BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Me­chan­i­cal and quartz move­ments are typ­i­cally re­garded as po­lar op­po­sites. A num­ber of hy­brid ma­chines show that the two can be odd – and ef­fec­tive – bed­fel­lows.

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - Off The Cuff - TEXT AARON DE SILVA

If there is one thing horo­log­i­cal purists dis­dain more than smart­watches, it’s the quartz watch, that bat­tery-op­er­ated and eas­ily mass-pro­duced time-teller that al­most de­stroyed the Swiss me­chan­i­cal in­dus­try in the 1970s. So you can imagine our sur­prise when Pi­aget shows us its SIHH 2016 high­light ahead of time – and the new watch is reg­u­lated by, of all things, a quartz mech­a­nism.

Housed in Pi­aget’s dis­tinc­tive cush­ion­shaped case, the Em­per­ador Coussin XL 700P, by and large, fea­tures all the hall­marks of haute hor­logerie: All bev­elled bridges and satin-brushed wheels, the in­verted move­ment bears a mi­cro-ro­tor (at nine o’clock on the dial) that pow­ers a main­spring, which in turn drives a reg­u­lar me­chan­i­cal go­ing-train. But in­stead of a bal­ance assem­bly and es­cape­ment at the end, there is a tiny gen­er­a­tor wheel (vis­i­ble at one o’clock) reg­u­lated by a quartz mech­a­nism. Elec­tri­cal cur­rents gen­er­ated by mag­nets mounted on a disc in the last gear of the train are used to charge the quartz mech­a­nism, which com­prises a quartz crys­tal and an in­te­grated cir­cuit.

The charge causes the crys­tal to vi­brate at a fre­quency of 32,768Hz – the stan­dard fre­quency of quartz move­ments. To close the feed­back loop, the mech­a­nism reg­u­lates the amount of elec­tri­cal charge be­ing fed back to the mag­nets, which in turn reg­u­lates the speed at which the gen­er­a­tor wheel ro­tates, and hence the speed at which the hours and minutes hands ad­vance. In short, the sys­tem per­forms every­thing a bal­ance assem­bly and es­cape­ment does – only more ef­fi­ciently and with greater pre­ci­sion, since no lu­bri­cants are needed in the regulating sys­tem (as in the case of non-sil­i­con-based me­chan­i­cal move­ments), nor is there a risk of bat­ter­ies go­ing flat (as in the case of quartz watches). Ac­cord­ing to Eric Klein, Pi­aget’s di­rec­tor of Move­ment Strat­egy, the 700P has a pre­ci­sion of - 1/+1 sec­ond a day. This eas­ily sur­passes the COSC stan­dard for chronome­ters: a de­vi­a­tion of -4/+6 sec­onds a day.

It seems fi tting that Pi­aget would come up with such a high-per­for­mance hy­brid cal­i­bre, given its strengths in both the me­chan­i­cal and quartz realms. The com­pany was one of 20 in­volved in the cre­ation of Beta-21, one of the fi rst Swiss quartz move­ments to be in­tro­duced in 1969. A few years later, it cre­ated the Cal­i­bre 7P, its first in-house quartz move­ment and the thinnest (3.1mm) in the world then.

“The main ob­jec­tive of this project was to im­prove the ac­cu­racy of the me­chan­i­cal watch,” says Franck Touzeau, Pi­aget’s watch mar­ket­ing and cre­ation di­rec­tor, adding: “This is the best of two worlds, and is a com­bi­na­tion of all our know-how.”

Could the 700P fi nally lay to rest the highly con­tentious me­chan­i­cal ver­sus quartz de­bate? Ad­vo­cates in the me­chan­i­cal

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