GAZ­ING

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - A Worth Paus -

What pre­vented watch­mak­ers from us­ing it to make cases were pro­hib­i­tive high costs, the diffi culty in ma­chin­ing it, and the im­mense amount of fi nish­ing needed. Its un­yield­ing na­ture means it re­quires ex­pen­sive di­a­mond-tipped milling ma­chines to cut and sculpt, but then its brit­tle­ness makes it prone to shat­ter­ing while be­ing worked on.

Then there is the ques­tion of ge­om­e­try. A flat or domed crys­tal is easy, but a case – even a sim­ple round one – is infi nitely more com­pli­cated to sculpt. Ac­cord­ing to Richard Mille, its RM 056 re­quired 1,000 hours of ma­chin­ing, in­clud­ing 430 hours of fil­ing and 350 hours of pol­ish­ing to turn the nat­u­rally opaque sur­face trans­par­ent. That trans­lates to 125 days of work.

Fi­nally, there is the is­sue of, well, trans­parency. With a fully trans­par­ent case, every­thing is on show, so the move­ment needs to be well con­structed and fi nished.

But the watchmaking in­dus­try loves noth­ing more than a chal­lenge, be­cause sur­mount­ing that chal­lenge gives brag­ging rights. So de­spite all these ob­sta­cles, more and more com­pa­nies are jump­ing on the sap­phire band­wagon. We bring you a clear look at the lat­est pieces.

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