When it comes to legendary watch brands, tradition is a major element of their success. In fact, some would consider it the fundamental element. At TAG Heuer, this tradition can be seen in its chronograph watches. Intricacies and meticulous design come together to form this popular timekeeping device. Today, along with the use of quality materials, the development process for the chronograph requires the skills of computer professionals using technological advancements as well as expert watchmakers trained in old-school assembling techniques.
The company’s operations span different locales. The watch design process begins in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is where the watch movement’s initial design originated, and ends in Chevenez, at the company’s production facility. This site specializes in the company’s chronograph watch movements.
The Development Process
Edouard Heuer visualized the construction of the oscillating pinion in 1887 using just a pad and a pen to design it. Today, the company’s technical staff creates these designs on a computer that is able to generate a mockup of the plans to ensure that every piece works as it should before the physical construction begins. After the company’s technical designer develops the chronograph’s parts on a computer, the blueprints are sent to the movement assembly’s workshop. At the site, watchmakers meticulously assemble the timepiece’s parts.
About the Chronograph
The main purpose behind the Swiss watchmaker’s chronograph is its ability to start and stop. When you start the mechanism, you are causing the chronograph’s components to connect to its running train. Conversely, when you stop it, you are disconnecting these same components. This type of timepiece requires owner interaction. As you let go of the chronograph’s button, you’ll feel the mechanism release and hear it click as the sweeping hand begins measuring time. When the hand nears the 60-second mark, the minute counter ticks to a marker. By pressing the chronograph’s button a second time, you’ll stop the count. If you push the reset button, the hands will click back into place, making them instantly ready for the next round.
Key Parts of the Chronograph’s Components
TAG Heuer’s 01 watch movement is in its initial production phase, but the company has assigned a few of its watchmakers to begin the assembly process. The column wheel and the oscillating pinion are two of the movement’s major components. In the movement, the column wheel is red, and a miniscule screw holds it in place. The column wheel has two levels. One runs the start-stop command while the other provides the chronograph’s remaining functions. For the movement’s stop-start feature to operate, it needs a part called a pusher and a tiny spring. These parts are extremely small. In fact, they are so small that the company’s watchmakers are unable to assemble this section of the timepiece with their hands. Instead, they must use specially designed tools that are able to grasp and hold the small pieces.
To trigger the start-stop feature, the pusher activates the column wheel, which turns below the device’s columns. The pusher itself works against the bottom section of the column wheel, and this action makes the top portion turn. The oscillating pinion is another important component in the movement. This part is finely crafted, with teeth along the bottom and top. During the movement’s development process, the watchmaker connects the oscillating pinion’s bottom teeth to the running movement. With this step completed, the top teeth can shift back and forth to engage or disengage from the chronograph’s seconds wheel.
To change the chronograph’s position, the movement uses a part that is called a bas quell in the French language. This piece unites the column wheel to the oscillating pinion. One end of the bas quell features a finger that’s controlled by the column wheel while the other end has a second finger that connects to the oscillating pinion. When the chronograph starts, the bas quell moves against the oscillating pinion. This action changes its position making it turn clockwise. To hold the parts in place, watchmakers add the main chronograph bridge. Once this piece has been added, it blocks the view of the assembled watch’s components.
Tradition Dominates the Industry
Watchmaking is an intricate and highly technical process. Despite the advances in technology and the addition of computers, tradition continues to reign. This reveals itself in TAG Heuer’s precise timepiece assemblage.
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