Tourbillon 1000% by Nicholas Manousos

Tourbillons don’t often grace the pages of worn&wound  as they are typically found in watches that cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not a matter of not wanting to discuss them; it’s a matter of not having the chance. Yes, there are some “affordable” ones on the market, but they are one of those things that is tied so closely with the skill, craft and expertise of seasoned watchmaking, that inexpensive alternatives just don’t really make sense. Well, the other day I got to experience a tourbillon like no other, one that I am very excited to present to you.

TOURBILLON_1000_9The Tourbillon 1000% doesn’t exist in a watch movement, rather it’s a 3D printed scale model of the complication. Designed, engineered and made by Nicholas Manousos, it’s the result of three years of engineering and design, and it stands several inches tall with large parts all clearly demonstrating the actions of the escapement and tourbillon carriage. It’s fun and colorful, like a child’s toy, but it shows a very complicated piece of horology in action.


Nicholas is an interesting guy who, after working in California in the tech world for 15 years, decided to shift gears after a chance meeting with Peter Speake-Marin and go to watch making school. He attended the WOSTEP program in Miami, where he learned the ins and outs of watchmaking. Now, with his mix of experiences and skills, Nicholas is looking at horology from a different perspective, one that applies new technology to this old craft. Currently working out of his NYC apartment, he is designing, engineering and making strides in his pursuits, as is clearly seen in this first work.

TOURBILLON_1000_1There’s a lot going on with the Tourbillon 1000%, so it’s worth taking a step back for a second and to look at an overview. First, there is the tourbillon. For those new to the world of watches, or those who want a brief refresher, this complication was designed by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1795. After becoming aware of the inaccuracy that occurred in watches (pocket watches at the time) in different positions he discovered that gravity was affecting the escapement. His solution was to rotate the escapement in a carriage at a fixed rate, thus the effect of gravity would be spread out over time, counteracting any negative effects. Thus the tourbillon, or “whirlwind,” was born. 210 years later, it’s still one of horology’s most revered complications, often used to demonstrate a brand’s manufacturing skills.

TOURBILLON_1000_8Second, and also on the horological front, is the co-axial escapement. Invented by George Daniels, and currently employed by Omega, the co-axial design minimizes friction in the escapement, eliminating the need for lubrication and prolonging servicing intervals. The mechanics get complicated, but Nicholas, using the Tourbillon 1000% as a guide, explained the advantages to me. Essentially, lever escapements (the kind typically found in a movement) employ sliding friction to operate, where as the co-axial is a direct impulse. This is critical in Manousos’ design, as the lever escapement, even at this scale and in plastic, would have required lubrication. (For a great refresher on how a watch works and an easy visualization of a lever escapement, check out the video below, relevant material starts at 5:18.)

Lastly, there is the emerging technology of 3D printing or rapid prototyping. Though it has been around for a while (I actually worked in a 3D printing center in grad school several years ago), with the advent of smaller, less expensive printers like the Makerbot and services like Shapeways, 3D printing has gone from a tool for designers and engineers to a public fascination. There are various forms of 3D printing, from ones that use lasers to bond powders together, to UV printers that catalyze liquid plastics by using UV light, to the more common rapid deposition variety, where molten plastic is layered to form a solid–all of which offer different benefits and negatives, from resolution to cost. Nicholas uses a printer of the last variety, which prints at a resolution of 200 microns, allowing for precise tolerances.

In the Tourbillon 1000%, everything but the jewels are 3D printed from PLA, a biodegradable plastic. The jewels are skateboard bearings. As an abundant, functional and easily obtainable stand-in, the bearings make a lot of sense for his design. The Tourbillon itself is big and chunky in a fun way. It’s also colorful, with each component standing out for easy recognition. This is perhaps my favorite thing about the 1000%. It demystifies something quite complex in a fashion that is neither pretentious or arrogant.


The construction of the 1000% clearly indicates this with the use of large, easily manipulated screws. In a few seconds you can take the whole thing apart, look at the individual components, and then reassemble it again. In fact, I had the pleasure of doing this very task, and through seeing it come together I gained a new understanding of how it all works.

TOURBILLON_1000_5Of course, as with a watch movement, the real magic occurs when it comes to life. Standing upright on the carriage, one can simply place a finger on a tooth of the fourth gear, which is on the opposite side from the balance, and let the weight of their hand act as the power source. And then it click, click, clicks into motion. The balance spring beats before your eyes as the balance wheel slowly and hypnotically swings back and forth at 1hz. Within, you can see the roller engage the pallet, which receives pulses from the escapement, all meshing seamlessly together. To see the tourbillon effect more clearly, one holds the fourth wheel in hand, and pushes on the carriage (the grey frame) which then slowly rotates around the balance, moving a small distance per beat.


TOURBILLON_1000_6It’s really quite a remarkable thing to behold. It’s almost surreal how something, while completely inert and made of materials that are perceived of as “cheap,” can with just a bit of added energy perform a set of complex tasks. Not the least of which is beat at regular intervals. Though I don’t need a reminder as to why I love wearing a watch, seeing this brings to the surface that sense of awe over what is really going on on a micro level in that funny object strapped to my wrist.

TOURBILLON_1000_7The Tourbillon 1000% is, if you haven’t gotten the gist yet, a really cool thing. As an object it’s alluring, and as a teaching tool it’s effective. It’s just a very exciting development from an up and coming watchmakers who clearly is going about things in his own way. The 1000% is actually a part of his research, more than it is a final product, so you know great things are to come. As far as purchasing goes, Nicholas didn’t make this to be a mass produced product, so availability is limited. If you are interested, head to and contact him directly.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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