pierre gygax
High Frequency

Pierre Gygax: Childhood Memories

Childhood memories of Pierre Gygax, COO of Ulysse Nardin today, but equally ‘childhood’ memories of high frequencies, since every day of his life, Pierre Gygax aspired to acquire the watchmaking know-how of his father, René Gygax, an important watchmaker at Zenith, during the mythical era of the competitions of the Neuchâtel Observatory.

By Constantin Stikas
Photographer and journalist

First published on veryimportantwatches.com

Constantin Stikas: The President of Zenith, Jean-Frédéric Dufour, told me in his interview that you had informed him that your father, who was watchmaker at Zenith at the time, had spoken to you of research that they were conducting into moving from 3Hz to 4Hz. Could you give us more information on this?

Pierre Gygax: I effectively talked with Jean-Frédéric Dufour about my childhood memories of the time when my father René Gygax was the Head of the ‘Accuracy Adjustment’ [Réglage de precision in French] Department at Zenith, and he had taken part with great success in the competitions of the Neuchâtel Observatory with (..and against) his friends/ opponents at Longines (Vaucher) and Oméga (Ory).

At that period (late ‘50s, early ‘60s), the advantage of increasing the frequency of the balance spring was taught at the « Technicum » (currently Engineering Faculty). Therefore, we cannot say that ‘someone invented’ high frequencies.

From the moment it was possible, numerous brands launched themselves into pilot, then industrial production of movements at 4Hz (28,800VpH) and 5Hz (36,000VpH). I recall very vividly that, during my adolescence, my father had offered me a Zenith watch that he had equipped with a prototype, which he had modified from 3Hz to 4Hz.

The increase in the frequency of the oscillator is seriously deteriorated due to the harmful consequences on the functioning of the escapement (inertia, angle traversed between 2 ticks and tacks). We can therefore state that all watchmakers had realised the advantages of a higher frequency, and it was FAR (currently Nivarox) that was the only technological R&D organisation in the field of the escapement and of the oscillator, and thus permitted the realisation of calibres at high frequencies thanks to the utilisation of the ‘Clinergic 21’ escapement.

The classical Swiss anchor escapement made use of a wheel comprising 15 teeth for movements at 2.5Hz and 3Hz (18,000 and 21,600VpH, respectively). By passing to 21 teeth, this innovative escapement allowed brands (Bühren, Zenith, Girard Perregaux,.. from what I can recall, there may have been others too) to produce watches at 4 or 5Hz. At the time, FAR and Nivarox were not affiliated to any brands and worked in the field of R&D for the benefit of all their clients.

If we must designate a ‘leader’, we must therefore assign this title to FAR (Simon-Vermot, subsequently Dubois).

Grégory Bruttin: The Unique Heartbeat of the Quatuor

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
Grégory Bruttin, Master Watchmaker for Roger Dubuis, presents for us the Excalibur Quatuor, the first watch in the world to house four balances ...

Jean-Christophe Babin: Molto Veloce

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
In January 2013, two weeks before his announcement as CEO of Bvlgari, Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of TAG Heuer at the time, explain in a rare interview how...

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele: Passion and Respect for High Speed

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
The Vice-President of Chopard, well-known for his passion for vintage racing cars, is also renowned for his wisdom. He stands for what we call the...

Jean-Claude Biver: High-Speed Champion

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
Jean-Claude Biver is a… supersonic man!... He is always there: with his retailers, with his clients, with forum members, with the press, with his...

Demetrio Cabiddu: The Art of Mastering Speed

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
Montblanc is one of the two main protagonists of very high frequencies, with its sublime Montblanc TimeWriter II Chronograph Bi-frequency 1000. The...

Willy Schweizer: When Innovation Rhymes with Discretion

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
Willy Schweizer, curator, conservator and historian in charge of the patrimony of Girard-Perregaux, reveals a passionate and important story to us,...

Constantin Stikas: conversations about high frequency

By Joel GrandjeanEditor in Chief
While his images were being printed on the glossy pages of prestigious magazines, the horology virus entered his life. He became the organiser of a reference...

Jean-Frédéric Dufour: The Unbeatable King of High Beat

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
On the subject of high frequency Jean-Frédéric Dufour, the President of Zenith, has pride of place, since the El Primero is the undisputed ‘King...