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“The watchmaker’s skills alone are no longer...
Point of View

“The watchmaker’s skills alone are no longer enough”

Wednesday, 27 October 2010
By Quentin Simonet
Quentin Simonet

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2 min read

Guy Sémon, VP Sciences & Engineering, TAG Heuer

Why are engineers increasingly in demand in your sector?

Guy Sémon, VP Sciences & Engineering, TAG Heuer: There are some fifty horological complications. In Fine Watchmaking, even if there is no satisfactory definition of this term, it’s the watchmaker’s job to propose them in different combinations. There are only so many possibilities. Extending this horizon means looking to other ideas, a different way of thinking. Furthermore, in an industrial context dominated by the need for reliability and precision on a large scale, the watchmaker’s skills alone are no longer enough. We need development and standardisation methods. That these two worlds should meet is, however, interesting.

Are engineers more innovative?

That’s the impression I have. Take the Monaco V4 for example. We unveiled this concept watch, the first with belt drives, linear mass and ball bearings, in 2004. It came to market five years later and we have sold 150 to date. This year we’re working on sixty V4s in gold. I’m convinced this project would never have got off the ground without our R&D division, half of whose 40 staff are engineers, although it did require a multidisciplinary approach. I’d say the watchmaker has intelligence in his fingers whereas the engineer is more cerebral. And that the one needs the other.

Is this melting pot really necessary?

Without the shadow of a doubt. Multicultural societies, and history has given us countless examples, progress faster than others. To come back to watchmaking, it would be wrong to suggest there is a dichotomy between classic watches and more innovative ones, which tend to be engineers’ preserve. There is a future for both.

Do you also call on outside expertise?

Yes, of course. We don’t have every single resource under our one roof, hence the need to call on laboratories while keeping control of the project in our hands. For the Pendulum Concept watch which we unveiled at last year’s Baselworld, we launched a vast research partnership with microsystems specialists at the Laboratoire d’Actionneurs Intégrés, which is a research body from the Institut de Microtechnique at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. We conducted intensive simulation research in-house in addition to physical analyses of magnetism and thermal behaviour. All of which enabled us to precisely define the Pendulum Concept’s virtual magnetic balance spring. Remember though: the only point of innovation is to serve man. The mechanical watch provides a vast playing field for more original developments in the future.

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