The tourbillon is seen as one of the most esteemed mechanical watch complication ever created and has always been associated with the wealthy due to their enormous price. Some of the rarest tourbillons are very sought after by collectors and connoisseurs all around the world and not because of their practical purpose, which is widely contested, but due to their high value.
It’s the intricacy of the mechanism, the difficulty, time and attention to detail required to construct a proper tourbillon, and the excellent craftsmanship involved that give a tourbillon its huge value.
But recently, affordable tourbillon watches have emerged around the world thanks to several Chinese manufacturers, making the tourbillon available for the average individual, at prices so low that many wonder if they’re actually for real.
- What are Tourbillon Watches?
- 15. Stuhrling Original Viceroy Tourbillon 296D
- 14. Lobinni Automatic Skeleton 15011
- 13. Ingersoll Golden Spike Tourbillon IN5102SRG
- 12. BINLUN 18K Tourbillon
- 11. Reef Tiger Multifunctional Tourbillon RGA703
- 10. Sugess Tourbillon Master
- 9. Reef Tiger Men’s Double Tourbillon RGA1995
- 8. Stuhrling Devilray Tourbillon 407A
- 7. LOREO Multifunction Tourbillon
- 6. Reef Tiger Tourbillon RGA1639 Luxury
- 5. Nesun N900
- 4. ERA Prometheus Tourbillon
- 3. Grmontre Automatic Tourbillon G701
- 2. Reef Tiger Tourbillon RGA1930
- 1. Akribos XXIV AK493 Tourbillon Moon Phase
What are Tourbillon Watches?
Invented back in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the tourbillon (from French, whirlwind) is a mechanical complication where the balance wheel and escapement are both placed inside a cage to deny the effects of gravity, thus enhancing the accuracy of a mechanical timepiece. At least that’s the generally accepted idea.
Whether the tourbillon does improve a watch’s accuracy in a noticeable way to worth all that money, that’s a different question and the answer is highly debated. But one thing is for sure. Tourbillons have become a demonstration of craftsmanship and a means for the wealthy to display their social status.
They are nonetheless a wonderful complication to admire.
Today though, Chinese watch manufacturers have began to create tourbillons at prices a lot cheaper than they normally have been for such a long time.
Why are Tourbillon Watches so Expensive?
Though everyone knows that the way that Swiss watch manufacturers make tourbillons is extremely costly, nobody knows exactly how much it costs, and this is something which generates doubts in the watch world on whether the huge price of a tourbillon is justified.
Also, how is it possible for Chinese manufacturers to sell tourbillon watches for prices as low as several hundred dollars?
There might be some answers to this question:
First, cost of labor in China is extremely cheap compared with that of the Swiss or the rest of the world. Only the time needed to make a tourbillon ends up to be very costly.
Then there’s the materials, and those used by Swiss watchmakers are premium materials like titanium or platinum, which bring the cost even higher. Chinese on the other hand, use very cheap materials.
There’s also the mass production capabilities of the Chinese industry which manages to reduce cost even further for several parts, including some parts of the tourbillon complication.
And then there’s the secrecy behind the real production costs of a Swiss made tourbillon, with many wondering if that’s not just a reason to inflate the price only because the rich and wealthy are the ones who appreciate the exclusivity, luxury and branding above anything else.
On the other hand, you can’t expect a Chinese made tourbillon to rise to the same quality standards of a Swiss one, as that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
So.. let’s take a closer look at the most affordable tourbillon watches you can buy right now:
15. Stuhrling Original Viceroy Tourbillon 296D
Founded back in 2002, Stuhrling has come on the market with high-end watches at affordable price tags. Their tourbillon collection has been well regarded since the launch. Part of that collection, the Stuhrling Original Viceroy Tourbillon proves that you don’t need a huge budget to afford a nice tourbillon watch.
It comes in a 42mm stainless steel case with a nice polished bezel and is powered by a hand wound mechanical movement with a power reserve of up to 40 hours. The crocodile leather strap is paired with feels a little bit cheap but it looks good enough.
The tourbillon is displayed at the 6 o’clock position on the dial, and fits in nicely with the Roman numerals and the skeleton hands under the sapphire crystal glass. The watch is legible, simple and elegant, but lacks a date complication and doesn’t have luminous hands and hour markers.
The Lobinni Automatic Skeleton comes in very cheap but very good looking nonetheless. It’s got an automatic movement housed in a stainless steel case with a 50m water resistance rating and under a sapphire crystal glass. The watch is paired with either a stainless steel bracelet or a genuine leather strap.
The dial of the watch is jam-packed, but it somehow looks okay, with a modern and masculine style. The dial is skeletonized, so you get to see little bits of the movement that powers the watch, with a steel gray color specked with occasional bursts of gold tones from the gears behind.
Ingersoll is not a name that pops to mind when thinking about tourbillons, and even watches in general, no matter if they’re hand wound, self-winding or quartz.
But it happens that Ingersoll is one of those names that started as an All-American company and moved away to the far east in order to minimize their production costs.
Their Golden Spike Tourbillon is one affordable option for a tourbillon at a little less than $1,500. The watch features a black and white dial with rose gold tone skeletonized bridges and a tourbillon at the bottom.
The Binlun 18k Tourbillon is a little too much in terms of design, but it’s still one of the best affordable options. Beyond the cluttered design, it’s got a skeleton window that shows a glimpse of the tourbillon movement inside, housed inside the 39mm 18k gold plated stainless steel case.
