Following the presentation of the Frederique Constant Monolithic Oscillator in March of this year, we chat with the model’s Technical Director, Pim Koeslag on the idea’s progress. The modern growth depends on the ideas of compliant mechanism, together with the versatile properties of silicon, each pretty new to watchmaking however with the potential to revolutionize the trade as we all know it. As we’re a few months on from the preliminary launch, time to search out out the place Frederique Fixed is for the time being and dig into extra particulars of this wonderful feat of engineering.
Simply to convey you on top of things once more, what Frederique Fixed pulled off, in shut collaboration with Flexous (an modern Dutch tech firm) is nothing in need of a revolution. Changing the standard mechanical oscillator in watches, the Swiss lever escapement, means doubtlessly shaking up all the trade. The standard escapement has been the go-to normal regulating organ for the previous 300 years.
The Monolithic Oscillator is made from an ultra-thin layer of silicon, solely zero,3mm thick, and it’s constructed as one structural element, changing 26 or so parts of a Frederique fixed normal assortment. The oscillator’s pivot slightly than oscillates, and solely to six levels as a substitute of the same old 300 levels. Throughout growth, the velocity of the Monolithic Oscillator was pushed to an enormous 40Hz, or 288,000vph, with a second hand sweeping completely clean throughout the dial (80 strikes per second).
To grasp extra about this expertise, we sat down with Pim Koeslag (sadly nonetheless by the magic of Zoom). As a classically skilled Grasp Watchmaker, it took a while to get used to the expertise developed with Flexous. All of the extra motive to meet up with Pim Koeslag on the present stage of growth of the Monolithic Oscillator.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Pim, good to speak to you once more even whether it is through a display screen. How are you doing, and the way do you mirror on the previous couple of months after the introduction of the Monolithic Oscillator?
Pim Koeslag, Technical Director and Grasp Watchmaker for Frederique Fixed – Thanks Frank, and really completely satisfied to see you once more too. I’ve been slightly busy as you possibly can think about. The launch of our new Monolithic Oscillator, and the Slimline Monolithic Manufacture it is available in, has created a storm of response. Actually, we didn’t anticipate it to be so intense, but in a great way. We’re actually completely satisfied at the place we’re proper now, though there’s nonetheless a really lengthy option to go. All the staff is working arduous to maintain every part on monitor.
As a Grasp Watchmaker with a classical training in watchmaking, how troublesome was it to know this fully new and revolutionary expertise, not less than within the watchmaking trade?
Properly, it took me fairly some effort to get my head round it, sure. Though silicon just isn’t new within the trade, should you have a look at all the historical past of mechanical watchmaking it’s nonetheless thought-about very new. It has been used for about 20 years or so and nonetheless new variations are being conceived. As you possibly can see with our Monolithic Oscillator after all. It’s a totally new mind-set for us, even impacting how we work as a manufacture. The adjustments pressured us to interrupt previous habits and study new abilities. Not simply me, however just about everybody concerned within the mission.
Developments like this take up lots of time. Might you’re taking us by the phases within the course of?
I’ve been closely concerned on this mission for 3 years now and we’ve gone by a number of phases, along with Flexous after all. The prototyping section took us properly over two years in whole. The primary problem was to get the idea of the Monolithic Oscillator working. We wished it to be completely secure at a frequency of 40Hz, which isn’t simple. Flexous has performed intensive calculations on this and after what appears like 1,000 failed makes an attempt finally managed to search out the appropriate thickness and diameter for it to work the way in which we need to.
Subsequent was the problem to include it into a standard mechanical motion and have it preserve correct time. Once more very troublesome as this has by no means been performed earlier than. It took some changes within the current motion we chosen to get issues working as good because it at present is.
The third section is maybe essentially the most tough one and this took us a very long time. The third section targeted on the precision of a motion with the Monolithic Oscillator. We didn’t attempt for peak efficiency in accuracy, at a single given second, however we wished to attain good isochronism throughout all the 80 hours of energy reserve. This was a BIG problem for us and one through which Flexous proved its value. The staff of engineers working at Flexous proved to attain isochronism within the full 80 hours.
Certainly combining this revolutionary expertise with conventional mechanical watchmaking threw a couple of curveballs your manner. What are the largest challenges in integrating the 2?
There have been lots of challenges, not solely simply by creating the Monolithic Oscillator. There are adjustments to the oiling, to the torque going by the gear-train, to many particular person parts. Torque going by a motion of a standard watch is understood territory however working with 40Hz and 6 levels of amplitude in a regulating organ just isn’t. The outgoing torque from the barrel wanted to be decided, so as to calculate the thickness and flex within the Monolithic Oscillator’s beams. To deal with the frequency and torque we elevated the diameter of the centre wheel and launched a fourth wheel within the gear-train to extend the velocity and cut back the torque.
