An essential part of watchmaking in the 21st century is Computer Aided Design (CAD). It combines elements of draughtsmanship, engineering and design to 3D model parts.
While watchmakers of old did it all on paper, and we're amazed at how they managed to full off such feats of engineering, there are certain insurmountable limitations inherent to this process that CAD allows us to overcome.
One of the main benefits is that CAD allows you to immediately detect any incorrect geometry in your drawings. The nature of a watch mechanism is that every part is closely connected with every other, which means that the design of each part is based on the previous part in the chain. If an angle is off by 1 degree somewhere in the watch, the error will compound throughout the mechanism. It's an all or nothing type deal.
However, even if all your dimensions are correct, there are other problems that could pop up that you'd have no way of detecting without CAD. With it, we're able to assemble all of the individual parts and creating a functioning 3D model. This allows you to check the tension of any springs, that the gears are meshing properly and whether any parts will collide - all before you've made the first part.
Pen and paper is still an indispensable part of the process; It's where ideas are first conceived and refined thereafter, but CAD is now an essential tool in the watchmaker's kit.
As we work towards making our first in-house rebelde mechanism, we're spending many long days carefully modelling each and every part used in our current watches and for our future pieces.
In the image above you can see just one of the components I've made over the last week.
What you're seeing is a part called a sliding pinion. The 'sliding' part of the name is owed to how it works. Depending on what position your crown is in, the sliding pinion slides back and forth to engage either the winding or setting mechanisms.
When your crown is in the winding position, it's part of the gear train that turns to wind the watch's mainspring. When it's in the setting position, it engages with the gears that turn to set your watch's hands.
It's a part you'll never see, but a critical one that's in every single mechanical and quartz watch regardless of make or model.
I feel privileged to be continuing the watchmaking tradition built up over the last few centuries, but it's an evolving art and requires the use of modern tools as with any other field of engineering. Here in our little workshop here in Sydney, we're using the exact same CAD software as Patek Philippe and many other top-notch watch brands, so we've got no excuse not to get it right.
Till next time,