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Haute Horology: TAG Heuer Pendulum and Mikrotimer Update

Earlier this week I spoke with TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin about TH’s movement strategy- and in particular, what was going on with two of their most innovative movements- the Pendulum and the Mikrotimer.

The Pendulum was unveiled at Basel in March 2010, with the Mikrotimer following exactly a year later. Along with the V4 and the Mikrograph, the four movements are developed and hand-built by the haute horlogerie team at TAG Heuer.

Coming up with cool concepts is one thing, but TAG Heuer have a good record at turning these ideas into production watches, such as they did with the Monaco V4 and the Carrera Calibre 360. So, when will we see production watches using the Pendulum and Mikrotimer movements?

What’s Happening with the TAG Heuer Pendulum?

The key piece of magic in the Pendulum movement is that it does away with a hairspring, the coiled strip of high-tech alloy that provides the torque necessary for the balance wheel to oscillate and regulate its frequency. Instead, the Pendulum uses four small magnets to provide the same spring.

There has not been much news about the Pendulum over the last 18 months, but that does not mean that there hasn’t been anything happening, as Jean-Christophe explained:

“When it comes to the Pendulum, the main challenge is getting the movement to perform reliably in a variety of temperatures, so right now we are still in the phase of assessing how to do this. It’s no longer a question of watch-making expertise, so we have outside scientists working to solve the issue. At stable temperature, we have developed the concept to be extremely accurate”.

The issue that JCB is referring to is the force of the magnets- they have higher magnetic pull in cold conditions than they do in warmer temperatures…so how do you make a watch that works consistently in all types of conditions? That’s the challenge of the Pendulum.

While the Grand Carrera Pendulum wasn’t a Chronograph, there is a good chance that any future versions of the movement will include a Chronograph function, because TAG Heuer have been testing the watch at a frequency of 50 Hertz (the original concept was 6hz/ 43,200 beats/ hour), the same frequency as the Mikrograph 100 (360,000 beats per hour- ten times faster that the Calibre 36/ El Primero). These tests show that the accuracy of the watch improves at the higher frequency.

So could we see a Mikrograph Pendulum? It’s certainly possible, even if only as a concept watch.

So when will we see a production watch with the Pendulum movement? According to Jean-Christophe:

“It’s too early to commercialise it, because until we get the accuracy issue solved, we just can’t market it. At this stage I think we are heading in the right direction to fix the challenge, so we’ll continue to develop and test it, including at higher frequencies. So we’re working on ensuring accuracy in a stable environment and we have scientists at a University investigating the issue of temperature variance.”

  • Cowboy Bebop

    I'm not an expert but maybe they can use a material that expands or contracts depending on the temperature… If it's cold and beating too fast causing friction to slow it down is their best bet and if it's warm loosening it up to stabilize it… just a scientific theory I'm pondering about… lol

  • DC

    I'll leave the science to you guys….if you can crack this for them, I reckon you could get the movement named after you- the Carrera Pendulum Cowboy has a nice ring to it!

  • jay

    While I am impressed with the technology (from the we CAN do it) perspective, pragmatically a 1/1000 resolution is meaningless when the human response time to operate pushers is about 1/10 second.

    but it's a cool demo.

  • DC

    Agree Jay…then again, if we were all rational, we'd just use our cell phones and be done with watches all together!

    dc

  • Kizerman86

    Jay,

    While the human "lag" factor IS present, it is present on both the starting and stopping of the chronograph. So assuming (and I know this is a big assumption) an operator has the same "lag" on both the starting and stopping, it should be relatively accurate.

    Maybe not 1/1000 of a second accurate, but it helps a little.

  • DB10

    In the TAG London boutique today and they had the Mikrotimer in-store. It was in a box marked up as a limited edition of 11 pieces. I assumed there were 11 boutiques taking one piece each for show. Anyway, no….it's on sale for GBP 85k.

    Walked away having tried on one of the new Carrera Heritage models, thinking later..why didn't I try on the Mikrotimer…?! It wasn't busy. I'll have to go back.

  • DC

    Should definitely try it on. They had one in Australia last month. I was due to go to Sydney to take a few photos…but before I could get there, it was sold….someone got one under the tree for Christmas!

    David

  • Andre

    Just watched the mikrotimer video shown above. Nice piece of engineering by TH!! I was wondering, in the last part of the vid you see the second hand being set to 'zero'. It looks to me this causes a lot of stress in the metal of the hand. Maybe it's because of the high speed camera but doesn't this cause (after a long time of use) metalfatique?

  • DC

    Agree Andre. I tried to ask TAG Heuer's CEO what the Chronograph hand was made of- all he would tell me was that it was "an advanced material"…so I don't think its standard steel for the very reason of metalfatique.

    David