Exclusive: Inside The Making Of TAG Heuer’s Carbon Composite Hairspring
Watchonista heads inside the secretive manufacture to learn more about TAG Heuer's Carbon revolution. Including a special look at the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph.
True to its name - meaning Technics of Avant-Garde - TAG Heuer introduced earlier this year a revolutionary new technology, a full carbon hairspring which the brand is calling, Isograph. Initially, this hairspring will be placed inside a Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon, but the brand isn’t stopping there! Learn more.
Among the many factors disrupting a timekeeper’s precision lies gravity, shocks/vibration, temperature variation, and magnetism. The latter becomes more and more critical as we are always surrounded by magnetic fields. Whether it be cell phones, computers, appliances, and a litany of other pieces of technology. In 2019, TAG Heuer presents their answer for optimized precision which pushes the boundaries and sets new ground for future innovations and improvements to accuracy. A patented world premiere technology invented and produced in-house. A real revolution at the atomic level.
Carbon Composite Hairspring Technology
The hairspring is critical to ensuring precision timekeeping. It is the heart of mechanical watchmaking. TAG Heuer's team of mathematicians, physicists, and chemists have reinvented the hairspring. This new technology (Isograph) promises to improve the overall performance of watches dramatically. It's materialized from a gas, atom by atom. It replaces all the preceding metal-based alloys or silicon versions. Most importantly, it merges electronic innovation and watchmaking traditions to achieve new levels of precision.
Cyrill Cattin, Head of Advanced Materials at TAG Heuer, explained this complex balance: “For a timepiece to be precise despite the disruption, for example, to be certifiable Chronometer (e.g., ISO 3159 by COSC), the physical properties of the balance wheel have to meet demanding material and design constraints. Physical properties for the hairspring, namely its thermal expansion coefficient and its temperature dependence of elasticity, have to be compensated, and space and mass constraints imposed by the movement have to be met."
"In the case of the CARRERA CALIBRE HEUER 02T TOURBILLON NANOGRAPH, the carbon composite hairspring is combined with an aluminum-based balance wheel with twelve inserts of tungsten and white gold, four of which allow for fine-tuning. For carbon composite hairspring based oscillatory regulators, matching between the balance wheel and the hairspring is enabled by tuning the physical properties of both the balance wheel and the hairspring."
The total freedom of the geometric design of the part – which provides a unique customization opportunity – combined with the physical performance of the new material creates a new standard for watchmaking isochrony. The Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is the first timepiece to be regulated by this new carbon-composite hairspring and its COSC certified!
Multiple key benefits
The advantages of the technology are numerous, as Jason Lund, Head of Nanotechnologies, explained to Watchonista, “First of all, the carbon composite hairspring is completely anti-magnetic which eliminates any disturbances from magnetic fields. It resolves one of the most serious sources of inaccuracy in today's world. Second, the material's low density and lightweight alleviate gravity and shocks. It has been tested up to 5G and remained intact where metal hairsprings bent, and silicon ones broke.
"Third, the unlimited freedom in geometry design of the carbon composite hairspring provides perfect concentric oscillations, thus improving isochrony. Finally, a careful association of the hairspring with an aluminum alloy balance wheel allow an optimal temperature and aeroelasticity resistance, contributing further to the timepiece’s precision.”
For the watchmaker as well
The innovation not only has implications for performances as we have seen, but it also simplifies operations and processes. Antoine Leveque, the young watchmaker analyst on this particular technology, stresses the ease it provides for the watchmaker. “We can gain up to 45 minutes in the assembly process. Usually, the collet that links the metallic hairspring to the balance wheel needs an extremely complicated operation which can generate inaccuracies. Here it is already attached to the carbon-composite hairspring. For me, it's a dream. It makes my life so much easier.”
Once again, TAG Heuer sets the benchmark
TAG Heuer has a long tradition of innovation and Guy Sémon, CEO TAG Heuer Institute emphasized: “We are not presenting a prototype. The industrialization phase is key. It proves the innovation works and can be rolled out in great numbers. This Carbon Composite Hairspring technology, fully developed in-house by TAG Heuer, shows our industrial independence. We own the exclusivity, and we are the first to present a commercial application to the world. And you can be sure that the Tourbillon Nanograph is just the beginning.”
This fully integrated technology, produced entirely in La Chaux-de-Fonds, undeniably provides a true competitive advantage to the Avant-garde brand.
From what we have seen and been told, the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is just the tip of a massive iceberg that this latest innovation represents. Stay tuned for a special behind the scenes video and keep your eyes on Watchonista as there are a lot more surprises coming from TAG Heuer. Some of which we will absolutely discover at Baselworld.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Pierre Vogel)