Magnetism, water resistance, materials, quality of regulating organs or even the care of its owner… There are many factors that play a role with the accuracy of our beautiful mechanical watches. Since the beginning of watchmaking, watchmakers have always been looking for the best mechanical precision. In our totally digital lives, the mechanical watch keeps trying to offer us time in a always more accurate and reliable manner. It is that quest, that some will argue of being vain that seems to us the first mission of watchmaking.
An accuracy manifesto
We regularly see a lot of novelties, but what about real technical innovations allowing more accuracy for our mechanical watches ?
During the latest SIHH, we were happy to see that watchmakers from Parmigiani Fleurier were close to completing a major technical innovation : a new regulating organ totally made of silicon! Year after year, pioneer watchmakers such as Rolex, Omega or Patek Philippe have been testing and implementing new materials in their watches to enhance reliability and accuracy. Today, Parmigiani seems to be leading the path to new processes allowing both more precision and this, during much more time with power reserves of tens of days while average of the market is roughly two days.
While Rolex, Omega or Patek Philippe introduce parts in silicon in their movement to enhance in an incremental way their calibers, Parmigiani has taken a whole new approach for its escapement. The Senfin Concept Watch rethinks the architecture of its regulating organ to both increase its frequency and also reduce its need of energy supply. This whole “integrated” process is extremely promising and represents to us the future of research and development regarding the accuracy of mechanical watches. We can’t wait to learn more on this concept watch !
In parallel, we find really interesting the will of Omega of introducing a new certification with the Federal Institute of Swiss Metrology, the METAS. To obtain this certification opened to any watchmaker, the watches (and movements!) will have to bear magnetic fields up to 15’000 Gauss while keeping a precision betweent 0 and +5 seconds per day. The power reserve as well as the water resistance are also checked. This METAS certification will force watchmaker to keep offering watches more and more accurate and reliable for every use case. This is really different from the numerous quality tests that were only focusing on the precision of movements not even cased and in a totally controlled environment, really far from the conditions it will face once on its future owner’s wrist. Therefore, we come back to the foundations of watchmaking : creating precise watches that we can rely on, at any given time.
We also understand that this trend allows some watchmaking brands to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market. Accuracy being the most obvious comparison factor between calibers and therefore between watchmaking maisons.
In this quest for precision, and before concluding, we would like to praise the risk taken by Piaget with a hybrid caliber that has proven its worth at Seiko : the quartz oscillator. Traditional horology is looking for solutions and testing new process combining tradition and technology. We have been surprised by this new watch showcased by Piaget during the past SIHH but we prefer the efforts deployed by Parmigini who brought forward a true research of technical improvement while respecting the 100% mechanical watch. Okay for precision, but with a respect of traditional mechanics as well!
In our world of digital and smartwatches, mechanical horology has not spoken its last word and contrariwise offers itself new technological perspectives. Traditional watchmaking adapts to its time and continues to gives us to enjoy extraordinary timepieces from a reliability and technical point of view. We can’t wait to see what Swiss watchmakers will propose to watch aficionados around the world !
Toolwatch in Europa Star
We are proud that this article was originally published in Europa Star during the 2016 Baselworld fair. For the purists (or if you just want to practice your french), you can read the original article.
See you soon for a next article to share our love for mechanical watches !