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10-11-2011, 05:52 PM #1
How are mechanical watch parts machined?
I am a watch enthusiast, especially high-end mechanical watches (like Audemars, Patek, etc.).
These are very complex mechanisms comprised of hundreds of tiny little parts. I am wondering how these tiny little parts are made? I have seen some old school jewelers parts - mini lathes and such, but I don't think there is any way that a company like Rolex or Patek Philippe is using hand-made parts on production watches. They need to be repeatable with interchangeable parts.
So how are they made? And fixtured? What sort of tooling is used?
For those unfamiliar with the level of detail and precision - I'm talking stuff like this:
...that entire mechanism could be just 1" across and must be so precise as to be accurate to within a few seconds a day.
It's fascinating to me. Anyone know about this stuff?
10-11-2011, 06:27 PM #2
Ida Know about the machining processes, but the accuracy is derived from the escapement, the parts in the vicinity of the brass wheel with the little studs stuck in the rim. The rest of it is "just" a gear train, optimized for low friction -- hence the jeweled pivots. Since the loading of the gears is relatively constant and in the same direction, lash is relatively moot.
Certainly a microsocope is used, and gear teeth can be cut the regular way, but I don't know how those skeleton wheels are made, with what look to be nice clean cutouts. The brass ones maybe not so bad, but the steel one with the peculiar shaped teeth, that one is amazing.
10-11-2011, 06:33 PM #3
10-11-2011, 06:34 PM #4
For the most part they're made the regular way and they've been doing it for a long time. Lot of pantograph work. Since you're in Boston take a trip up the Charles River to the Waltham Museum and check out all the watch making equipment. It's very interesting, well worth the time.
02-13-2012, 02:13 PM #5
We have two Affolter gear machines from Switzerland, their main customers in Switzerland are watch companies. Try checking their web site .
02-13-2012, 02:22 PM #6
02-13-2012, 03:00 PM #7
look up powdered metal aka sintered parts. A very cheep way to mass produce very accurate small parts.
02-13-2012, 05:21 PM #8
Watchmaking by George Daniels is supposedly the book to get. I've been waiting for the reprint for several years now, though the price of used copies has come down a bit. No idea if it will be reprinted or not.
02-13-2012, 05:43 PM #9
I got the reprint of the Watchmaking / Daniels book from Amazon - it is available. As much as I enjoyed it, I don't think it will tell you much about production oriented watchmaking.