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Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The development process of all in-house designed components are finalized using CAD-CAM software – using a selection of refined computer software which require years of formal learning before they can be used to their full potential. The pallet fork is no exception to this rule – it is a component that is an indispensable piece in the escapement of the mechanical movement as, in a sense, it connects the oscillating balance wheel to the going train.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

Using a CNC machine that was modified to suit the special requirements of watch movement production, the (very) rough pieces are cut from a slate of titanium. In the image above, you see two sets of four forks – the first set had to be redone, as there was a calibration issue with the machine which resulted in the microscopic center holes to be drilled ever-so-slightly off from where they should be. The tilting action of the pallet fork requires extremely accurate geometrics, so such an error is of course unaffordable – and the waste pieces cannot be fixed. The reason why four pieces are made from each is that Aaron starts working on some rough components in batches of three – with one extra piece being made as a “back-up.” Bear in mind that this batch of three pallet forks covers more than half of his annual production.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The rough component has some holes pre-cut by CNC so that their location within the piece is as accurate as possible. These holes will, however, have to hold screws, and so the holes have to be threaded, using traditional hand-tools, like the one you see above – that particular tool is used to cut a thread that is 0.40 millimeters wide, and there is a separate tool for every 0.05 millimeter variation in hole diameter.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The rough component is what you see above, sitting on a custom made holder that was made so that the piece sits tight and secured when the decoration processes begin. As with all components, the finished one will have to have beveled and hand-polished edges and decorated flat surfaces – in this instance, mirror-black polishing. The latter means that the flat surface of the pallet fork is polished to an extent where it is so flat that it, when held at the right angle, reflects light in a way that the piece appears to be pitch black, while at other times, it displays a very high and extremely even, bright polish.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

As a result of different polishing techniques, and the use of several different tools, the fully decorated piece is ready in about about 15 hours of work. The interesting thing is that I did visit Aaron’s workshop on three consecutive days at the time when he was working on this component and, even as an eye-witness, I found it difficult to comprehend the amount of time that it takes to get such a minuscule component (which will, for the most part, be hidden inside the movement) finished to perfection.

As far as decorating is concerned, that time is almost exclusively spent working under a microscope – for most of that time, once the rough component had been removed from the CNC machine, Aaron was working on this one piece by his microscope without saying a single word. I was, of course, busy as well, trying to figure out what kind of a personality does it take for someone to be able to do this 330+ days a year, all day long. While I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer, I did quickly decide that you would have to be a helpless introvert – and, more importantly, get joy and a sense of success every single time you get a little detail right.

When we look at a watch, we of course look at a finished item, and although we can imagine the effort that went into making it, the watchmaker cannot simply wait for the time to come when it is fully completed. I firmly believe that no one could make even one watch (let alone many more) if he/she did not find the joy in getting the smaller steps right.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The finished component does speak for itself, however: in the image further above, the anglage is in progress – not complete, but it already gives a good idea of the progress made – while in the second shot, you see the completely finished component with polished bevels and black mirror finished surface, set right below a rough piece.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The finished assembly looks as what you see above: the pallet fork will have extra screws, the pinion, an extra end-component, as well as pallet jewels installed – all of which are made in-house – so that they can finally begin their work as the connection between the going train’s escape wheel and the balance wheel.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

I believe that this brief insight – as we really did just scratch the surface – into the efforts that are required to create a beautifully finished final part, will give you an idea of what to expect to have happened to all the other components that you see in the picture above showing the finished movement. The bridges, cocks, wheels, gears, screws, screw-heads, pinions, have been cut and decorated in the same way as what we have shown – albeit, of course, with a greater range of different manufacturing and finishing techniques.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

What I feel whenever I enjoy the privilege of seeing the work of some of the best independent watchmakers of today is that the result of their work means a cumulation of perfectly refined details. It is a mind-boggling maze, a melting pot of perfection and while dial – and even movement – designs and their aesthetic appeal is subjective, perfection in their execution is very much objective.

Unfortunately, I am far from having met all important independents, but those I did have the pleasure of meeting were – as I could tell – born perfectionists who simply cannot endure looking at their own work and seeing a minor mistake stubbornly remaining in there somehow. What’s more, sometimes the mistake is not even visible with the bare eye, but they know it is there – when viewed under a loupe for example – and even when that is the case, they just have to get it right.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

The reason why it takes over 15 hours to make just one component is not because it was calculated to be that time consuming – but simply because the component, as it is being refined through the decoration processes, develops and the material shows its inner imperfections. It is this ongoing progress of a developing piece of metal that ends with a completely even and deep finishing. And when we look at a movement, let that be as simple and straight-forward as this time-only caliber, everywhere we look, we see processes that were carried out until their very limits have been achieved – rather than until production quotas have been reached.

Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles Movement Hands-On Series Episode 2: A Movement Conceived And Made Entirely By The Same Independent Watchmaker Featured Articles

However, for that to happen, there have to be people who have what appears to be inexhaustible dedication, matched with the gift of finding fulfillment in getting the minuscule steps right along the long way that leads to the finished item. Beyond interesting, unusual, and often bespoke designs, a major reason for the appeal and success of today’s most dedicated independent watchmakers lies in the fact that there are people out there who can appreciate this weird form of insanity and, more importantly, the products that it results in. I guess everyone who read this piece is one of those people – and as long as some of us will be able to commit to buying these products (of which I have no doubt), the independent scene in horology will continue to live on. bexei.hu

About the Author

David Bredan (abtw_david) is a young watch enthusiast based in Budapest, Hungary. He is dedicated to understanding, revealing and discussing as many aspects of fine watch making as possible. Fascinated by the countless admirable details of haute horlogerie, he strives to discover the challenges linked to the manufacturing of fine timepieces and also those related to chronometrical performance. As much as he loves unfolding the mysteries of mechanical timepieces, he also aspires to successfully capture and share the nuances that separate a fine watch and a masterpiece.

