Spring is such a busy time in the watch industry, and with so many beautiful new watches to gaze upon, and to review it is easy to get carried away with the aesthetics of the new collections and to neglect the innovative technology which provides power to these mechanical wonders.
Every year brings forth new inventions which promise to boost accuracy and add longevity. These new discoveries have often been years in the making by talented teams of technicians who are charged with the task of re-engineering the micro-mechanics originally devised by watchmakers hundreds of years ago. Early watchmaking took place by daylight and lamplight and back then, new permutations began with a vision which was translated onto paper with pen and ink. Communication technology was zilch, there were next to no testing facilities and really, with a new invention its maker never knew if someone else had got there first or if his new contraption would be well received or not, until he took to the roads to peddle his latest wares.
Silicon – The New Watchmaker’s Friend
Nowadays modifications take place in modern workshops and teams of individuals arrive at their benches highly motivated and with a fully charged MP3 player in their hip pocket, ready to assemble, tweak and re-invent using the latest cutting-edge tools and technology. The latest “in-thing” is of course new watchmaking materials created in cleanroom laboratory conditions – a world away from the gas lamp-lit desk and rudimentary tools of a century ago. Silicon is the new watchmaker’s friend. It is light, strong, and its low friction co-efficiency dispenses with the need for oil, which should result in reduced servicing requirements.
Ulysse Nardin Flying Anchor Escapement – A New “Flying” Anchor
Ulysse Nardin are no strangers to innovation and they have been at the forefront of research and development since 1846, the year they were founded. This year they announced a revolutionary new escapement which does away with the pallet staff, creating a “flying” anchor escapement.
The new Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement re-writes some, but not all of the rules of escapement construction. It features a circular silicon frame in which the pallet arms are quite literally suspended by two blades which are curved under tension one perpendicular to the other. It is a complex device which is reliant on the reaction of the two blades under stress – in order to work they must bend along one axis while at the same time remaining rigid along others, just like a pivot. There are advantages to this new construction. The pallet arms, without a pallet staff are free to pivot from side to side without friction, the system gives back its stored energy as it returns to its original position, wasting almost none in the process and, no bridge is required for such an arrangement allowing for a more slender movement. These perks make the seven years of research and development invested by those involved in the project well worth the effort. The new Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement should come into operation this year.