A tourbillon is both a delicate and wondrous piece of engineering and, by virtue of its aesthetics, art contained within the useful.
A mechanical device invented to improve the precision of pocket watches, the tourbillon provides continual rotation of essential watch parts like the escapement, balance wheel, and spring to adjust for bias due to gravity. Top-grade modern mechanical watches can achieve tight precision in their timekeeping down a single second per day, and sure, cheap quartz watches can easily perform with a precision twice that accurate, but they undoubtedly lack what can easily be called 'verve.'
Over many years, horologists have applied stunning ingenuity to their watch and clock mechanics in pursuit of something that serves the dual purposes of functioning as an accurate machine and as a display of "lovely solution."
But back to the tourbillon. Sometime around 1795, Abraham-Louis Breguet and cohorts developed this thing called a tourbillon. It's essentially a rotating cage tiny enough to fit inside the case of a mechanical watch to prevent gravity from diddling with the critical motion of movement and thereby destroying accuracy.
It was a fascination with the tourbillon which led engineer and horologist, Nicholas Manousos, to use 3D printing to make this most beautiful piece of design at a 1000% scale. Manousos' version, a recreation of the Daniels Symmetrical Tourbillon, is quite an achievement. His enormous model lets people hold the device in their in their hands to examine its inner workings in full.
Following his education as an engineer, Manousos began to pursue is real love, watchmaking. It was soon after that he opened his lab to devote himself to designing and building 3D printed complications full time. After 3 years of design and prototyping, he's arrived at his most recent milestone.
"Eventually I wanted to try something different, mechanical watches always had fascinated me," he said. "They are the physical manifestation of the same engineering projects I dealt with in the technology industry. After a chance meeting with Peter Speake-Marin – and positive encouragement from my wife – I decided to apply to watchmaking school. I ended up in Miami, Florida, studying at The Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School under gifted watchmaking instructor Paul Francis Madden."
Once he completed watchmaking school, Manousos moved to New York City to take advantage of what he calls its "vibrant horological community." He's now a member of the Board of Trustees for the Horological Society of New York and regularly holds presentations on technical horological subjects.
But Manousos' interests and experience also extend to semiconductor manufacturing techniques, reactive ion etching of silicon, work in nanofabrication facility clean rooms and micro-scale CNC machining. He adds that as of this moment, he's focused on applying additive manufacturing technologies to his work in horology.
"The 1,000 percent scale is a result of the resolution capabilities of today's 3D printers, but it has an unexpected benefit," he said. "It allows people to hold the usually too delicate tourbillon in their hands, see clearly every single part at work, and therefore fully comprehend the mechanics."
His tourbillon is made with renewable thermoplastics and uses precision ball bearings as jewels, and he added that the bearings are the only part of the mechanism which wasn't made by Manousos himself.