Watch­maker bets on new way of keep­ing time

Cape Times - - BUSINESS REPORT - Silke Koltrowitz

HIGH-END watch­maker Zenith is re­plac­ing a part that has kept time in me­chan­i­cal watches for al­most 350 years, hop­ing its new, ap­par­ently more ac­cu­rate mech­a­nism will help to re­vive its for­tunes.

The Swiss brand, re­cently the lag­gard in the watches sta­ble of lux­ury goods group LVMH, which also in­cludes Bul­gari, TAG Heuer and Hublot, un­veiled its Defy Lab watch yes­ter­day with a new kind of os­cil­la­tor.

It was de­vel­oped in the group’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tre and re­places the tra­di­tional bal­ance spring.

Un­like quartz watches, me­chan­i­cal ones do not need a bat­tery, be­cause they de­rive en­ergy from a main­spring that is ei­ther wound by hand or, in an au­to­matic watch, by the nat­u­ral move­ment of the wearer’s wrist. This en­ergy is trans­mit­ted to the os­cil­lat­ing bal­ance spring, which di­vides time into equal parts.

The new Zenith watch no longer uses a bal­ance spring, a mech­a­nism in­vented in 1675, but re­places its ap­prox­i­mately 30 parts with a sin­gle sil­i­con os­cil­la­tor that, Zenith says, beats at a higher fre­quency and is more ac­cu­rate than stan­dard parts.

PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

An em­ployee makes ad­just­ments to a Deny “El Primero” wrist­watch at Zenith, a 152-year-old brand whose time­pieces sell for an av­er­age 7 500 francs (R102 000).

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