Is this tourbillon craze going to die, or is it here to stay? Most watch lovers know the history of the mechanism and its purpose, but a lot of people seem to overlook a simple fact that, as the vice president of a leading watch brand told me directly while showing me their latest tourbillon watch “…actually, in a wrist watch, the tourbillon does absolutely nothing to improve timekeeping accuracy.” I was aware of that already, but it was still a bit of a surprise to hear the outright admission by someone pushing a highly complicated tourbillon watch, and I certainly appreciated his honesty.
Watch a One-Minute Tourbillon in Action
Developed over 220 years ago by Breguet, the idea was that by constantly rotating the escapement you can offset the effect of gravity on the balance wheel over a long period of time. Of course this makes total sense in a pocket watch, because unless you’re a gymnast, your pockets are generally pointing toward the ground (now that I think about it, that’s kind of why they work…pockets). Now think about the movement of your arm; walking, typing, waving, or scratching your head…your wrist is constantly in motion and changing its position. In fact, the very reason that automatic movements work is the exact same reason why tourbillons have zero effect in a wristwatch, and are nothing more than a technically complicated artistic addition.
So again I wonder – why the fascination with something that has no impact on the actual ability of the watch to keep more accurate time? Maybe my tastes just aren’t sophisticated enough, but for me personally, I can’t understand paying (generally ridiculous amounts of money) for something….that does…nothing. Now let me chill out for a second and say that I can and do very much appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity that goes into producing a tourbillon. I’m not discounting that at all, and I love staring at that magical movement in motion just as the next watch-loving geek does. And perhaps the reason for its expanding popularity is because the previously astronomical prices for a tourbillon are coming down from the ridiculous, to the more realistic range.
Hong Kong based Memorigin is one of the brands producing some of the best tourbillon watches in a more affordable price range. Memorgin only produces tourbillon watches, so they’re definitely betting on the future of the mechanism as more than a passing fad, and one that will have a long term presence. The brand has done a great job of marketing themselves and already have recognition as being one of the more interesting modern Chinese watch brands.
The beauty of Hong Kong is the merger of old-world Chinese flavor with very new and modern international style, and that’s very much how I would describe Memorigin. Some of their more expensive watches are very much Chinese, including Emperor Jade (pictured above), as well as a Zodiac series depicting each of the 12 animals. For a more international flavor, they’ve teamed up with Marvel and have a series of comic themed watches including Transformers, Batman, Superman and Avengers. I’m not a comic fan in the least, so for me these watches run the risk of being tacky. But having seen the quality and finishing first hand, for the price they will certainly find a home among the comic crowd with a little cash to spend.
They have a lot more than what I’ve described here. This was just meant to be a bit of an introduction. I encourage you to check out their website (where you can even simulate customizing your own tourbillon watch) and read what other people are saying about Memorigin. Find the watches available here.