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  • Ulysses31

    One cannot fail to be deeply impressed by the level of dedication on show here.  It is things like this that really justify the high prices we are familiar with in the world of horology, not tacky celebrity endorsements or special editions.  The movement is something to behold – not showy as such, but it doesn’t need to be.  What is there, is flawless.  This modest yet perfectionist aesthetic reminds me of certain Japanese movements, and I think it is something that less savvy watch aficionados would easily miss.  I can’t even begin to imagine how long it takes to craft a dial like that.  I have a dumb question, but how are the pallet jewels attached?  Is it a friction fit or is there something more?

  • At one point I’m sure shellac flakes were the method used, although in today’s modern times and processes, something cleaner and more reliable exists.

  • Stunning, to say the least. The dial side is a bit ornate to my liking, but the level of talent and detail is incredible on a bad day.
    When I saw the title of the article, I became somewhat giddy, thinking that aBtW had somehow gotten it’s hands on an uncased George Daniels caliber, which would have made my (very cold and dreary) month.
    Regardless, this was highly enjoyable, compounded by excellent photographs.
    Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

  • iamcalledryan

    Shellac is still used by the traditional hand crafters.

  • iamcalledryan

    I am half way through reading George Daniels Watchmaking and there are fewer books that offer you the insight behind the exact level of detail and time required to be truly independent. This article is a great snapshot of this beautiful corner of the horological universe. Every component is subject to incredible amounts of polishing, using different stones and pastes for the material being polished. Screws are made from scratch, blued, and chamfered and even the bad of the slot is designed not to take contact from the screw driver to produce a scratch at the base. Tools are made from scratch, ancient turning techniques are used to polish and grave. The number of teeth and the addendum of a driver wheel is calculated mathematically and created by hand. It is a marvel, and it all takes place in the diameter of a large coin!
    These men are true artisans.

  • captaina16

    Beautiful watch and beautiful article, many kudos to both, both the watchmaker and author David have my respect. Which few have.

  • David Bredan

    captaina16 SuperStrapper Ulysses31 iamcalledryan Thank you all for your kind comments, I really appreciate it! As always, they are genuinely motivating and yes, a next installment is coming 🙂
    As for the attachment of the pallet jewels (which was in fact a very good question), I reached out to Aaron and he said that they are friction fit and secured by a small amount of shellac.

  • joblow

    Help.

     As the cursor hovers over page 2, it gives me no indication page 2 is available.
     Besides me, anyone have the same problem ?
    Yes, the cursor is working, as it changes to the “hand” when hovering over other links within the article

  • captaina16

    David Bredan captaina16 SuperStrapper Ulysses31 iamcalledryan You are welcome

  • DG Cayse

    Excellent piece Mr. Bredan. Told with care and simpatico.
    This piece demonstrates 3 essential elements of craftsmanship.
    Strength as shown in the making of a base movement without unnecessary complications.
    Beauty shown in the design and engraving contained on this piece throughout its’ creation.
    Patience shown in the beveling and polishing of each piece of the caliber.
    Coming together they all show art and truth.

    Bravo!
    (and truly great pictures also!)

  • Time2Go

    Another fascinating and beautifully written (and photographed) article, David.  Bravo!

    I can only marvel at the incredible skill of this true watchmaker.  When I see photos or videos of watchmakers in action at their desks working on impossibly tiny parts of impossibly tiny and complex machines, I have to admit that it’s not hard to imagine their legs being chained to the desk, flanked by men with whips just off-camera.  To willingly do such demanding work day in and day out really takes a unique kind of person.  Remarkable.

    Looking forward to more in this excellent series!

  • kunokephalos

    It should be noted that Mr Becsei has hands on experience or indeed mastery of an extremely wide range of highly technical skills, whereas even the greatest artisans in the big watch houses will be specialists in a relatively small number of steps of watchmaking. That alone is extraordinary in itself. Fascinating stuff and a very elegant and awesomely finished movement,

    I would very humbly advise Mr Becsei to drop the “strapline” on the movement though: “Where unique solutions are born” is simply unnecessary since, if you are buying this watch, you already know it is unique, and the sentiment is very generic. It could be the motto of a florist, an advertising agency, or an interior decorator.  For me it’s the first thing I see, and it spoils the watch a little bit.

    David, would you do an article on one of the great historic movements like the Valjoux 88?

  • David Bredan

    joblow Works fine for me, but you can see page two by adding a “2” to the end of the URL. Here it is for you, hope it works now: https://www.ablogtowatch.com/movement-hands-on-series-episode-2-a-movement-conceived-and-made-entirely-by-the-same-independent-watchmaker/2

    DG Cayse Time2Go kunokephalos Thanks all for your very kind comments, they do mean a lot and it feels fantastic seeing this kind of feedback! We will indeed steer away from independents in the next installment and it already is a real challenge to comprehend all the intricacies of that famous caliber! 🙂 Thank you all once again!

  • joblow

    David Bredan joblow

    Thank you.

  • spiceballs

    Fascinating, breathtaking – – – thank you

  • egznyc

    Great article.  Really makes a deep dive into the process of making an entirely new, original mechanical watch from soup to nuts.  It gives an intimate portrait of the nature of the work, which is certainly not for everyone (in fact, that is quite an understatement!), but many of us can nonetheless appreciate such singular dedication even if we cannot imagine carrying out the work ourselves.  And of course, the results are often just stunningly beautiful.