Haute Horology: TAG Heuer Pendulum and Mikrotimer Update

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   2 October 2011   |   12 Comments  

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.”

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