STAINLESS and Utinam Besançon 3D print a metal watch

STAINLESS, an international supplier of specialist metals, and Utinam Besançon, a French clockmaker, have 3D printed a metal watch.

The wristwatch was designed by Utinam’s Grand Prix winning clockmaker, Philippe Lebru and 3D printed by the company’s apprentices at the Créativ Lab of Union des industries des metiers de la metallurgie de franche comte (UIMM).

Commissioned by STAINLESS to mark its 90th anniversary, the UIMM has claimed that the watch is the first functional 3D printed watch.

As regular readers will be aware, there are other examples of fully functional 3D printed watches in the industry. One example is the Italian luxury watch Panerai PAM 578, with a 47mm diameter 3D printed titanium case.  

Elsewhere, Michiel Holthinrichs, a Dutch watchmaker, designed the ‘Ornament 1‘ watch inspired by 1950s models. The Ornament 1 contains metal 3D printed parts, including the case, crown, and buckle. These watches are customized and made to order. Holthinrichs is currently working with Renishaw to and hopes to use advanced additive manufacturing in future projects.

Adding some clarity to the claim of the first functional 3D printed watch, Jean-Baptiste Sepulcher, a marketing intern at STAINLESS said, “There is already a mechanical watch made by the same process [3D printing] but it is the imitation of a classic model. Ours is a creation dedicated to 3D printing.”

STAINLESS displayed the watch at this year’s international microtechnology expo, Micronora (25-28th September).

STAINLESS president, Joëlle Verdier with Philippe Lebru at Micronora. Photo via L'Est Républicain
STAINLESS president, Joëlle Verdier with Philippe Lebru at Micronora. Photo via L’Est Républicain

Moving with the times

Besançon, a city located in the Franche Comte region of Eastern France had been a  center of clock-making since the 18th century. The town is also known for its art and history, the city houses a museum which has preserved in time Besançon’s clock making expertise.

Besançon is now a hub for microtechnology and watchmaking.

With the exception of the timing mechanism, a Japanese Miyota Caliber 82S5, the 3D printed metal watch is completely made from material available within the Franche-Comte region.

La Pratique, who have 100 years of experience, was contacted to manufacture the hands for the 3D printed watch. While the watchstrap is made of hand-stitched leather provided by a leather store in Besançon, Le Comptoir des Selliers.

Using a Renishaw AM250 additive manufacturing system and SAE 316L stainless steel powder, apprentices at Utinam’s training center 3D printed the watch case.

The Utinam Besançon 3D metal printed watch. Photo via Traces Ecrites
The Utinam Besançon 3D metal printed watch. Photo via Traces Ecrites

Customized 3D printed wearable goods

One of the reasons 3D printing is employed in the fashion industry is to deliver customized and unique products. However, with a few notable exceptions, the current crop of wearable goods made with AM processes are found towards the luxury end of the market, or produced in relatively low volumes.

For example, the Futurecraft4D shoes made by adidas using Carbon 3D printing systems have so far been in short supply. Limited editions made for higher end segments within the adidas range, for example, the Y-3 brand, have even reached price tags of $20,000 on the secondary market.

In the fashion industry, Balenciaga’s Autumn/Winter 2018 collection includes clothes which tailored to fit according to 3D scanned bodies of the models. 

Utinam Besançon says the watch will be produced as a limited run of 300 and available to buy from the start of December at €949.

UPDATE: Eagle-eyed readers have contacted us with further examples of 3D printed watches. These include a titanium watch by the Vortic Watch Company made in conjunction with Imperial Machine & Tool Co.

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Featured image shows the Utinam Besançon 3D metal printed watch. Image via Traces Ecrites