Watchmakers are always striving to add more features to their timepieces, but it’s the most simple and obvious feature — accurately keeping the time — that’s the holy grail of horology. And now you can 3D-print a tourbillon, a complex device that improves a watch’s accuracy, and marvel at its mechanics.
Originally developed by watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet over 220 years ago, a tourbillon is simply a mechanism to constantly rotate a watch’s escapement and balance wheel — essentially its beating heart — to help improve accuracy and counteract the forces of gravity while it’s being worn and moved around.
A three-axis tourbillon, as the name implies, spins a watch’s escapement and balance wheel in three dimensions, further improving its ability to remain accurate as it ticks away. It’s also a mechanism that contributes to the obscene price tags many Swiss watches are known for, but it’s a genuine mechanical marvel, which is why Adam Wrigley has created a larger 3D-printable version for anyone to download and study.
All of the 3D files for Wrigley’s creation are available over on Thingiverse, and as intricately complex as a three-axis tourbillon can be, there are only about 99 parts for you to print and assemble to build your own. Is it a cheap way to simply 3D print your own mechanical watch? Not really, most 3D printers wouldn’t be able to accurately churn out these parts at that tiny scale. But as a crash course in how old-school watches work, this is better than trying to dismantle an expensive Swiss masterpiece.
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