Who are the Heritage Watch Manufactory?
written by A.Morgan - 21st Feb 2012
If inventive, yet classical watchmaking is right up your street, then the new brand known as the ‘Heritage Watch Manufactory’ will definitely whet your appetite this BaselWorld…
Many watch manufacturers look to the past for inspiration, and, looking at HWM’s offerings, you’d be forgiven for thinking they had done the same. I mean, let’s address the elephant in the room here; the name ‘Heritage Watch Manufactory’ does seem a little old-fashioned for a company set up in 2010, doesn’t it?
I am pleased to tell you, however, that despite the outwardly traditional looks, the mechanical furnishings of the HWM collection are as modern as they get. With five patents-pending under their belt, HWM are proving that there are still new solutions to century-old problems that still loiter within the traditional watch movement. For co-founders Karsten Frässdorf and Christian Gütermann, the engineering challenge presented is one too strong to resist.
The first step was getting Eric Giroud on board, the mastermind behind the visually and technically spectacular Harry Winston Opus XI and MB&F Legacy Machine No. 1. The HWM watches are a far cry from these über-watches it seems, and visually, they are, but the technical wizardry that goes on inside is just as impressive.
The five problems addressed by HWM are the decrease in power supplied by the mainspring as it becomes unwound (as opposed to the constant force provided by the weights in a grandfather clock for example), low power reserves, lack of fine hairspring adjustment, lack of fine escapement adjustment and outward influences on the balance wheel affecting accuracy. Eric’s solutions to the problems are complex and perhaps unnecessary when you consider quartz movements as an alternative, but the engineering prowess that has gone into them is so spectacular that it makes this argument null and void. Here are those five solutions, named, seemingly, with the help of J.R.R Tolkien:
As the mainspring in a traditional movement slowly unwinds, the power it provides becomes weaker until it can no longer power the movement at all. Of course, a watch whose power reserve is nearly depleted will be running slower than a watch whose power reserve is full. HWM’s SEQUAX escapement seeks to rectify that flaw by adding an extra step to the chain, removing the effect of the unwinding mainspring by using it to pre-load the escape wheel with a dose of power. Traditionally, the gradually weakening mainspring nudges the escape wheel with a diminishing force as it unwinds, which in turn prods the pallet fork and then the balance wheel with the same decreasing force, which leaves the balance wheel bouncing back and forth at an ever-slowing rate. With SEQUAX, the mainspring is just responsible for winding a spring-loaded ratchet, which releases a small dollop of power to propel the escape wheel and the rest of the balance after it. It doesn’t matter that the spring-loaded ratchet is wound slower and with less force as the mainspring unwinds, so long as it is coiled up and ready again when the escape wheel needs another push, thus feeding the balance with the same amount of power every time.
The power reserve of a watch comes from the mainspring, which is coiled up inside a wide, flat barrel. It works very simply, and only provides as much power as its length can hold. The usual solution is to have two mainsprings in two barrels for a longer power reserve, but this is pushes movement sizes and therefore case sizes up, an unfortunate side-effect. The HWM solution is to mount two springs within the same, dual-layer barrel, which also, with the springs mounted at 180 degrees from each other, evens out the balance of force applied to the components within the mainspring barrel. Simple.
The hairspring, the delicate coil of metal that controls the rhythmic bouncing of the balance wheel, is such a crucial part of a movement’s accuracy, yet it is often pinned or even glued in place, distorting its shape and upsetting its accuracy. The TENERE system allows the end of the hairspring to be clamped in place instead, which keeps the metal coil in its original shape and also allows it to be released and adjusted later on.
When you imagine the intricate workings of a watch movement, seeing the scale and speed at which the balance wheel flies about can seem uncontrolled, perhaps even erratic, and HWM agree. This is why they have also introduced the SECTATOR adjustment system that allows the stop pins that keep the pallet fork from straying too far as it rocks back and forth to be adjusted, giving more control to the wildly spinning balance wheel.
Many factors affect the rotation of the balance wheel; the decreasing power of the mainspring, knocks, the position of the watch, so HWM designed a balance wheel that can self-regulate its oscillations back to normal by changing shape. Mounting flexible strips on the outer edge of the balance wheel that extend under centripetal force means that the balance wheel can expand its diameter, and therefore inertia, depending on the speed it spins at. So if it slows down, the strips don’t extend as far out and the balance wheel needs less power to spin, but if it gets knocked or is spinning towards gravity, the arms extend out fully, and so the balance wheel needs more force and so it slows down.
You’d have never thought all this impressive horological development would have been housed inside these watches just to look at them, would you?