3D-Printed Tourbillon Demo Keeps The Time With Style

It may only run for a brief time, and it’s too big for use in an actual wristwatch, but this 3D-printed tourbillon is a great demonstration of the lengths watchmakers will go to to keep mechanical timepieces accurate.

For those not familiar with tourbillons, [Kristina Panos] did a great overview of these mechanical marvels. Briefly, a tourbillon is a movement for a timepiece that aims to eliminate inaccuracy caused by gravity pulling on the mechanism unevenly. By spinning the entire escapement, the tourbillon averages out the effect of gravity and increases the movement’s accuracy. For [EB], the point of a 3D-printed tourbillon is mainly to demonstrate how they work, and to show off some pretty decent mechanical chops. Almost the entire mechanism is printed, with just a bearing being necessary to keep things moving; a pair of shafts can either be metal or fragments of filament. Even the mainspring is printed, which we always find to be a neat trick. And the video below shows it to be satisfyingly clicky.

[EB] has entered this tourbillon in the 3D Printed Gears, Pulleys, and Cams Contest that’s running now through February 19th. You’ve still got plenty of time to get your entries in. We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

9 thoughts on “3D-Printed Tourbillon Demo Keeps The Time With Style

  1. “[EB] has entered this tourbillon in the 3D Printed Gears, Pulleys, and Cams Contest that’s running now through February 19th.”

    Enter the entire four-volume set, Ingenious Mechanisms.

  2. This gravity thing is very serious.
    Whenever I walk to the kitchen and am about halfway, my left shoulder suddenly gets pulled sideways by gravity instead of downward. Must be some kind or quantumhole or something.

  3. If anyone is curious about tourbillons, mechanically speaking, a single axis tourbillon is useless in a wrist watch.

    They are very useful in a pocket watch for the purpose they were designed for because a pocket watch normally sits in a single position in a pocket. It is there that this complication functions as designed because the watch is normally sitting in a single axis against gravity, which is what the mechanism was designed to compensate for in its original incarnation.

    Functionally speaking, 2 axis offset or 3 axis tourbillons are needed in a wristwatch to properly compensate or at least have an effect because of the extra axies a wrist watch travels through normally in the way it is worn. Versions with multiple axes have been done in wrist watches for some time now.

    Yes they are astronomically expensive but functionally speaking if you forget about expensiveness and you look at a functional perspective of what it does it works when it is in multiple axis on a wrist watch. Otherwise Studies have shown you can even make the rate worse then a standard watch, if it is a single axis version such as this in a wristwatch. I have a professional background to back this up.

    If anyone it hackaday is interested in watchmaking at high levels such as this, I would recommend finding the YouTube channel of the HSNY, the Horological Society of New York, who now seems to freeley post academic talks on such subjects to YouTube.

    1. Do you have any data that says it is so?

      To me when a wrist watch is worn it spend most of its life with the mechanism vertical and when it is horizontal (and designed correctly) gravity will not affect it.

      1. Please see here if you are curious.


        I haven’t watched that in a while, but it should be in there. Stephen Forsey is one of the world experts on history, mechanics, and construction of the tourbillon mechanism.

        Much of my own knowledge comes from 2 years in professional watchmaking school in the US. Also, I’ve talked with Mr. Forsey in person on the topic, and seen him present on the topic at the AWCI (American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute) convention in Denver a few years ago. I know a lot about the things for other reasons on top of that I won’t go into.

        If you think a wristwatch stays almost all in vertical position all day, you forget where your arms go when you sit. And when you look at the watch, jerking your arm up. And mainly, the natural sway of your arms as you walk. Do you do so with them only at your sides? I’m sure you dont. These motions all impart forces on a wristwatch that affect its rate in more complex ways than a pocketwatch in a pocket receives. Tourbillons, properly designed and dynamically poised, are supposed to compensate for such things- but only under specific conditions, and when the correct design and number of axes in a wristwatch, and finally, only when quite well executed.

        If you or anyone else is interested further than that- buy a copy of The Theory of Horology. That book will explain all the effects of gravitational errors or hairspring pinning points on the rate of the watch, well, at least for starters. There are other effects that have to be compensated for too, such as the Caspari effect on hairspring pinning point.

        And to the two who responded below after ignoring my plea to forget the fact that yes, everyone already knows these things are astronomically expensive, there are reasons beyond rich people that watch and clockmakers exist. You might not own a Bentley, but do you berate your local skilled mechanic for knowing how to fix your car? People have watches, mechanical and quartz- and watchmakers still exist because noone else can fix these things properly, and there is s great deal of work to be had by people that can. Yes- real watchmakers do fix quartz timepieces! There is micro soldering involved of magnetic coils and circuitry diagnosis done, or at least these things are currently taught. Some quartz watches are worth and capable of being fixed. Its a skilled trade for a reason, even if one never sees a tourbillion in their entire career (and probably wont).

    2. Mechanical watches are mostly about showingoffervy from both the maker and the buyer. If accuracy is what you care about just buy a quartz watch or better, look at your phone.

      1. Mechanical watches are about appreciating the skill of the design and build. Just the same as appreciating steam engines or fast cars. If you have one just for “showingoffervy” (whatever the hell that is) you are a sad person. :)

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