A fine model of a tourbillon escapement, signed Hermann Thunig, Deutsche Uhrmacherschule, Glashutte b/ Sa., 1927
Lot 49
Hermann Thunig and Alfred Helwig. A unique model of Helwig's "Flying Tourbillon" employing the pivoted detent escapement of Moritz Grossmann.Constructed at the Deutsche Uhrmacherschule, Glashütte, 1927
Sold for US$ 12,500 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Hermann Thunig and Alfred Helwig. A unique model of Helwig's "Flying Tourbillon" employing the pivoted detent escapement of Moritz Grossmann.
Constructed at the Deutsche Uhrmacherschule, Glashütte, 1927
The silvered carriage with Helwig's characteristic "U" shaped upper frame including ruby end stone, unusual pivoted detent escapement with jeweled pallets, overcoiled spring, uncut bimetallic chronometer balance with cylindrical weights and timing screws, going barrel wound through the turned wooden base, under glass dome, accompanied by a later edition of Helwig's treatise, Feinstellung der Uhren (Fine Adjustment of Watches). 11cm diam. of base plate


  • The Tourbillon, first introduced by A.L. Breguet, seeks to compensate for the timekeeping error introduced when the movement of a pocket watch is held in different positions. An escapement in a tourbillon carriage rotates once a minute within the watch, canceling the effect of gravity on position. The construction of a tourbillon has always been one of the virtuoso feats of watchmaking.

    One of the most famous designs for a tourbillon was created in the 1920's at the Deutsche Uhrmacherschule, Glashütte by Alfred Helwig (1886 – 1974). Helwig entered the school as a student in 1905 and from 1913 to his retirement in 1954 taught the art of precision watch making to several generations. That school is now closed, but a contemporary school of watch making in Glashütte was opened in 2002 by the firm Glashütte Original and named in his honor. (A Glashütte Original complicated wristwatch is offered as lot 149 in this sale)

    It was during his time as a teacher that Alfred Helwig developed, together with his apprentices, a new, cantilevered version of the tourbillon or Drehganguhr ("rotating carriage watch") that dispensed with the upper support of the carriage. Anchored on one side only, Helwig's design soon came to be known as the "Flying Tourbillon".

    In later years, Helwig recalled ... "...My idea of constructing the freestanding cage, that is without a bridge, was to make a tourbillon as flat as possible. ...Several of my students have built tourbillons in the school under my guidance at their own expense. We all promised each other never to sell them, and if at all then not below the current value of three kilograms (over six pounds) of pure gold ..."

    The Hermann Thunig Tourbillon is one of these rare models.

    During his lifetime, Alfred Helwig was known all over Europe for his comprehensive knowledge and his practical experience. He remains today one of the icons of German watch making.

    The escapement employed in the model is the invention another famous German watchmaker, Moritz Grossman one of the original founders of the Deutsche Uhrmacherschule, Glashütte in 1878. He introduced his improved pivoted detent escapement at the Geneva Exposition of 1896. This design made the interaction of the detent with the impulse pallet more reliable and added a safety arm to lock the escape wheel preventing the accidental release of the mainspring when the escapement is disassembled.
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