The year Audemars Piguet manufactured the world’s first selfwinding tourbillon wristwatch.
Building on traditions, Audemars Piguet watchmakers have crafted mechanisms with new functionality, greater reliability and optimal efficiency with each generation.
The tourbillon, developed by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, compensates for the effect of gravity on a pocket watch’s daily rate when held in the vertical position. The operating principle has remained largely the same to this day: the escapement parts (balance spring and wheel, escape wheel and lever) are held in a rotating cage that spins on its axis once every minute. This cage enables all the parts to constantly change position, thereby offsetting the running differences caused by the effect of gravitation.
Audemars Piguet played a pioneering role in the development of tourbillon wristwatches with the release of the world’s first selfwinding tourbillon wristwatch in 1986. This tourbillon is still one of the smallest in the world today with a diameter of 7.2 mm. This wristwatch forged a new path for the entire high-end watchmaking sector, which renewed ties with this complicated mechanism.
A rare find in Haute Horlogerie, the tourbillon has remained a symbol of watchmaking art and excellence, as only a few watchmakers are trained to perfect this mechanism today.
The number of seconds it takes the tourbillon to complete a full rotation, all while compensating for the effects of earth's gravity.
In 2006, the Manufacture released a new direct-impulse escapement in a Jules Audemars wristwatch. The escapement serves to transmit the energy from the barrel to the movement in a smooth and linear way. Inspired by the work of 18th-century French clock maker Robert Robin, Audemars Piguet's new escapement combines the high efficiency of a direct impulse escapement, which transmits energy directly from the escape wheel to the balance wheel, with the reliability of a traditional Swiss lever escapement. In blending the two, the Manufacture has succeeded in reducing energy loss and in eliminating the need to lubricate the pallet stones. These technical advances have enhanced rating accuracy, long-term stability and shock resistance.
This new escapement is also distinguished by the atypical construction of the regulating organ which is composed not just of one balance spring, but of two placed top to tail. This flat, opposite-facing double spring system notably ensures automatic compensation for potential balance flaws and does away with the imprecision resulting from the vertical position of the watch without needing to resort to a complex device such as a tourbillon.
Years of development to integrate this mechanism in a watch.
Less energy absorbed by Audemars Piguet escapement than traditional escapements.
Ensuring a watch’s reliability is among the toughest engineering challenges in watch technology because, unlike a stationary pendulum clock, the ever-moving wristwatch has to defy gravity, remain impervious to motion, resist changes in temperature and withstand all manners of shock.
Audemars Piguet has tackled these stabilising issues by fixing a second balance wheel and balance spring assembly on the same axis. Introduced in 2016, this double regulating system oscillates in perfect synchrony to offer better balance and improve a watch’s precision. The double balance wheel also has an aesthetic value: the watch’s beating heart can be seen on both sides of the movement, which is extremely valued in Haute Horlogerie today.