillon cage. Hold this stick with both hands, one palm placed at each end of the stick. The right hand is the bridge on the dial side; the left is the bridge on the movement side, depicting the positioning of a standard tourbillon.

Now it’s clear how one hand (the one representing the bridge on the dial side) gets in the way of a clear view of what is underneath it – a miraculously filigreed work of mechanical art. To conceptualize the cantilevered flying tourbillon, which is only secured to the plate on one side, hold the same stick at the bottom end, between the index and thumb of one hand.

You see that the stick is entirely supported at one end, with two points of contact at its base. This affords a clear view of the top of the stick,which represents the flying tourbillon’s carriage. In order to underscore this effect, Thomas Prescher chose a very fine stem with two conical gears to transfer energy instead of the usual connection of wheel on wheel. Now there is nothing to hinder a free view of the tourbillon. Keeping hold of your stick on one end, now rotate your lower arm to emulate the second axis and then turn your whole body around if you are interested in illustrating the third axis.

A flying tourbillon is much more difficult to make than a simple, fully bridged version. If you actually performed the conceptual experiment described above, then you will have immediately noticed that the stick held at one end can be easily moved by outside forces compared to the stick held between two hands, which is a far more stable construction. This rather simple conceptualization accurately conveys one of the main difficulties of flying tourbillon construction: balance.

A revolving carriage that is not supported at its outer extremities needs especially good balance of all axes as they relate to one another. This is a technical challenge, especially with regard to the double and triple axis flying tourbillons since these parts weigh just mere fractions of a gram. The competence required to achieve this miniscule mechanical wonder is truly exceptional, not to mention the accuracy required of the watchmaker’s hand and eye.

Constant Force Mechanism
Understanding a constant force mechanism in a tourbillon is not as difficult as one might imagine since the problem involved is very straightforward. The tourbillon’s carriage – comprising escapement wheel, pallets, balance spring and balance wheel – possesses what might seem like an unbelievably small amount of weight. However, it is actually quite heavy in relation to the energy at its disposal.

Thus, in more extensive constructions such as multiple axis tourbillons, it is impossible to get the necessary amount of impulse energy from the escapement wheel to the balance via the pallets. To solve this problem, the escapement wheel and its pinion must be placed next to each other, whichis not their usual arrangement. A little spring outfitted with initial tension is placed between them. The watchmaker limits the spring’s ability to rotate with a small pin so that it doesn’t wind up.

Now when the escapement creates energy, the relatively light escapement wheel is set in motion by the initial tension of the small spring. The heavy gear train and tourbillon cage follow suit slowly, re-tensioning the small spring. This process repeats itself six times per second, at a frequency of 3 Hertz, which is the same frequency at which the watch’s movement beats.

Thomas Prescher Single Axis Tourbillon
The single axis tourbillon was invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801 to counteract the effects of gravity in pocket watches and improve their rates. Pocket watches were generally carried in the vest pocket in a vertical position, which was why Breguet’s invention only worked on pocket watches in this position.

Single Axis Tourbillon

Once the watch was laid flat, on a table for instance with the dial up or down, the entire effect of the tourbillon was voided and no longer affected the rate.

Technical details
Movement
Flying tourbillon construction: Movement, Caliber TP 3W6A.1, designed and constructed in-house; First single axis tourbillon wristwatch with constant force mechanism in the carriage; Tourbillon is secured in a specially designed flexible spring to absorb shocks.
Diameter: 37 mm
Height: 5.43 mm
Number of components: 277
Weight of smallest screw used: 0.0009 grams
Number of jewels: 37
Frequency: 21600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Number of spring barrels: two
Plates and bridges: Gold-plated brass, hand-engraved with Guilloché Triangulair
Balance wheel: Copper-beryllium CuBe2
Balance spring: Flat hairspring
Power reserve: 40 hours
Number of sub-dials: two
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds

Tourbillon
Number of axes: one
Height of tourbillon rotation 12.2 mm
Revolution time: one minute
Constant force mechanism in tourbillon cage
System of constant force inertia acceleration according to Jaenneret
Constant force reloading :6 times per second
Diameter of balance wheel :9.5 mm
Diameter of cage :13.4 mm
Tourbillon weight :0.347 grams.

