For more than 500 years, watchmakers have persisted in the quest for the perfect watch. But as long as watchmaking’s age-old enemies continue to exist, the dream of a perfect watch will remain exactly that: A dream. Wiping these adversaries off the face of the planet isn’t a walk in the park either – can you actually eradicate friction, gravity, magnetism and heat? An average mechanical movement is a labyrinth of wheels, pinions, screws, rubies, springs and the like, all of which interact with one another, and are typically made in steel or brass.
Friction wears out the components, thereby reducing efficiency. Gravity is notorious for weighing down the spiral. Magnetism creates chaos in the movement by magnetising the metallic components, particularly the spiral which loses its concentricity. Finally, heat causes expansion and contraction of micro-components, rendering them unprecise, and for a micro-engineering craft like watchmaking, a deviation of as little as one micron (one thousandth of a millimetre) per component is enough to set the entire movement askew.
But none of that has stopped any watch manufacture from trying. Take Cartier. In 2009, it unveiled a watch called the ID One concept watch. Needing no regulation and with a virtually eternal working life, this timepiece demonstrates Cartier’s R&D philosophy: When you can no longer improve or replace a material, get rid of it! And because there was an ID One, watch enthusiasts knew that an ID Two would soon be in the offing, and they were right.
“Cartier’s ID Two created a vacuum environment in a Calibre case made of an interesting material called Ceramyst that is completely transparent.”
With the ID Two concept watch, Cartier proposes 30 per cent more energy storage in the mainspring and two times less energy consumed for what is presently the longest power reserve on the market. More importantly, the mainsprings in the two barrels are made of fibreglass and not steel.
According to Cartier, as much as 75 per cent of the energy supplied by the spring is wasted as a result of friction and air resistance. Traditionally, oil has been the sole solution to the problem of friction in the movement and throughout history, watchmakers constantly sought to improve the quality of oils used. But the natural characteristic of oils is that they will dry out, necessitating re-oiling. Oils are also prone to clogging, which jams the movement. So Cartier simply did the impossible and removed the need for oils completely while simultaneously increasing movement efficiency. It did this by removing all the air in the case.
The vacuum case, crafted in Ceramyst transparent ceramic, shields the oscillator from air resistance as it pulsates. To reinforce airtightness, the airtight gaskets are doped with nanoparticles.
The ID Two inherits its escapement from the ID One. Furthering the use of ultra high-precision DRIE (Deep Reaction Ion Etching), the oscillator and escapement are rendered in heatproof and amagnetic carbon crystal and the titanium pivot axes are coated with black ADLC (amorphous diamond-like carbon), as are the movement bridges.
Finally, in addition to the ADLC coating on all of the movement’s components, the ID Two features a unique differential gearing for the gear train as opposed to the traditional linear model. This differential gear train operates on ultra-light components and needs absolutely no lubrication while minimising friction and offers an optimised reduction ratio.
One of the images that the ID Two brings to mind is the old Gatorade TVC with various sportsmen and women underwater and struggling against the drag force of the water. But once freed of that – with the help of Gatorade presumably – they could finally maximise their full physical potential. Cartier’s ID Two concept watch is well ahead of the competition in this respect, eradicating age-old watchmaking problems with what must be the most innovative solutions ever.