The dial of the watch comes in white and is surrounded by a gold tone rhinestone-encrusted rim with black Roman numerals to contrast the hour and minute hands and the rest of the watch.
Reef Tiger is one of the leading Chinese watch manufacturers, but one with a questionable history. Despite that, they still manage to do some more refined and higher end timepieces compared to their rivals.
The Reef Tiger Multifunctional Tourbillon, RGA703 simply looks amazing, especially when you think how cheap it is at under $300.
Under the domed sapphire crystal glass, we’ve got an analog skeleton dial which allows a peek into the inner workings of the automatic movement, protected by the 44mm stainless steel case with rose gold tone. This Tiger Reef model comes with a month and year display at 12 o’clock and the day and date sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock.
10. Sugess Tourbillon Master
The Sugess Tourbillon Master brings a fresh look and a minimalistic design on the affordable tourbillon market.
The watch has a simple, yet very attractive 12 hour main enamel dial with pretty Arab numerals painted in black at high temperature. The blue steel hour and minute hands and screws add a nice contrast to the dial.
At the 6 o’clock position there’s a good looking tourbillon window that steals the show. It’s probably one of the nicest affordable tourbillon watches on the market. And at almost $600, the tourbillon promises to be the real thing.
Another Reef Tiger, the Men’s Double Tourbillon RGA1995, comes with an analog silver sub-dial display with Roman numerals and bright blue hour, minute and seconds hands. The sub-dial display also features a date window at the 3 o’clock position.
Inside the 44mm case, there’s a Miyota 6T15 automatic movement, which powers the watch. The two tourbillons on the left side, with the golden touches, make the piece look more expensive than it really is.
8. Stuhrling Devilray Tourbillon 407A
Coming in a 44mm all black case with a bold sharkskin strap, the Stuhrling Devilray Tourbillon is quite a sight, and doesn’t feel a cheap one at all.
It’s powered by a Chinese Seagull mechanical movement, with a 4Hz frequency and a 40 hour power reserve. The movement can be seen through the exhibition case back.
The dial is divided in two, with the upper half dedicated to a large number 12, the only hour indicator, and the large luminous hour and minute hands in white. Below the center of the dial there’s a tourbillon surrounded by a carbon fiber like dial pattern. The glass is sapphire crystal, so you can expect good protection from scratches.
The Loreo Multifunction Tourbillon features a black analog dial with a nice tourbillon at 6 o’clock, plus two sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock for the month and day.
The hour markers with Roman numerals and the hour and minute hands come in a gold color to match the faded gold of the 40mm stainless steel case and bracelet.
The watch boasts and automatic movement and is protected from splashes and rain due to its 30m water resistance rating.
The Reef Tiger Tourbillon RGA1639 Luxury comes out as a more refined looking piece than the ones we already presented from the same brand.
It comes with a more elegant deep blue dial, with luminous hands and indices in a rose gold tone. There’s a nice looking tourbillon at 9 o’clock and a dual time sub-dial at 11 o’clock.
The automatic movement is housed in a 44mm stainless steel case plated with rose gold, and covered with a sapphire crystal glass. The blue leather strap is a perfect match to the rest of the watch.
5. Nesun N900
Coming in at around $500, the Nesun N900 is an automatic watch with a good looking simulated tri-axis tourbillon, sapphire crystal glass, a 50 hour power reserve and 50m water resistance rating.
Its design is simple but has enough appeal, especially for those who are searching for high-class looks without paying the price.
4. ERA Prometheus Tourbillon
With a price point floating around $1,500 for its cheapest variant, the ERA Prometheus Tourbillon promises a lot. The best thing about it is that it can be configured according to your preferences, so you can opt for either a manual or self-winding movement, and between a platinum plated or stainless steel case.
The dial comes with a dual time sub-dial at 9 o’clock and a moon phase indicator at 3 o’clock. At the 6 o’clock position is a lovely single-axis tourbillon.
The Grmontre G701 Automatic Tourbillon offers an exquisite experience at an affordable price.
The design is superb and doesn’t betray its cheapness. It features a date, month and day dial and a simulated triple-axis tourbillon that makes for a very likeable appearance.
The watch comes in a stainless steel case with 30m water resistance rating and an automatic movement with 35 hour power reserve.
The Reef Tiger Tourbillon RGA1930 is an even more exquisite model than the other Reef Tiger pieces presented above, and the price of around $1,100 is proof alone for that.
The design of the RGA1930 is mesmerizing and good looking, with a sleek and minimalist deep blue dial, but quite impressive with the tourbillon complication seen at the 6 o’clock position.
The hour markers appear curved under the domed sapphire crystal glass, while the rose gold tone of the 40mm case blends nicely with the deep blue color of the dial.
While the price is higher than the other models on this list, this might actually stand for a higher quality and confidence it’s a real tourbillon.
With its interesting moon phase display, dual time and the skeletonized bottom half of the dial, the Akribos XXIV is one of the best options you can find today on the affordable tourbillon market.
The watch features gold tone Roman numerals and hands on its main display, with a secondary sub-dial at 9 o’clock for a second time zone. At 3 o’clock is the moon phase indicator, and the beauty at 6 o’clock is the skeletonized view of the self-winding mechanical movement.
Overall, the 44mm stainless steel Akribos XXIV looks posh, but costs only around $550.
The days when the tourbillon was an exquisite thing only afforded by the rich are now over with these impressive and cheap alternatives presented on this list.