The Paradox of Watchmaking

As our smartphones get Leica cameras, better optics, sooner processors and biometric security sensors, you’d think they’d be getting more expensive. But they aren’t, in actual fact they’re getting cheaper. In 1960, a young computing engineer from the University of Pennsylvania launched us to the concept of “scaling”. Douglas Engelbart hypothesised that as digital circuits were made smaller, the elements wouldn’t only change into quicker and want less power but they might become cheaper as well.

Gordon Moore, founding father of the Intel Corporation would prove Engelbart proper and Moore’s Regulation, his namesake economic theory additionally confirmed that technology would double in efficiency while dropping in price as production methodology improved and from computers to vehicles, it has held true apart from one business — watches. Therein lies the paradox of watchmaking: shouldn’t watches be getting cheaper as watchmaking technology improves?

When Abraham-Louis Breguet started us on the path of Breguet overcoils, Breguet numerals, tourbillons and practical decoration within the 1800s, watches have been about as hand-made as they might get. There were no machines. You only had tools and you used them. Materials sciences had been so primitive, all manner of ornament had to be utilized to ensure your watches weren’t rusting out a 12 months later; parts had been so crudely minimize and drilled that you completed screw sink holes and edges to verify things fit proper and ran correctly and efficiently with as little energy loss as possible.

When Jean-Richard arrived on the scene and improved efficiency of manufacturing, the methods had been still tediously by hand, only better organised with armies of half-time watchmakers working cooperatively. The Industrial Revolution was when things really changed. The Railroad watch from Hamilton is literally an emblem for the age, invented in the time of railway networks, the steam engine necessitated precision on an unprecedented scale; once, it was pointless to maintain uniform time because it was rare to cross timezones in a single day on foot or by horseback. With trains, changing timezones between towns and cities made the industrial enterprise of the transportation business a customer support nightmare — with missed trains, late connections, enterprise necessity encouraged the Railroad watch and the expansion spurt of purposeful chronometry.

There’s going to be little argument that at 770,000 watches produced yearly (extrapolated from indie business reports) or close to 1,000,000 (based on numbers of Rolex watches submitted for COSC grading), that Rolex is just one of the biggest and mécanique de précision arguably the best producers of serially made, moderately to expensive mechanical watches available on the market today. While the Rolex manufacture in Bienne is highly automated and producing numbers of watches which far outstrip many other Swiss watchmakers, Rolex continues to be priced at values above what Joe Street can afford and that’s for one easy reason — Rolex tends to remain at the forefront of technology.

For starters, Rolex watches are more complicated to machine (as Jeff Parke will attest to) simply because their grade of 904L metal just makes it more difficult to chop and form than regular 316L steel. Parke, the Rolex engraving specialist we lately covered makes use of special carbide tools to chop into 904L, extrapolate that to the hundreds of hundreds of watches and you’d be wondering why Rolex watches aren’t more expensive.

Once you evaluate the dimensions of what Rolex does and how Rolex does it, their watches start trying competitively priced in comparison. Rolex watches aren’t just chronometers because COSC says so, they’re Superlative Chronometers because they’re tested a second time to a precision of -2/+2 seconds a day, beating COSC requirements of -four/+6 seconds per day. We haven’t even begun to speak about material R&D, movement R&D, in-house manufacturing and smelting and then hand assembly.