Gyrotourbillon – falling inlove with Jaeger LeCoultre

Jaeger -LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon
Jaeger -LeCoultre Gyrotourbillon
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Every watchmaker is fighting a series of physical laws when creating a watch. A great problem on precision is caused by the gravity since the positions of the tourbillon are limited.
Since 2002, the team from JLC (Magali Metrailler as responsible for the aesthetic aspects and Eric Coudray for the technical background) start thinking on a multiple-axis tourbillon for the new collections. The idea was not quite new, coming from the 90’s when the watches were still to small for such a thing – the fashion was not prepared for such big watches. A second issue was the design itself – such a complexity was hard to handle on the drawing board. Luckily, the advances of the 3D CAD (Computer Aided Desing) software and the general tendency on the bigger housing offer the possibility for Jaeger LeCoultre of giving to the market the gyrotourbillon in 2004.
Nevertheless, the size and the 3D design were not the only obstacles – also the materials used should have been light enough and rough enough for such a complexity. They just didn’t take an existing tourbillon and added a second axes, they designed the new tourbillon from “0” and managed to create a two axes tourbillon in two aluminium cages – a 3 dimensional tourbillon which compensates the gravitational forces not only on a vertical plan but on all planes and has a precision of maximum -1/+1seconds per day (for instance COSC – Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, which is the institute responsible for certifying the accuracy and precision of wristwatches in Switzerland considers a -4/+6seconds deviation as good).

Gyrotourbillon in the Aluminum cage
 
The balance spring is flat with a frequency at 3 Hz or 21,600 vib/hour, the inner cage needs 24s and the outer cage needs 60 seconds for a complete rotation (2 minutes to take all positions). The moment is 10mg•cm2 . The gyrotourbillon is light enough that when it rotates, there is enough power available for the functioning of the calibre as a whole.

 

 
 
 Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 177
 
 

 

The Calibre 177 is considered a Grande Complication: 512 pieces, inclined two-axis tourbillon, instantaneous double retrograde perpetual calendar, equation of time, power reserve indication (8 days).

 

Exploded view Caliber 177
 

And this has not stopped here. Since the space available in the cage was enough, the team decided for a cylindrical (helical) balance spring – first used in a wristwatch (before used only in marine chronometer). This type of spring has the movement more symmetric and has an improved chronometry (better precision). The basic springs are supplied by Lange & Söhne Uhren (both companies are Richemont SA subsidiaries)

The frequency was increased to 4Hz – 28,800 vib/hour, the moment of inertia has been increased to 12.5 mg•cm2. The speed of the cages was changed so: the first inner cage to one rotation in 18.75 seconds and the second outer cage in 1 minute (5 minutes to take all positions). The shape of the cage was also changed.

 

 

 
The new calibre 174 has only 50hours power reserve (against 8 days of calibre 177) and needs constant and even power supply – a greater torque, otherwise the chronometric precision cannot be fulfilled. JLC patented a torque limitation that stops the watch if the torque is not sufficient for a precise functionality. This also locks manual winding if there is a risk of supplying excess energy. The mainspring is covered on top and below with sapphire parts to reduce friction.

 

Torque limitation system mounted directly on the barrel
(Two gears with a different number of teeth: – one used when the barrel is driving the calibre and the second one is driving at the wound. Both have on the upper side a locking tooth and when they meet the device is stopped, either stopping the winding or the main train when torque is too high, respectively to low)

 

 

 

 

 

 


The calibre 174 has 371 components, the front features time in hours and minutes and 24h indication, the back side features the power reserve. It was revealed at SIHH 2008.

 

 Exploded view of the Caliber 174
 

At SIHH 2013, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented the Caliber 176 – Gyrotourbillon 3: The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee. The Gyrotourbillon 3 no longer has a bridge on top becoming a flying tourbillon fixed with ball bearing on the movement. This design was created using KEYSHOT, a software used also for the creation of the AVATAR movie. This helped the team simulating and studying the complete assembly and the mutual effects of the components.
Another novelty is the 14k gold spherical spring, thermally blued.

 

Manufacturing the spheroid-spiral is not an easy task: the spring is wounded around a sphere and then the sphere is removed without damaging the new shape. 


The only way to check the precision is the classic way – set the time and verify after 24h and again after 48h.
The cage is done using a five-axis CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine (a specialized milling machine) from an aluminium rod.


The speed of the tourbillon was slowed: the inner cage rotates once in one minute and the outer cage once in 2.5 minutes and the frequency has been reduced to the original 3Hz or 21,600 vib/hour. It is claimed as the most precise tourbillon with a deviation of maximum 0.5 seconds per day.

 

 

 


The caliber 176 has 596 parts, features an instantaneous digital display chronograph (display minute from 00 to 59) activated by a single push button, chronograph seconds indication, 24h and day/night indication.
Gyrotourbillon is a masterpiece: very precise, light and with a minimal influence from gravitational forces since the tourbillon moves in all directions and the effect is constant from all directions leading to a theoretic “0” force from gravitation. 
The choice for the gyro cage material – aluminum – is unusual but satisfying for the need of the overall system: durability, low weight, producible.
The springs evolved from a simple flat spiral to a marine cylindrical, more precise and then to the new 14K gold spherical spring, improving capabilities.

 

 The gyrotourbillon springs (flat, cylindrical, spherical) and
below the Gyrotourbillon edition I, II and III


All the information, images and movies are from (and I would like to thank for):

Jaeger-LeCoultre site
Jaeger-LeCoultre Youtube page
– Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie 
– A Blog to Watch 
– PuristSPro
FratelloWatches 
– The Watches TV
– Revolution Press – celebrating the machine with a heartbeat
 

 

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