Case, dial and strap
Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold
Crystal: Convex sapphire crystal on front and back, anti-reflective on both sides, hand-engraved with individual number
Case Dimensions: 43 mm x 43 mm; Height: 12.3 mm
Water resistance: 1 ATM (10 meters)
Dial: 1.2 mm solid silver, hand guilloché with Guilloché Triangulair 18-karat gold applied indexes; 18-karat gold dauphine style hands; 18-karat gold hand-engraved name and number plate
Strap: hand-cut and –sewn black alligator skin uppers and lowers
Buckle: Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold

Thomas Prescher Double Axis Tourbillon
In the 1970s, an Englishman named Anthony G. Randall created a double axis tourbillon for clocks – more as an intellectual exercise than to actually address the issues of rate deviation mentioned above. He built a carriage clock based on these principles, adding the double axis tourbillon. In a double axis tourbillon, the second axis revolves parallel to the dial, influencing the rate positively when the watch or clock is positioned with the dial up or down. Thus, this mechanism has an advantageous influence on the rate of all six positions.
Since the double axis tourbillon can only realize its full potential in wearable watches, Thomas Prescher first examined his possibilities in a pocket watch so that the feasibility of his vision could be examined and later added to a wristwatch version. It turned out that directly miniaturizing the same arrangement of components was not possible. Problems concerning weight distribution, gearing, and friction of the micro mechanisms led to completely different reactions than in Randall’s clock since the smallest component of the new mechanism weighed a mere 0.0009 grams. The tourbillon had to be designed entirely new, most especially because Thomas Prescher wanted to create a flying tourbillon version.

Technical details
Movement
Flying tourbillon construction on both axes – Movement, Caliber TP 3W6A.2, designed and constructed in-house:First single axis tourbillon wristwatch with constant force mechanism in the carriage;Tourbillon is secured in a specially designed flexible spring to absorb shocks.
Dimensions: 37 x 37 mm
Height: 5.43 mm
Number of components: 279
Weight of smallest screw used: 0.0009 grams
Number of jewels: 37
Frequency: 21600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Number of spring barrels: two
Plates and bridges: gold-plated brass, hand-engraved with Guilloché Triangulair
Balance wheel: copper-beryllium CuBe2
Balance spring: flat hairspring
Power reserve: 40 hours
Number of subdials: two

Functions 
Hours, minutes, seconds

Tourbillon
Number of axes: two
Height of tourbillon rotation: 12.2 mm
Revolution time: one minute
Constant force mechanism on first axis in tourbillon cage
System of constant force inertia acceleration according to Jaenneret
Constant force reloading: 6 times per second
Diameter of balance wheel: 9.5 mm
Diameter of cage: 13.4 mm
Tourbillon weight first axis 0.347 grams
Weight of first and second axes 0.766 grams

Case, dial and strap
Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold
Crystal: convex sapphire crystal on front and back, anti-reflective on both sides, hand-engraved with individual number
Dimensions: 43 mm x 43 mm
Height: 16.1 mm
Water resistance: 1 ATM (10 meters)
Dial 1.2 mm solid silver, hand guilloché with Guilloché Triangulair; 18-karat gold applied indexes; 18-karat gold dauphine style hands;18-karat gold hand-engraved name and number plate
Strap: Hand-cut and –sewn black alligator skin uppers and lowersBuckle: Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold

Thomas Prescher Triple Axis Tourbillon
The creation of a set of three types of tourbillons required Thomas Prescher to invent a third individual construction. Inspired by Randall’s work, Richard Good became the first clockmaker to add a triple axis tourbillon to a carriage clock in the 1980s. Thomas Prescher took out his old apprenticeship notebooks containing his sketches and interpretation of Good’s work in creating a triple axis tourbillon carriage clock. He wanted to modify this for use in a wristwatch. Spurred on by the success of his pocket watches, Thomas Prescher set to work further miniaturizing these multiple axis mechanics. He met the challenge and added a third axis that revolved once every hour.

The construction of such a tourbillon wristwatch was considered long impossible: it was thought that the movement height would be too great for practical use and that the weight of the additional components would not let enough energy get through to the balance. However, Thomas Prescher found a number of solutions to address these issues. The meaning of such a complicated timepiece is much more art for art’s sake than the search for any improvement of a rate.

A triple axis tourbillon with its spiral-shaped movement takes up far more room in the space of a case than either the single or the double axis tourbillons. It is especially the unencumbered view that makes the tourbillon seem to hover in the air on its three flying axes. A triple axis tourbillon is not only a technical masterpiece of the art of watchmaking, but it is above all a piece of art that draws our eyes to it – magically – a kinetic sculpture of time.
Technical details
Movement
Flying tourbillon construction on all axes; Movement, Caliber TP 3W6A.3, designed and constructed in-house; First triple axis tourbillon wristwatch with constant force mechanism in the carriage; Tourbillon is secured in a specially designed flexible spring to absorb shocks.
Diameter: 37 mm
Height: 6.46 mm
Number of components: 327
Weight of smallest screw used: 0.0009 grams
Number of jewels: 47
Frequency: 21600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Number of spring barrels: two
Plates and bridges: gold-plated brass, hand-engraved with Guilloché Triangulair
Balance wheel: copper-beryllium CuBe2
Balance spring: flat hairspring
Power reserve: 36 hours
Number of subdials: two

