The End Of An Era: How Zenith Changed The Watchmaking World

The End Of An Era: How Zenith Changed The Watchmaking World
The End Of An Era: How Zenith Changed The Watchmaking World

Video: The End Of An Era: How Zenith Changed The Watchmaking World

Video: Le Monde Etoilé de Zenith 2022, November
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The modern watch industry lives according to the laws, open, grounded and tested in practice at the end of the 17th - the middle of the 18th century. The main of these laws, describing the work of the "balance - spiral" system based on the theory of pendulum vibrations, was formulated by the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens in 1675. Since then, this system has undergone a number of improvements, but in general it has remained unchanged and today it works in almost all mechanical wrist watches.

Throughout the history of the watch, bright minds have tried to come up with alternative oscillatory systems, but the scientific and technical level did not allow until recently to put into practice an accurate, reliable and economically viable design. Recently, however, some manufacturers have begun to offer their vision of the future of watch mechanics, actively using silicon technology for this. At the moment, none of the proposed concepts have found widespread use, but the feeling that something out of the ordinary is about to happen in the industry has been in the air for the past few years. The feeling did not disappoint: in mid-September, one of the oldest Swiss watch manufactories Zenithannounced the serial launch of the Defy Lab, featuring a movement with a fundamentally different and much more efficient oscillating escapement system.

Photo: Zenith Press Service
Photo: Zenith Press Service

© Zenith Press Service

A revolutionary solution from the Zenith R&D teamconsists in combining the key components of the trigger assembly - anchor, balance and balance spiral - into one whole. The monolithic structure 0.5 mm thick resembles a blank for a DIY children's set - a strange looking bird that must be cut out of a cast blank and adapted for some decorative and artistic purposes. In fact, this is a complex silicon part, mathematically calculated in all parameters and manufactured with absolute precision using the technology of deep reactive ion etching (DRIE). It interacts with the impulse wheel through two pallets and vibrates on three thinnest (20 micron thick) hairs with an amplitude of only 6 degrees (for comparison: the balance wheel in the escapement oscillates with an amplitude of about 300 degrees). The frequency with which these vibrations occuris a record 15 Hz, or 108 thousand vibrations per hour - three times more than the famous high-speed chronograph movementZenith El Primero. By the way, the mentioned "birdie" is the most non-functional part of the oscillator, by means of which it is simply attached to the mechanism plate …

The listed characteristics, of course, are impressive, but what do they give in practice to the owner of the watch? Well, first of all, it is, of course, reliability and durability, since one part is always better than several, and given that it is also made of silicon, then, therefore, it is not subject to temperature and magnetic changes, does not need lubrication and adjustment and will serve much longer than the whimsical balance-spiral pair. The accuracy of this escapement is about 0.3 seconds per day (versus –4 + 6 seconds for COSC chronometers), while it is practically independent of the degree of tension of the mainspring and remains stable until no more than 5% of the stock remains in the barrel course. Which, by the way, is 60 hours, which is 10 hours more than the same El Primero.

Photo: Zenith Press Service
Photo: Zenith Press Service

1 of 3 © Zenith Press Service © Zenith Press Service © Zenith Press Service

But - not by a single descent. Defy Lab's shape matches the content: the 44mm case is crafted from patented Aeronith material with impressive consumer qualities. The initial raw material for its production is aluminum, which is first brought to a liquid state, and then, using an original technique, is converted into foam. After that, the polymer, the name of which is kept secret, is pumped into it, and the resulting composite is cooled in the mold. Aeronith is ideal for modern sports watch cases: it is durable, lightweight (2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than aluminum and 10% lighter than carbon), hypoallergenic and, importantly, easily machined. If this material passes the test in real time (and there is no doubt about it),then it has a chance to become widespread in watchmaking.

The Defy Lab presentation took place on September 14 at the Zenith manufactory in Le Locle. Among the invitees are the first ten happy owners of the novelty, who, in addition to the watches themselves, also received invitations to the November Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève awards ceremony, where Defy Lab has every chance of winning.>

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