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.