Review about the Omega Tourbillon Central

Although I'm far away from having the money left for such exciting pieces of 'Haute Horologie' I have to admit that I'm totally fascinated about them and of course I could not resist to get in touch with this particular outstanding timepiece after having seen it in the windows of the new OMEGA brand store in Zurich!

Most of us watch lovers will never be in the nice situation to spend 85.000 Swiss Francs on a single watch. Nonetheless I think all of us are still fascinated about timepieces that are technically and/or aesthetically outstanding. The OMEGA Tourbillon Central is doubtless one of these rare watches:

The Watch

The watch has a solid 18k yellow, rose or white gold case which respresents a modern interpretation of fine wristwatches of the 50ies. The execution is of highest standart with much attention and perfection in the detail: Here a side view (I want to draw your attention to the lugs!)

The eyecatcher of course is the tourbillon, unusually placed in the center of the watch, surrounded by the hands which are painted on sapphire discs. This is a functional consequence of the movement's layout which I will discuss later.
The solid gold case back is engraved with the individual number of the watch and bears the second (beneath the central localization of the tourbillon and also as a consequence of this layout) : The time setting crown:

The Tourbillon Theory

The elimination of the influence of the friction on the precision of a portable watch (a watch that is not constantly in a distinct position like a clock, eg. pocket and wrist watches) was a major stimulus for watchmakers throughout the last centuries. The famous watchmaker Abram Louis Breguet invented around the year 1800 a mechanism that could correct unpreciseness caused by different amounts of friction in different positions of a watch: The Tourbillon.
This mechanism - which looks so easy and logical but is in fact extremely difficult to realize - bears escapement and balance wheel in a rotation cage: The factor 'gravity' could to his preciseness-killing work for only one complete rotation of the tourbillon cage (unsually 1 min, but there are also tourbillon that rotate once each 4 min or 1 h, the fastest one needs only 12 sec!) until it will be compensated.
The callenge of realizing a tourbillon is not the entire principle in itself, but the functional position where it is placed in the clockwork: Near by the escapemant, where there is not much power to drive a complex mechanism. This is the reason why a tourbillon must be executed within extremely minimal tolerances to be of light weight but precise. Additionally, the speed of the revolution counts to the arduousness of this work: The faster the revolution, the preciser the watch; but the faster, more power it needs; the more power it needs, the lighter it has to be made...!
The masterpiece in the line of tourbillons is the 'Flying Tourbillon', a tourbillon that is only unilaterally pivoted. Only a very handful of watchmakers are able to master this complication. One of these is Paul Gerber from Zurich, Switzerland, who also created, together with Volker Vyskocil, the owner of the watch page (german version:, an educating and entertaining Tourbillon Animation:

Omega's automatic Tourbillon Central Movement

Omega managed to built an automatic tourbillon movement with centrally located flying tourbillon. This signs for one major problem: How and where to mount the hands? The traditional central axle is occupied by the tourbillon mechanism. On the other hand, the watch should exhibit the classic dial layout with hands from the center... The solution is an unusual exercise: The minute and houre hands are painted on two concentric sapphire discs whereas a prolonged regulator of the tourbillon serves as the seconds hand:
You can easily detect the shadows of the hour's and minute's hands on the dial. This layout demands a highly elaborated design of the movement. Omega's watchmaker relocated the clockwork by part sidewarts into the case. Please pay attention to the red arrows in the following picture. In picture 1 you can see the dial side of the movement with the tourbillon. The arrow points out to a gearwheel that drives a second toothed wheel on one of the sapphire disks (arrow in picture 2, wheel from picture 1 is hidden under the longish plate on the left). Picture 3 shows a completely assembled watch, a prototype (the bottom plate of the tourbillon is not decorated!).
The following picture allows a view inside the case of the watch. Above you see the first edition of the watch with the automatic rotor mounted in the caseback, below the revised construction with the rotor fixed in a clasical manner directly on the movement. This change is done in order to silence the rotor's noise. Additionally you can spot some gear wheels on the left side of the case taking part in driving the sapphire disks.
So far, this is the review. There is many missing. Unfortunately, due to limitations on time, this is not written to date. Please generously overlook the little mistakes in this review. I'm looking forward to any corrections or comments, especially for the opinions of owners of this exceptional watch. Thanks for viewing!

Credits: Special thanks to Mr. Marco Brun of Omega who gave me the opportunity for this review, to Volker Vyskocil who allowed me to set a link to his tourbillon animation, to Sandro Bösch of ZeitZone Zürich for entertaining and helpful discussions. A very special thank you to my girlfriend Isabelle for proof reading the manuscript!

Magnus Bosse © March 2001 Last update 10 December 2006

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