A Watchmaking Revolution: The Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
Following yesterday’s publication of their staggering chronometric results, let’s take a moment to understand how the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer is a profound statement of watchmaking prowess.
The quest for perfect chronometry is the fundamental purpose of mechanical watchmaking. The roots of contemporary horological science were mainly theorized and improved during the 17th and 18th centuries – a time when mastering time was a critical factor in successfully navigating the seas.
Marine chronometers were the indispensable instruments, enabling exploration and commercial vessels to arrive at the correct destination and return home safely. In the 17th and 18th centuries, empires and kingdoms fought to attract the most talented watchmakers, offering tremendous rewards and budgets for research and development. From a geopolitical perspective, during the Ages of Sail and Discovery, mastering the measurement of time was as important to a nation’s survival and economic health as nuclear weapons where in the second half of the 20th century.
At the time, achieving a high level of accuracy meant an overall advancement in technological standards. The marine chronometer developed by John Harrison in 1756 was accurate to within 0.06 seconds per day, or George Daniels with his Space Traveller’s Watch I where he achieved 0.28 seconds per day, and such accuracy is, even nowadays, still hard to beat. It was an incredible feat when you consider that the fragility of marine chronometer escapements makes them wholly unsuitable for reliable use in a wristwatch.
Lederer: A Marine Chronometer On The Wrist
With the Central Impulse Chronometer, Bernhard Lederer reincarnates the classical marine chronometer concept and reopens the book on chronometer-escapements, which had been all but closed after the invention of the easy to mass-produce Swiss anchor escapement of the 19th century.
Inspired by the movement construction of John Harrison’s 1756 marine chronometer, Lederer’s caliber 9012 includes two separate barrels that power two gear trains, then concludes the energy chain at two distinct escapement wheels. But in the Lederer construction, the two gear trains are associated with their own constant-force remontoire, operating in alternation at ten-second intervals. Energy is transmitted as stably and naturally as it can be, as each “dose” is equalized by the remontoirs and distributed by the two independent escapement wheels to the central pendulum in a well-synchronized dance. And it is in this synchronizing pendulum where the invention and the discovery of shock resistance is hidden.
It sounds like a fantasy. But in reality, we are facing a major evolution in watchmaking as Bernhard Lederer seems to have created a functional and practicable horological construction capable of ensuring regularity in the energy chain until the power reserve is depleted.
Unlike the Swiss anchor escapement that requires special complications (like a tourbillon) and talented watchmakers to make adjustments, the Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer is a fundamentally efficient construction made for chronometric prowess. It needs no artifice to compensate for energy deviances at the end of the chain because each remontoire compensates for the other in ten-second intervals.
Expectations Confirming First Chromomeric Results
When I discovered this Bernhard Lederer watch a few months ago, I was seduced by the harmony of the movement’s construction, and I first began to contemplate the potential of this “chronometric beast.” But at that time, no results were available. Only Lederer was sure that its performance would be amazing.
As the Central Impulse Chronometer has two separates gear trains and remontoires, it was impossible to measure each part of its dual heart correctly with a traditional Witschi measuring instrument. The Witschi is not designed to measure such minute variations in the beat created by the alternating remontoires. Lederer then realized that the oscillations of each escapement wheel needed to be measured, tracked, and displayed on two different tracks like a mixing table.
No worries, Lederer decided to use the T-BOS laser instrument developed at the University of Heilbronn in Germany to push the boundaries of ultra-high precision mechanics. Additionally, software was developed to finally isolate the oscillation of each escapement wheel as they work in tandem with extreme precision.
From the T-BOS results, we can see that the oscillation of the escapement wheels is constant in its variability. Effectively, the results of +/- 0 sec demonstrated by the traditional Witchi was confirmed to be a result by the software but were rendered obsolete by the T-BOS results. The laser-aided instrument showed that the construction of the movement itself naturally distributes constant energy in equal amounts. This device is able to show the microscopic volatility in this real chronometer-escapement.
According to Bernhard Lederer, the construction is made for daily wear and even robust enough to use while playing sports. Again, Lederer surprised us when it was announced that actually he is preparing some watches to be given to the destructive test and that he is not afraid of the results.
Available for CHF 128,000, the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer is not a watch but a historic achievement of wristwatch chronometry that could forever change watchmaking. And one thing’s for sure, it will radically change the change the landscape of historically important watches.