Admittedly, when the term “tourbillon” is thrown around, Omega is rarely in the mix of referenced examples. Sure they’ve got their Central Tourbillon in the DeVille range, but let’s face it, this watch isn’t clamoring for attention alongside offerings from the likes of Patek or Vacheron. It’s worth mentioning then, none of us would be talking about tourbillon wristwatches if it weren’t for Omega, as they produced the first tourbillon movement intentioned for a wristwatch.
Of course, Abraham Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon in 1801. It effectively negated adverse effects of gravity on the escapements of the day by placing the mechanism within a rotating cage, thus reducing positional error (read more here). For many decades, the tourbillon was found only in pocket watches and larger table set timing devices. In 1947, Omega created the caliber 30I, the first tourbillon wristwatch caliber in the world. Their goal in the development of the 30I was besting competitors at observatory trials in Geneva, Neuchâtel and Kew-Teddington. They succeeded, delivering the best results ever recorded by a wristwatch up to that time. Unlike many conventional tourbillons in use today which make a full revolution every 60 seconds, the caliber 30I’s tourbillon makes its revolution ever 7.5 minutes.
Only twelve 30I movements were ever created, strictly for use in chronometry competitions. In 1987, a few of these were discovered within Omega storage. They were overhauled and given a conservative amount of decoration for use within specially designed cases, allowing full display of the caliber via transparent case backs. On my visit to the Omega museum and manufacturing facilities last month, I was given the chance to handle one of these watches in 18K gold. While unsure of how many of these movements were found and subsequently cased, I do know that 2 of them sold in 2007 at an Omegamania Auction. They fetched CHF215,750 and CHF 256,000 respectively.
I found the watch endlessly charming, with a case size of 36mm, classic proportions and a hidden tourbillon. I’d love to see a modern interpretation of this watch from the brand, perhaps starting with the case of the Seamaster 1948. Enjoy more pics after the break, and we’ll keep an eye peeled for any remaining 1947 Omega Tourbillons that may become available.