Translated from the original French text
When it founded the Patek Philippe Advanced Research division in the early 2000s, the Geneva manufacture (established 1839) decided to challenge time itself by proving that tradition could be reconciled with innovation. It was more or less a foregone conclusion, since the reputation of this prestigious Maison relies partly on its ability to come up with technological advances and breakthroughs that cater to the men and women of its time.
In the past 178 years, the division has filed over 100 patents, including twenty or so of great significance for watchmaking. The two technological advances contained in the Aquanaut Travel Time 5650G, the latest brainchild to come out of the Advanced Research division, aim at even greater precision. The first is chronometric in nature, the second is more directly functional.
Patek Philippe Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G
The constant quest for chronometric precision
This watch belongs to a line that is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year and is well worthy of the spotlight for its part in the cause of watchmaking science. Available in 18 K white gold and water-resistant to 120 meters 'Patek Philippe Advanced Research' reference 5650 houses within its mechanical calibre with automatic winding reference 324 SC FUS a new Spiromax® balance spring made of Silinvar®. The latter is composed of oxidized silicon to guarantee absolute thermal stability, and has been geometrically optimised by the addition of a final course, thereby improving the isochronism of the balance spring in vertical positions.
Thanks to this breakthrough, the piece is accurate to within -1 to +2 seconds deviation per day. In concrete terms, the newSpiromax® made of Silinvar® has two 'bulges': the first (at the outer end of the spring) improves the isochronism of the spring in all positions, while ensuring sufficiently concentric expansion and contraction to compensate for isochronism defects caused by the escapement and the swing of the balance, regardless of amplitude. The bulge at the inner end of the spring, however, is designed to modify the displacement of the centre of gravity to ensure constant operation, wherever possible, in all vertical positions of the watch. Crafted using the DRIE manufacturing process, the spring is endowed with perfect architecture and matches to the nearest micron the geometry of the bulge at the outer end and thus helps guarantee the controlled displacement of the centre of gravity during the spring's expansion and contraction, and therefore unparalleled rate regularity.
Flexible guiding system
The whole purpose of this exercise was for engineers and watchmakers to replace the conventional leaf springs and pivots with flexible mechanisms crafted from a single piece. This system has been tried and tested in areas where operating accuracy is of the essence (aeronautics, satellite, military industries). In order to check whether this approach had any worthwhile meaning in watchmaking, a profession more familiar with screws, springs and rods, the engineers in the 'Patek Philippe Advanced Research' division decided to transform the mechanism used for adjusting the second time zone on the Aquanaut Travel Time with calibre 324 S C FUS into an innovative flexible guiding system.
The new mechanism, visible through a hole cleverly cut into the dial, comprises two flexible systems in a cross arrangement (one for the tooth actuating device and one for the arm) operated by pushers. These ultra-fine blade springs are crafted in classic watchmaking steel with the aid of state-of-the-art NC machines capable of working to minute tolerances. Not only complex to make, but also to design, this type of linear mechanism has the advantage of operating without lubrication and within any danger of breaking, since any deformations are controlled and without shocks to the system.
Needless to say, this first foray into the ultra-fine machining of contemporary and traditional materials opens up many possibilities for the future, given all the watchmaking applications this type of energy transmission will allow, if only for complications. The future will decide…