At the time, all balance springs were metal, and Nivarox, owned by the Swatch Group, enjoyed an almost monopoly. Later, silicon technology was developed and applied, but it was only the patent of a few manufacturers. The hairspring is crucial from a mechanical and strategic perspective, but it has more to do with materials science than watchmaking talent.
Rolex Syloxi Silicon Hairspring
Since its invention by Christian Huygens in 1675, the history of hairsprings has evolved along with the development of watchmaking technology. This delicate spring is vital in regulating the clock and has been under intense scrutiny. Modern processing technology has made an enormous leap forward in producing hairsprings, thereby improving the accuracy of movements. Advances in metallurgy have also played an important role, with innovative alloys that have significantly improved the coefficient of thermal expansion (temperature changes have been the mortal enemy of hairsprings for many years).
Patek Philippe Caliber 324 SC movement, equipped with Gyromax balance wheel and Spiromax hairspring
First, Invar (iron-nickel), then Elinvar (iron-nickel-bromine-tungsten), and finally Nivarox (Nicht Variable Oxydfest immutable, non-oxidizing, iron-nickel-cobalt-chromium-titanium-beryllium alloy) developed in 1933 became the ultimate for a long time plan. As a Swiss company, Nivarox-Far (then part of SMH, now owned by the Swatch Group) was the only manufacturer still capable of producing this strategically tiny part after the quartz crisis (it sourced the Nivarox alloy from a West German metallurgical company ). Nivarox had the production capacity, and the supply of watchmakers was guaranteed. By the early 1980s, the former had almost a monopoly on the market, supplying hairsprings to the Swiss watchmaking industry. This was likely to continue until the resurgence of mechanical watches in the early 2000s made watchmaking brands aware of the potential threat of heavy reliance.
Ulysse Nardin Freak movement assembly
Watchmakers have realized that finding alternatives to Nivarox will gain unique advantages. However, this will require developing independent production capabilities investment in significant costs and may lead to losses. It doesn’t matter. Brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Bovet, Precision Engineering (Henri Moser & Cie.), and Atokalpa (Vaucher Manufacture/Parmigiani Fleurier) stepped forward and developed their solutions. In 2002, Nicholas G. Hayek, then CEO of the Swatch Group, announced that his ETA would stop supplying movements and components to the outside world in 2006, making the potential threat clear and tangible.
Swatch Flymagic watch equipped with new paramagnetic Nivachron hairspring.
At the same time, as engineers, especially material experts, join the watchmaking industry, hairsprings have also entered a new development period. It all starts with silicon. This material is lightweight, utterly immune to magnetic field interference, can be processed into precise shapes, has excellent isochronism and thermal compensation, and is ideal for manufacturing escapement components and balance springs. In the opinion of many industry experts, silicon has brought the watchmaking industry into the 21st century, as evidenced by many patents, and the Swatch Group was one of the first companies to embrace this new technology. In 2001, Ulysse Nardin was the first to blaze a trail through its subsidiary Sites. The Swatch Group (mainly through its Breguet brand), Patek Philippe, and Rolex have formed a strategic alliance to work hand in hand with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) to develop silicon parts production technology jointly. They will remain protected by intellectual property rights for the next three years. Protect.
The Caliber 5 movement of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph series uses a carbon fiber composite hairspring.
Silicon parts spread like wildfire among Ulysse Nardin, Patek Philippe, and Swatch Group brands, including Jacques Droz, Harry Winston, OMEGA, Blancpain, and Breguet; Rolex and Tudor. The watch is more discreet; the former already has a high-performance Parachrom hairspring. In terms of the application of silicon technology, it is worth mentioning that Frederique Constant, Baume & Mercier, and the New York brand Firehouse Horology, whose engineers have applied for a patent for a new silicon hairspring, and this hairspring was already in the initial testing stage—attracted the attention of François-Paul Journe. Cheap fake Rolex.
Firehouse Horology, balance wheel with silicon hairspring
Other brands have chosen another route. TAG Heuer unveiled its carbon fiber composite hairspring in January this year, and Zenith is fine-tuning the revolutionary monocrystalline silicon oscillator released with the Defy Lab watch. Even so, metal alloys have not entirely withdrawn from the stage of history. The new Nivachron hairspring is an excellent example. This paramagnetic hairspring is made of a titanium-based alloy jointly developed by the Swatch Group and Audemars Piguet. Tag Heuer replica watches.
Zenith DEFY Inventor watches a revolutionary monocrystalline silicon oscillator.
This hairspring battle, which aims to produce the most accurate movement and represents the research and development direction of the industry, was initiated by engineers rather than watchmakers. Watchmakers also have their areas of study, namely movement architecture, functional settings, detailing, and coordinated layout, all necessary elements to form a beautiful timepiece. The balance spring and escapement are undoubtedly vital components, but they are still “just” components. In today’s watchmaking industry, technicians are subordinate. But there is no doubt that they are playing an increasingly important role.
Engine: Rolex Calibre 2836/2813
Dial Color: Black Dial
Band Color: Silver-tone
Case Size: 40mm
Band Length: 20cm
Series: Gmt Master Ii