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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Watch Releases from Girard-Perregaux, Hublot, Tag Heuer, Seiko at Baselworld 2013

Girard-Perregaux Constant (Force) Escapement

These watchmakers have unveiled what they claim are new innovations in the Swiss watch industry. I can’t tell you how many times a watch brand has made a claim of creating something completely new or whether that function or design detail has any real value.

However, this elite group of brands can certainly back their claims and I believe they have succeed in doing that with products that are listed below.

Girard-Perregaux Constant (Force) Escapement (top photo)
It’s not often that one experiences a horological breakthrough but this may have been in the case at the Girard-Perregaux booth during Baselworld 2013. It is about as a complicated as a complication can be but in short the Swiss luxury watch brand has created a way to provide constant energy to the balance (regulator) wheel. The brand describes the solution to this problem as the “holy grail” of watchmaking.

What this means that there is no revving up or slowly down the rate of speed of a watch, which is typical in the operation of a mechanical watch. For example, when first winding a watch the movement sometimes works at a faster than normal rate of speed. As the watch loses power its speed diminishes until it slowly stops or is manually wound again. The solution created by Girard-Perregaux keeps the watch at constant and consistent regulated speed throughout this cycle.

This breakthrough (if indeed it is a breakthrough and time will tell) uses a 14 micron silicon buckled-blade, six times thinner than a human hair, which acts as a way to provide a repeated pulse to two escape wheels at a rate that is constant and consistent. This in turn provides the same consistent force of energy to the balance wheel. It beats at the frequency of 3 Hz or 21,600 vibrations per hour.

It is a bit more complicated than my explanation. There are detailed stories of how this process works at Hodinkee and Revolution that include Girard-Perregaux videos.

The operation of the escapement and its butterfly-shaped wing frame is clearly visible on the lower half of the dial. The hours and minutes occupy a sub-dial off-centered at 12 o’clock. This is flanked by two energy reservoirs in the shape of double barrels. The power reserve indicator is placed at 9 o’clock.

Tag Heuer Carrera MikroPendulumS
The Swiss luxury watch brand explains this as the first ever magnetic double tourbillion. Two magnetic pendulums replace hairsprings: one is for telling time and the other for timekeeping. The watch chain turns at 12Hz and its chronograph chain turns at 50Hz (60-minute power reserve). The chronograph tourbillon, the world’s fastest, says the watch brand, controls the 1/100th of a second, beats 360,000 an hour and rotates 12 times a minute.

The case is forged from a chrome and cobalt alloy used in aviation and surgery. It is biocompatible, harder than titanium, easier to shape and as luminous as white gold. The case design, with its stopwatch-like placement of the crown at 12 o’clock, is based on the 2012 Aiguille d’Or winner, the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder, and the Carrera 50 Year Anniversary Jack Heuer edition. The two tourbillon pendulums and their solid rose gold bridges (18K 5N) are visible through the fine-brushed anthracite dial. The hand applied “100” at 12 o’clock is in solid rose gold. The chronograph minutes counter is at 12 o’clock, chronograph seconds at 3, and the chronograph power reserve at 9. The 1/100th of a second scale appears on the silver flange.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Chrono
This is the first in a new line of products designed to house all future incarnations of the Unico movement. The iconic design of the Big Bang has evolved to contain the Unico, an in-house made column wheel chronograph movement with a dual horizontal coupling visible on the dial side. This marks the start of a new line of Hublot products designed to complete the Big Bang, Classic Fusion, King Power and Masterpieces ranges, the company said.

For the very first time since the creation of the Big Bang in 2005, the push-buttons are round. Each one is protected by a push-button guard integrated in the middle and finished like an engine piston. A skeleton dial reveals the movement. A minute counter is positioned at 3 o'clock and a small seconds counter at 9 o'clock. The date view is at 3 o'clock.

The HUB 1242 Unico manufacture movement is a flyback chronograph that can be reset at any time with two push-buttons. The hour counter is driven directly by the barrel, and there is no jumper in the chronograph mechanism. This simplification boosts reliability and robustness. Its silicon pallet fork and escapement wheel are fixed to a removable platform and are made from silicon. The movement has been trimmed to 330 components. It has a frequency of 4hz/28,800 vibrations per hour with a power reserve of about 72 hours.

Seiko Kinetic Direct Drive
Seiko made the world’s first kinetic watch 25 years ago that used the motion of the wearer to create the electrical energy to power a quartz movement. Using the mechanical energy of a traditional oscillating weight, the Kinetic rotor spins at up to 100,000 rpm, creating the electrical energy that drives the quartz movement without having to change the battery.

For the Kinetic Direct Drive caliber, not only does the rotor power the watch as one moves, but the wearer can also power it by turning the crown, just like a mechanical watch. In addition, when winding the crown, the power reserve changes function to become a real-time indicator of the energy that is imparted to the watch through the winding. 

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