The title of the article could easily refer to a new material that James Bond is trying to locate before the world will be distroyed by an evil villian using that material. However that isn’t the case. The increased use of silicon in watches is subject of attention in this article.
Omega’s latest release is the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Skyfall, that we already told you about in June of this year, features a silicon escapement. By the way, last weekend this very watch that Daniel Craig wore during the shooting of the movie Skyfall, has just been auctioned by Christies for no less then £ 157,250 GBP!
Of course we already told you that Omega uses an escapement with an Si14 balance spring and balance. Omega isn’t the only one that sees the advantages of silicon, however they seem the only one to offer a four-year warranty: “outstanding resistance to shock and to environmental disturbances and thus, to the watch’s chronometric performance. The stability offered by the combination of the proprietary Co-Axial movements and the silicon balance spring is such that OMEGA delivers each watch equipped with them with a full four-year warranty.”
Until now I hadn’t seen any photo of the caseback of the Planet Ocean Skyfall, however recently I came across this photo showing that Omega engraved “Si14” in the rim around the sapphire crystal.
Recently our friends from Watchonista asked me and several other befriended bloggers to share their views on the use of silicon in watches. Here on Watchonista they shared their own ideas and those of the bloggers, about the use of this (for the watch industry new) material.
The use of silicon is not a development that worries me, although I’m not blind to the downsides of it. The use of new materials isn’t new at all actually. Especially the balance is one of the parts of a mechanical movement that has been made of many different material, although all metals! Just search for the word “monometallic balance” and you’ll find enough information for a good afternoon of reading. This article by Timezone’s Walt Odets probably explains perfectly why watchmakers throughout time have been searching for material that doesn’t influence the size and shape of the balance, or at least a material that prevents negative influences on size and shape as much as possible.
The folks of Omega made a video to explain everything about the use of Si14 in the new escapement.
The balance is so incredibly vulnareble, and any influence that makes the size or shape change, immediately negatively influences the watch’s chronometric rates. And that’s exactly what watchmakers want to prevent from happening!
So in their search for the perfect material (De Bethune has done some groundbreaking work, check here for more about their inventions), at some point the watch industry came across silicon. As said before, Omega isn’t the only one. Patek Philippe uses Silinvar, a material derived from silicon. From this material they created the Spiromax balance spring and the Pulsomax escapement with Silinvar lever and escape wheel.
Personally I’m very positive about the use of these new materials. This will finally enable everyone to print their own movement parts. Just buy a 3D printer, download the technical drawing for a silicon balance and press the print button to make a new silicon balance for your own watch. Of course you would need a qualified watchmaker to do the exchange of the new silicon balance for the old one.
All kidding aside, this might become the future. Where companies in the music industry are now fighting activities that heavily infringe copyrights, it might also become reality for the watch industry. However when looking at the positive side, there’s less wear and tear of the movement, less negative influences from magnetics and gravity.
This article is written by Frank Geelen, executive editor for Monochrome Watches.