A 19th century invention, tourbillon watches are now hotter than ever. We've selected 12 of the most extraordinary pieces out there.

Abraham-Louis Breguet, the prolific 19th century horology engineer, literally turned time on its head with the invention of his revolutionary tourbillon. Before the invention of wristwatches, pocket watches — worn suspended from chains — perpetually lost their punctuality and precision due to gravity's nefarious pull on their inner parts. Breguet ingeniously set to work to straighten out time's kinks by crafting a revolutionary mechanical system. Placing a watch's balance, balance springs and escapement in a miniscule tourbillon cage that turns on its own axis once per minute, Breguet discovered that the single turn would compensate for all possible miscalculations. Now, more than 200 years since Breguet introduced them to the world, tourbillon watches are enjoying a new resurgence with many luxury watchmakers releasing limited-editions of these mesmerizing timepieces, long a symbol of excellence in horology and the ultimate expression of a watchmaker's limitless art.

The term tourbillon was not meant to allude to the mechanism's dutiful resilience against violent twists and turns. Breguet's tourbillon referred, however, to the natural rhythm of planetary rotation on a single axis around the sun that Réné Descartes described in Les Principes: "les planets tournent autour de leur Soleil, portées par leur tourbillon," translated as "The planets spin around the sun carried by their vortex."

Chanel's J12:

After the international success of the J12 at the Basel fair, Chanel raised the temperature one more notch by releasing a J12 tourbillon: an exciting high-tech adaptation of time-honored expertise and one of the most indulgently modern tourbillons on the market today. Limited to a tight series of 12 pieces available in either black or white, the sleek ceramic J12 boasts a sophisticated CH 05Tl interior with a 52-piece tourbillon cage. Bridging the best of two centuries with modern style and technical perfection, J12 is the tourbillon of the 21st century.

J12 Tourbillon
(timepieces & jewelry/events)

The tourbillon is to horology what haute couture is to fashion: the incarnation of each luxury brand's technical perfection and artistic savoir-faire. While preserving the laborious 19th century craftsmanship required to manufacture each watch, many brands have updated the traditional tourbillon with innovative casings, finishes and forms. So if you've got a taste for extraordinary timepieces, hold on to your seats because these tourbillons are bound to draw you in.

Classic Grande Complication
Available in 18-carat yellow gold or platinum 950, this grand classic from the house of Breguet is time-honored precision at its best.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Monsieur Arpels Tourbillon
In homage to the house's famous Place Vendome flagship, the mobile tourbillon cage is outfitted with a miniature replica of the Place Vendome column that acts a second hand.
24 Place Vendôme, Paris
9 New Bond Street, London
744 Fifth Avenue, New York City
Ginza Flagship Store, Tokyo
Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Tourtue XL Tourbillon Chronomonopoussoir
A real innovation in timekeeping with a combination of two complications: a single-button chronograph and tourbillon.
23 Place Vendôme, Paris
653 Fifth Avenue, New York City
Lobby, Peninsula Palace Hotel, Beijing
Unit A, No.18 Zhong Shan Road East One, Shanghai

Emperador Tourbillon for men
In pick gold and studded with subtle diamonds, the watch's beautiful tourbillon is placed strategically at high noon.
(Men's collection/Piaget Emperado/Piaget Emperado Tourbillon)

Girard Perregaux
ww.tc Tourbillon Heures du Monde
Elegant, pure and generously sized this tourbillon discretely reveals the architecture of its three bridges through its glass back.

Maurice Lacroix
Masterpiece Tourbillon Rétrograde
This 30-piece limited edition masterpiece series fascinates with classic tourbillon, retrograde date and power reserve indicators.

This sleek, sophisticated platinum performance package is for the mature and natural tourbillon aficionado.
7 Place Venôme, Paris
2 rue du Rhône, Geneva
Pacific Place, Shop 321, Level 3, 88 Queenswar, Hong Kong

J12 Tourbillon
This exciting ultra-streamlined design fast-forwards traditional tourbillons into the 21st century.
(timepieces & jewelry/events)

Star Tourbillon
With 9.8 diamond carats encrusted in white gold, Zenith's first tourbillon for women is a glamorous homage to sublime tourbillon mechanics.

ChronoMaster XXT Tourbillon El Primero 4005
El Primero is the first tourbillon with 36,000 beats per hour, providing exacting precision down to one tenth of a second.