Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Peak of Watchmaker Screw Manufacturing

***The Peak of Watchmaker Screw Manufacturing

The shiny tiny bit on the tip of my finger is a very special horological component. It is a screw. But what makes it special is the fact that it is one of the smallest screws in a watch mechanism. It comes from an Omega Flight Master manufactured in the 1970s and here is the curiosity: the screws you find in watches made today are not any better, shinier, more precise or even smaller. Watchmakers have been making such small screws for at least 200 years. And despite all the advances made in manufacturing technology, we reached the peak of screw making many decades ago.

Many visitors to our premises wonder why that big machine is sitting on the floor in the middle of the office. The answer: it’s awaiting its transfer to our newly built workshop. And what it does? Well the optical comparator allows us to see and measure the exact dimensions of even the smallest components like the above mentioned screw. And in laymen’s terms this screw is just over half a millimetre thick (or precisely, 600 microns), with the thread pitch of just 0.2mm. This 'piece of knowledge' is the very starting point in designing our own screws. Before we can draw and construct we must master the skill of taking precision measurements. And the beauty of our big machine is it can measure dimensions 10 times more precisely than we can even read.

The above screw as seen under the comparator. 

The CAD drawing of the same screw.

What an exciting journey!

Note from Laura, Nick's assistant: when I first saw the screw I didn’t even believe that it was a screw. It was explained to me that the purpose of it is to hold a tension spring attached to a barrel which also holds a small gear in a chrono-hour counter train. And here is the photo of the actual assembly showing two of those tiny screws doing their job. 

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