Functions 
Hours, minutes, seconds

Tourbillon
Number of axes: three
Height of tourbillon rotation: 12.2 mm
Revolution time: one minute
Constant force mechanism on first axis in tourbillon cage
System of constant force inertia acceleration according to Jaenneret
Constant force reloading: 6 times per second
Diameter of balance wheel: 9.5 mm
Diameter of cage: 13.4 mm
Tourbillon weight first axis: 0.347 grams
Weight of first and second axes: 0.766 grams
Weight of first, second, and third axes with ball bearing: 2.879 grams

Case, dial and strap
Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold
Crystal convex sapphire crystal on front and back, anti-reflective on both sides, hand-engraved with individual number
Diameter: 43 mm
Height: 16.1 mm
Water resistance: 1 ATM (10 meters)
Dial: 1.2 mm solid silver, hand guilloché with Guilloché Triangulair; 18-karat gold applied indexes; 18-karat gold dauphine-style hands; 18-karat gold hand-engraved name and number plate
Strap: Hand-cut and –sewn black alligator skin uppers and lowersBuckle: Platinum 950 or 18-karat gold

The creation of a tourbillon is considered the highest horological achievement for a watchmaker. Extremely high tolerances in combination with an extremely low weight factor required for the manufacturing and assembly of the miniscule parts demand an especially balanced hand and precise eye. Working on a tourbillon is one of the greatest challenges in watchmaking – a challenge that is magnified by double and triple axis tourbillons. Watchmaking at this level requires matching visual distinction to complement the extraordinary mechanisms.

At an early developmental stage of the Tourbillon Trilogy, Thomas Prescher decided not to use the same case shape for each piece, but to differentiate each tourbillon with its own personal visualization. The basic design elements that each of the watches share ensure recognition of the fact that they belong to together in the Trilogy set.

Thomas Prescher devoted the first sketches to the search for various basic geometric forms that would still retain formal harmony among the three tourbillons. From these sketches, the perfection of the circle for the extraordinary triple axis and the simple square shape for the single axis were defined as the two basic shapes of the set – like magnetic or electrical impulses; the plus and minus. The carrée cambrée shape of the double axis tourbillon’s case represents the metamorphosis of the square to the circle, a transient in motion between two extremes.

The so-called divine proportions form the mathematical rule of perfect harmony, which originates in the most beautiful geometrical examples found in nature. Thomas Prescher followed this rule to come up with the proportions of the main dials and little subdials. The smallest unit is the second, so the subsidiary dial for seconds is logically the smallest, with the hour and minute subdials proportionally larger according to the rule of divine proportions. The perfect size of the tourbillon window, which allows a view of the open heart of the movement itself, was determined in exactly the same manner.

Guilloché generally evokes an old-fashioned, classic eighteenth century atmosphere on a watch dial – logical, since this form of embellishment was used on watch dials made by the hands of the great masters from that period and beyond. For the dials of the timepieces in the Tourbillon Trilogy set, Thomas Prescher invented a new guilloché pattern that allows the eye an undistracted view of the tourbillon’s highly complex motion.

The traditional creamy silver, even patterned guilloché décor would have been too «antique» in feeling. The solution was found in the creation of a unique handmade guilloché pattern especially designed for the set that Thomas Prescher christened Guilloché Triangulair. Here, another basic form, that of the equilateral triangle, was chosen for the guilloché pattern’s cell structure, providing a higher number of sides to the viewer that seem to «change direction » under different lighting situations – always in motion, just like the tourbillon itself.

Flying Tourbillon
The majority of tourbillon wristwatches on the market today are not of the flying variety; that is to say, they are generally outfitted with a fairly large tourbillon bridge on the dial side. Even if these bridges are beautiful in shape, they continue to block the view of the tourbillon. The flying tourbillons created by the Thomas Prescher have no need for such a bridge, thus providing a supremely clear view of the tourbillon escapement. This is accentuated by the fact that the tourbillon opening is transparent on both the dial and movement side, providing a view of the tourbillon so clear that it seems suspended in space.

Movement Decoration
Many different forms of decoration are traditionally available for gracing the movement, or back, of the watch. Once the decision was made to create a new guilloché pattern for the dial, Thomas Prescher abandoned more traditional decorative patterns such as Geneva stripes as they did not fit his whole artistic vision for the Tourbillon Trilogy.In detailed studies of the dial and movement decoration, he developed a solution in which both are joined to form a unit. Inspired by music, the existing triangular pattern of the dial was repeated three times in slightly different variations, like in a sonata.

Thus, the pattern characterized by art deco developed into an ever more complex form as it progressed from the single axis version to the triple axis model. It climaxes in the floral design elements of the bridge on the triple axis tourbillon, which acts, similar to a sonata, as a counterpoint. In this way, each individual dial fully harmonizes with its movement decoration, and the three models of the Tourbillon Trilogy melodiously harmonize with each other.

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