Have you ever wondered who invented the egg box? The answer is the Canadian, Joseph Coyle. Annoyed with frequent disputes between local hoteliers and egg farmers over broken eggs, Coyle set himself up with the task of improving the way eggs are protected during transportation. Little did he know that his solution would be so simple, and yet so powerful, that 110 years later his original egg box remains virtually unchanged. He solved a centuries’ old problem that many have called 'a gift to humanity'.
The other day Tyler talked about the balance wheel 'balancing' tool. Briefly, he mentioned the shock absorbing device called incabloc. For those of you who are new to horology, incabloc is nothing else but 'a simple egg box' for the most delicate of watch components; the watch heart.
It too is a gift to humanity because it has brilliantly solved another centuries’ old problem in watchmaking: shock-related damage to the balance staff…And, like Coyle’s solution, for almost 80 years there were virtually no changes in its design.
The incabloc was invented in 1934 by Swiss engineers, Braunschweig and Marti, at Universal Escapements; a firm located in Chaux de Fonds.
The other day I stopped by the impressive Incabloc Booth at a major Watch Fair.
'How's Incabloc’s business? Are there any new developments or improvements?" I asked.
'No, sorry, not much since the 1960s', responded the polite sales representative, with a smile.
'Excellent, keep up the good work', I said…moving to the next stand.
Of course, Incabloc SA doesn't rest on its laurels. While the shock protector’s design still remains unchanged, the company heavily invests in new tooling, machinery and equipment. Additionally, they are expanding into the manufacturing of other watch components, predominately bushings, jewel bearings and balance wheel regulators. Judging by the impressive - almost monumental - size of Incabloc's Booth, even a newcomer to the watch industry can tell how important they are to the Swiss watch industry.
For those of you who prefer cold, hard facts: Incabloc sold 350,000 units in its second year and by 1950 its total sales reached 10 million. In the 1970s, at the peak of Swiss watchmaking, Incabloc supplied 160,000 units per day!
Unfortunately in the 1980s battery-operated watches pushed mechanical watches to the very edge of extinction. Many Swiss specialists and manufacturers either dispersed or were absorbed by larger players. Incabloc struggled too…but in early 2000 Swiss watchmaking went through yet another renaissance which opened the way for Incabloc to re-establish itself, once again, as a crucial part of the high-end supply chain.
While there were numerous other makers of shock-proofing devices (like KIF, ETA's Etachoc, Seiko's Diashock and Citizen's Parashock) it is the Incabloc System which, in fact, has given its name to the entire protection industry…and rightly so.
No, there is no such thing as an unbreakable watch, but if you think you can invent a better egg box or a better shock-proof system than the one we currently have, then humanity is patiently waiting for you!