The Paradox of Watchmaking

As our smartphones get Leica cameras, better optics, faster processors and biometric security sensors, you’d think they’d be getting more expensive. But they aren’t, actually they’re getting cheaper. In 1960, a younger computing engineer from the University of Pennsylvania launched us to the idea of “scaling”. Douglas Engelbart hypothesised that as digital circuits were made smaller, the parts would not only turn out to be quicker and need less energy but they’d turn out to be cheaper as well.

Gordon Moore, founder of the Intel Company would show Engelbart proper and Moore’s Legislation, his namesake economic theory additionally confirmed that technology would double in effectivity while dropping in value as manufacturing methodology improved and from computers to automobiles, it has held true apart from one industry — watches. Therein lies the paradox of watchmaking: shouldn’t watches be getting cheaper as watchmaking technology improves?

When Abraham-Louis Breguet started us on the path of Breguet overcoils, Breguet numerals, tourbillons and functional decoration within the 1800s, watches have been about as hand-made as they could get. There were no machines. You only had instruments and also you used them. Material sciences have been so primitive, all method of ornament had to be utilized to ensure your watches weren’t rusting out a year later; components were so crudely lower and drilled that you just completed screw sink holes and edges to ensure things match proper and ran accurately and effectively with as little energy loss as possible.

When Jean-Richard arrived on the scene and improved efficiency of manufacturing, the strategies had been still tediously by hand, only higher organised with armies of half-time watchmakers working cooperatively. The Industrial Revolution was when things really changed. The Railroad watch from Hamilton is literally an emblem for the age, invented in the time of railway networks, the steam engine necessitated precision on an unprecedented scale; as soon as, it was pointless to keep uniform time because it was rare to cross timezones in a single day on foot or by horseback. With trains, altering timezones between cities and cities made the industrial enterprise of the transportation enterprise a customer support nightmare — with missed trains, late connections, enterprise necessity encouraged the Railroad watch and the growth spurt of purposeful chronometry.

There’s going to be little argument that at 770,000 watches produced yearly (extrapolated from indie enterprise reports) or close to 1,000,000 (in response to numbers of Rolex watches submitted for COSC grading), that Rolex is solely one of the greatest and arguably the perfect producers of serially made, moderately to expensive mechanical watches available on the market today. While the Rolex manufacture in Bienne is highly automated and développement d’outillage horloger producing numbers of watches which far outstrip many different Swiss watchmakers, Rolex continues to be priced at values above what Joe Street can afford and that’s for one simple reason — Rolex tends to stay at the forefront of technology.

For starters, Rolex watches are more complicated to machine (as Jeff Parke will attest to) merely because their grade of 904L metal just makes it more complicated to cut and shape than regular 316L steel. Parke, the Rolex engraving specialist we not too long ago covered uses special carbide tools to cut into 904L, extrapolate that to the hundreds of 1000’s of watches and you’d be wondering why Rolex watches aren’t more expensive.

While you examine the scale of what Rolex does and the way Rolex does it, their watches start looking competitively priced in comparison. Rolex watches aren’t just chronometers because COSC says so, they’re Superlative Chronometers because they’re tested a second time to a precision of -2/+2 seconds a day, beating COSC requirements of -four/+6 seconds per day. We haven’t even begun to talk about materials R&D, movement R&D, in-house manufacturing and smelting and then hand assembly.

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