Horological Breakthroughs

by Jack Freedman

NOTICE OF DISCLAIMER: Please note that any and all information submitted here may not be accurate and could be unconfirmed.

In this issue, No. 3, we will focus on an avalanche of horological breakthroughs which puts Swiss watchmaking in a renaissance period with new shining talented stars on the horizon. We will examine technical innovations offered by some venerable watch houses as well as those from budding horological geniuses who are slowly but surely making a mark and name for themselves. The following remarkable ten timepieces incorporate fresh technical and design ideas newly introduced in 1997.


Piaget is well known around the world for its exquisite jeweled watches. But, alas, they are also one of ten watch companies which make their own in-house movements. So, it should not come as any surprise that they have developed two new movements, the ultra-thin 430P and 500P, after an investment of 3.5 million Swiss Francs and three years of research. The 430P is an 18-jewel, hand wound, movement measuring 2.1 mm in height while the 500P is a 26-jewel, automatic movement, measuring 3.4 mm in height. The innovative design of these movements incorporate features which enhance and provide optimal transmission of energy to the balance wheel. A special version, uniquely engraved with a pattern of Cartier initials was manufactured for Cartier, its sister company, on the occasion of its 150th anniversary. (scan)


This watch is a world first. All of the fixed elements, such as the bridges and plates, are made of transparent sapphire. The bridges are arranged in a staircase fashion while the winding mechanism is invisible. Inside lies an ultra-precise tourbillon oscillating at 21,600 vibrations per hour with a power reserve of 5 days. Another ingenious and unusual technological feature involves the reversal of the gears for the hands, thus making the bridges and tourbillon visible from the dial side. (scan)


Equipped with a Piguet 1185 chronograph movement, with an 18kt gold rotor, inside a platinum or 18kt gold case, this watch is useful for medical applications. (scan)


A very special addition to the Royal Oak family of timepieces. The Royal Oak Grande Complication movement is made up of 700 parts while the case alone is made of 70 individual parts. It indicates the hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, week, month, leap year, lunar calendar. It will strike on demand the hours, quarter-hours and minutes. With the split second feature of the chronograph, it can read intervals of 1/5 second while totaling the minutes. It can also time different events which have the same starting point but different ending times. Made in steel, the watch is water-resistant to 20 meters. (scan)


Eberhard & Co’s hand wound 8-day innovation involves the use of a special winding device formed by two combined and overlapping springs contained in two different sized barrels. The larger one contains the longer spring and is positioned over the smaller one which contains the second spring. When the watch is wound, the upper spring coils around itself and drags along the second spring which is then also wound. The watch has a power reserve display indicating how many days of autonomy remain. The diameter of the watch is 39.5 mm, has a screwed caseback and is water-resistant to 30 meters. (scan)


Borrowing an idea from clocks found in the 1920’s, Bulgari developed an ingenious but simple way to manually wind a watch by means of twisting the upper bezel. He needed to find a device affording a low friction factor and special gaskets which would allow the watch to function when exposed to various conditions, such as water, dust, sand. The bezel turns both ways but it only winds the watch when rotated anti-clockwise. Two rotations of the bezel are necessary to fully wind up the watch. And, unlike most timepieces which have a stop on the winding system, the Bezel Manual Winder can be rewound indefinitely with damaging the movement. How? It uses a slip-spring barrel as found on many automatic movements. The bezel is also used to change the time. With the crown pulled out, rotation of the bezel allows adjustment of the hour and minute hands. The date is set using a button on the case at 4 o”clock. The watch has a power reserve indicator which reserve is about
37 hours. Made in steel with a sapphire crystal, it is water-resistant to 30 meters. (scan)


Forget (pronounced four-zjay), known for their innovative watches, introduced the world’s smallest automatic movement, Caliber 10, 13.75 mm in diameter. Despite its small diameter, this caliber permits remarkable adjustment tolerances thanks to its large diameter balance wheel. The winding system allows for a power reserve of 36 hours. The Flying Star watch shows off its movement in a watertight case through a pair of sapphire crystals assembled using a clamping method which requires perfect planimetry. The watch case and bracelet are 18kt gold. (scan)


The Tamaris watch is an artistic example of what Daniel Aubert creates in his work shops in Le Brassus, Switzerland. Aubert fashions superb SKELETONIZED mechanical timepieces with laced sculptures from gold and other alloyed metals which are delicately pierced , sawed, filed and polished. (scan)


Roger Cornet is an old timer, at age 87, but merely a four year old watchmaker. Mr. Cornet was a pioneer in the field of radiology; helped develop rocket guidance systems and black boxes and worked for major French industrial corporations. On the eve of his *retirement*, Cornet became interested in watchmaking and, since1993, developed a series of luxury clocks based on the concept of *vertical alignment* which has become the trademark of his brand. This involves a technique for assembling the balance wheel, the pallet and escape wheel in such a manner that they are visible on the dial. With the help of his son Bernard, Roger Cornet decided to miniaturize his vertically aligned movement in order to adapt it to the wristwatch. The new VERSAILLES watch has a newly designed calibre which appears fairly simple and is visible through the transparent sappphire crystal from the back and with the elegant dial side showing the essential parts of the movement. (scan)


One of the most creative and innovative high-grade timepieces ever will first be introduced in the U.S. perhaps before year’s end. Designed and crafted after three years of painstaking research and development, these unique watches are a masterpiece delight to hold and wear and will meet the individual tastes of connoisseurs, watch lovers and those who appreciate finely made precision products. Stay tuned…!

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Your comments are welcome and can be sent direct to me via e-mail: jfsuperior@aol.com

Jack Freedman

(created November 15, 1997)