- The tourbillon turns itself while the carousel requires a secondary gear to turn its mechanism
- The carousel is typically mounted on the fourth wheel, while the tourbillon is independent of this gear
Invented in 1892 by Dane Bahne Bonniksen, a great admirer of Abraham-Louis Breguet, a carousel is a modification of the Breguet tourbillon. It was designed as a more robust alternative to the delicate tourbillon, while still counteracting the influence of gravity on a pocket watch movement. In 1899, Richard Lange improved on this concept and was awarded a patent of the German Reich. A. Lange & Söhne produced a small number of pocket watches with a carousel movement at this time.
The carousel concept was all but forgotten with the advent of wristwatches, but this changed at the end of the 20th century. Needing to differentiate mechanical watches from quartz, and desiring to celebrate their technical prowess, many high end watch makers began to develop and produce grand complications in the 1990's. Among these, the tourbillon was considered the most challenging and valued.
In the 2000's, Blancpain realized that the carousel could be miniaturized just like the tourbillon, becoming an alternative grand complication. In 2008, they introduced calibre Blancpain 225 in the luxury Blancpain Carrousel Volant Une Minute model. Since then, they have produced a number of grand complication models featuring a this complication, and even paired a carousel with a flying tourbillon in the same movement.
Over the past decade, a number of Chinese manufacturers have introduced carousel movements, no doubt inspired by Blancpain, which is very active in that market.
- Blancpain Carrousel Volant Une Minute Video, 4:21 - Excellent educational film to explain the carousel principle