3D Printing

Designing in 3D: The Future of Horology

There is something special about buying a new mechanical watch and no matter what time it is in your life; we are sure at one point you have gained an emotional attachment to a special piece of wrist wear.

For years’ wrist watches have been made and developed by craftsmen of the trade but like most industries, technology now taking over.

What does this mean for the future of watch making?
Will this enhance watch design or will centuries of techniques be beaten by machines?
What is Horology in 2016?
If you take a keen interest watch innovation, then you will know that over the past two years’ smart watches haven stolen the limelight in the watch making industry. The new designs of smart watches are continuing and I to appear and electronic giants like Apple, Samsung and Sony are all investing in the world of horology. It also appears that these organisations have taken smart phone design and created a hybrid of time keeping/fitness tracking/music playing.
It can be argued that smart watches are a phase and that the mechanical watch industry will prevail against technology but will something else come along and take its place?

3D Watch Design

In prediction of the next big watch trend, it is time to put the spotlight on Christoph Laimer’s 3D printed tourbillon. Christoph Laimer, a Swiss engineer has created a timepiece which is almost entirely 3D printed.
Christoph has fused design and engineering, to bring the tourbillon into the 21st century. The tourbillion design is over 200 years and was designed by one of the greatest watch makers in history. The main technique behind a tourbillon, is that the balance wheel rotates to all positions. This means that it balances the effect gravity might have on it and stops it from being stuck in one position.
Until now the tourbillions design has hardly strayed and years of watch making has been based on this design. which for most of its history has been practically synonymous with hand-craftsmanship and high end watchmaking, has been produced in a working watch with a 3D printer.

How Does The 3D Watch Work?

This watch works like any other, you can wind it yourself, set the time, and carry it, as it is a pocket watch design. For a first attempt this watch design is not the most accurate, and it will only run for about 30 minutes, however it was created manufactured using an affordable consumer level 3D printer (an Ultimaker 2).
For years the watch industry has ran on its innovation and technique and for it to be copied by a 3D printer, it may be sounding alarm bells for the bigger brands. In an interview with Hodinkee, Christoph Laimer explained his background was not in watch design:
“I’m not a watchmaker. I studied electrical engineering, with 18 years’ professional experience in computer science, managing a small team, and developing software for the life science industry”
This is something traditional watch makers would be amazed by, years of craftsmanship dating back for 500 years have been lost and taken over by a machine. Watch Repairs brand, Repairs by Post are amazed by the design: “This has to be one of the most complex time pieces ever invented and will definitely change the way certain brands design their wrist watches.”

The Laimer Tourbillon

Named as the The Laimer Tourbillon, after the inventor himself, this innovative design’s key function is to indicate the time, it is as simple as that.
Previously mentioned all most every part of this watch has been 3d-printed (except a few screws and pins). Laimer has said that:
“The concept also includes a 3d-printed Mainspring even though it is irrational (plastic is not elastic – it slowly flows and deforms). In order to make it 3d-printable, a lot of engineering effort was invested. The complete movement was essentially re-invented.”
Laimer is very proud of the final result and was surprised by the movement of the watch itself. He has also appreciated that this style of watch cannot compete with conventional watches due to its runtime and accuracy.
Lamir has also published the entire 3d-model is on Thingiverse, where you can view other attempts of 3D watch design. Christoph has high hopes for the future of watch design and believes that “future watches will be highly customizable – not only engraving or ornaments on the case, but the whole watch including the movement”.

The future of 3D printing is on the rise and many claim it is the next big thing in manufacturing. It is exciting to see where the industry is going but it also begs the question, will it be successful in an industry as complex as watch making? The care and craftsmanship that goes into watches is, part of their charm – we guess only time will tell.