Relating to lubrication, we discovered even the thinnest oils in conventional watchmaking are too thick for us. The slower a wheel strikes, the decrease the torque, the thicker the oil may be. Extra torque means extra friction and this will present issues after all. The wheels within the geartrain after the seconds wheel journey at such a excessive velocity, it requires new forms of oil. Ultimately, this additionally helped to extend the precision of the Monolithic Oscillator and rethink our meeting course of.
Historically a watchmaker would use a loupe to grease a motion, which works completely high quality. Along with his new expertise, we want a microscope to use the correct amount of oil. An excessive amount of of the tremendous viscous oils we now use, and it will find yourself by all the motion however not the place it’s wanted.
One other instance of how we’ve modified our method in watchmaking is the necessity for a literal clear room within the meeting line. We’ve constructed virtually a laboratory-like clear room, full with an air filtration system, fairly just like an working room. The slightest speck of mud or dust could cause big issues. As soon as it’s put in right into a watch case that is not a problem, however earlier than that, we have to work as clear as doable.
Additionally value mentioning is the escapement wheel. In a traditional escapement, the anchor is fitted with pallets, made from artificial rubies, to catch and launch the tooth of the escapement wheel. A giant distinction in our escapement and escapement wheel is the contact floor just isn’t on the pallet however on the escapement wheel. If you happen to regulate the angle of the tooth on the escapement wheel relative to the pallets fitted to the flexures, you possibly can regulate the amplitude and isochronism.
We’ve had some questions following the introduction of the expertise on the power to service a Monolithic Oscillator by conventional watchmakers. Might you shed some gentle on this?
In concept, it needs to be doable. The Monolithic Oscillator is designed to be adjusted and serviced with solely little further coaching. The best way it really works is a watchmaker clicks the adjustable weights in place after which is ready to regulate it by altering the place of the weights. These elements have a small hook that clicks into the silicon oscillator, one thing that took lots of time to optimize. We’re using the versatile nature of the fabric itself.
Three issues are essential right here. Firstly, a watchmaker wants to have the ability to click on it into place. Secondly, it needs to be simply adjustable to manage the escapement and at last, it mustn’t break when dropped. Silicon has the tendency to interrupt at sudden affect however Flexous Staff has calculated the appropriate thickness so as to survive a 1m drop. We’ve extensively examined this and it really works high quality as intensive drop assessments confirmed Flexous’ calculations. It took lots of trials and errors although. We actually made a silicon wafer with hooks to search out the right energy and thickness so as to not break and never be too thick and heavy.
On reflection, how do you mirror on working so intently with Flexous on this mission?
It has been an interesting journey and to an extent, it surpasses every part we ever knew in mechanical watchmaking. It forces us to rethink our meeting course of as an illustration, not solely “simply” develop this new expertise.
Engaged on this mission from very early on, along with Peter Stas (former CEO & Co-Founding father of Frederique Fixed) and Nima Tolou (CEO Flexous) I’m nonetheless amazed at what we’re doing. Peter and Nima had the imaginative and prescient this might be the following groundbreaking step in mechanical watchmaking, and as I mirror on it now I can attest it very a lot is. We’re doing issues which have by no means been performed, and understand this goes manner past what we initially envisioned it to be. We’re studying increasingly more concerning the capabilities of this expertise as we transfer ahead.
To work along with Flexous on this, and mix the engineers’ know-how with our watchmaking capabilities has been extraordinarily rewarding, it actually permits us to do nice issues!
One factor I feel is on the thoughts of lots of our readers is the way you’ve managed to maintain this revolutionary expertise comparatively reasonably priced?
The main focus was to make use of as many current elements as doable. We’ve got a large portfolio of watches and actions and we are able to use that to construct a brand new motion round this new expertise. That’s additionally why we used an current barrel as a place to begin for the gear practice. Work with what you already know and begin creating from that recognized reference, that was the final concept.
It retains issues priced to ranges individuals anticipate from us, and now that we’re in a position to scale up in numbers, beginning with the 2 restricted editions of about 1,700 items (810 in stainless-steel and blue dial, 810 in stainless-steel and silver dial, 81 in 18Ok rose gold and silver dial) we really feel this suits inside our current technique completely.
That is actually fascinating stuff and we applaud you on your perseverance. What does the long run maintain for Frederique Fixed and the Monolithic Oscillator?
Like I mentioned earlier than, we’re nonetheless discovering new benefits to this expertise. At this stage, it is senseless to develop expertise and have it introduced simply as an idea. We’re on the following step in what the expertise can do for us and we’re satisfied it’s the subsequent chapter in watchmaking. It simply takes a really very long time as it’s such a fragile course of.
At present, we’re specializing in the meeting and supply of the primary batches of the Slimline Monolithic Oscillator. In addition to that, we’re engaged on growing precision of the motion. We’re gearing up for some very attention-grabbing new issues, which we are able to hopefully share with you all later this 12 months. I can’t share an excessive amount of element for now, however it’ll be particular!
For extra particulars, please go to frederiqueconstant.com.