The Tourbillon was invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet. What the tourbillon does and how it functions, we’ve covered in-depth in a previous submission to the Watch Works column.
But what exactly is a Flying Tourbillon, and where did it come from?
As the image above suggests, to find our answer we need not look towards the Swiss Alps, instead we should look at that other Watchmaking country, Germany.
The Flying Tourbillon was developed in 1920 in Glashütte. It was the head of the German Watchmaking school who invented it, his name: Alfred Helwig.
Like the classic tourbillon, its purpose is to counter the effects of gravity on the rate of the watch (rate deviances). It tries to achieve this by rotating the escapement and balance wheel in all possible directions.
The balance, anchor and escape wheel are positioned in a cage, which rotates 360° in one minute.
Now, with the Flying Tourbillon this complex construction is anchored on one side only, which lends the complication its apparent weightlessness, enables increased precision and gave rise to its name.
So you see there is no bridge obstructing the view, giving the appearance that the tourbillon is indeed flying.
Images ©Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH