When digital watches were introduced they were arguably considered an investment, but ironically, the mechanical watches have stood the test of time with little change.
Hand assembled to perfection, timepieces are guaranteed to last and are often engineered to requirements, usually exceeding expectations of the most demanding client.
So what does enable so many component parts (usually only microns apart), work closely together, in perfect synchronicity?
Manufacturing luxury precision watches
This is down to the processes, technology and techniques used within the manufacture of timepieces. There is one thing that the production of these watches is not, and that is automated.
Instead, every piece is precision machined with waste monitored to the grain, with most of these fine pieces machined from precious metals. It goes to say minimising waste means machining components accurately to perfection.
A crucial part of the manufacturing process is the quality procedure, employed as a final mark of perfection before release. Accurate measurement and inspection is the key to such stringent quality procedures.
Measuring precision engineered watch components
Measuring is a fundamental aspect at this stage and a non-contact method is essential for this application because of the very small and intricate component parts.
Leading prestigious watchmakers benefit from the accuracy, repeatability and reproducibility of the Hawk measuring microscope from Vision Engineering.
The Hawk is a non-contact measurement system using purely optics so the engineer does not have to deconstruct an artificial image of the part. This is particularly important when measuring the watch main plate where pivot holes determine the distance apart if smooth running wheels and pinions.
As we know, the vital importance of watch making is the ability to have a series of wheels and pinions working together imparting lower and lower torque toward the escapement.
Not only are the diameters of the wheels and pinions important, the positioning of the pivot holes that gears run in are equally as significant for the watch to work accurately without losing time.
Watch components like these are machined individually and measured down to microns using non-contact methods, so before the assembly of the watch components are undertaken, the engineer knows that the parts will fit exactly. A contact method of measuring would not be appropriate for such small component parts.
Inspecting precision machined watch components
As the component parts for these precision watches are both fragile and microscopic in size, they are usually hand assembled using magnification to aid the engineer.
The ergonomics of Vision Engineering’s Mantis and Lynx stereo microscopes mean this can be done without causing eye strain and/or fatigue.
Long working distances and both a good depth of field and field of view, means inspection and assembly of these components parts can be done easily and more efficiently.
Mantis Elite-Cam benefits from a camera which enables engineers to inspect for imperfections such as scratches, but also enables them to capture pictures for quality control such as reporting and file sharing to compare against the gold standard.
Benefits of optical, digital and dual measuring systems
The best way to measure small precision parts is to use non-contact optical measurement. This ensures no deformation occurs during the measurement sequence, and measurement can be easily undertaken, even on the features where the edges are hard to define.
Optical measuring systems are also used to measure the positioning of the numbers on the watch face as well as the dimensional measurement of the components.
Additionally, counterfeiting of these high value watches is exceptionally high and so positioning of the logo is also measured to micron accuracies.
Other features measured for dimensional measurement includes the hands on the watch of the face, and even the stones such as the ruby used within the mechanism of the watch needs to be positioned exactly in the correct position.
If the stones are misplaced within microns, then the watch may be out of synchronisation by seconds, which may accumulate to minutes over months of use.
Video measurement systems are also used in the dimensional measurement of high precision watch parts. Using video to measure components rather than optics is usually a personal preference of the engineer checking for quality.
Both video and optical measuring systems are sold by Vision Engineering, and some have the ability to measure in both formats such as the Swift-Duo (2-axis) and the Hawk-Duo (3-axis).