The future of silicon watch parts
Silicon. The words reminds of all kind of products, which aren't related to beautiful watches at all. However more and more brands are discovering the advantages of silicon. It doesn't wear out as much as most metals, it doesn't require oil to reduce friction and to keep everything running smooth and it cannot be influenced by magnetic fields. These three things are probably the biggest problems in any mechanical movement.
For me, the mere fact that silicon is now being used, isn't a shock at all. I know that purists prefer a mechanical movement made from the known materials (steel, gold, german silver, etc). However different materials have been used throughout the centuries and (Swiss) watchmakers have experimented with all sort of things (materials, constructions) to improve the very mechanics of timepieces. The down sides of the used materials (deformation, magnetics, friction and wear) has been topic of many attempts to improve clocks, marine chronometers, pocket watches and later wrist watches. That explains why I'm not shocked by the use of silicon.
However, there's another development that I'm very interested in. And that's called three-dimensional printing… Let me explain: I'm very curious how long it will take before 3D printers will be able to 'print' silicon watch parts and I'm even more curious in the consequences of this. If this becomes reality, every one can print watch parts. Maybe it will become possible to print a new escapement or balance or whatever part that will be made from silicon. Will the Swiss watch industry loose it's firm grip on the entire chain (production, sales, after sales service)? I'll be very interested in how this will develop…