Last Updated on June 22, 2019 by Calibre 11
When it came to the looks of the Concept Mikrogirder, TAG Heuer designer Christoph Behling says that he wanted to design a watch that matched the concept of combining a stop-watch and a wristwatch and you can see how this has been achieved.
The bottom half of the case is pure Carrera- a simple round dial with elegant lugs. But about halfway up the case, the shape changes, turning instead into a stop-watch.
The design is very effective, as well as being practical- it wouldn’t have been possible to mount the chronograph pushers and crown on top of the case if a traditional Carrera case had been used.
It’s a clever design and is different enough to the Mikrotimer, without being overly flashy.
Commercialising the Mikrogirder
The key question on the Mikrogirder is whether the watch will make it past the “Concept” stage and onto the wrists of well-heeled owners. While the design is obviously new and still in development, there don’t appear to be any obvious barriers to commercialising the watch.
The main challenge is the construction of the micro-beams themselves, as Guy Semon says:
“The real challenge will be to develop the tooling so that each beam is crafted in the same specification. Because they are so small, you need superlative production quality.”
Perhaps a future evolution will see the three-beam system constructed as a single component to make the production tolerances easier.
Putting these challenges aside, the architecture of the movement appears sound and without any obvious technical issues needing to be overcome.
To Infinity…and Beyond?
It’s easy to forget that just over 12 months ago, the most accurate mechanical watch that you could buy was the Grand Carrera Calibre 36, at 1/ 10th of a second. Last January, TAG Heuer went to 1/ 100th and then in March to 1/ 1000th. And here we are in January 2012 at 5/ 10,000ths…so where does it end?
One thing for sure is that TAG Heuer will continue to push the limits of splitting time. As Babin says:
“We’ve tested from 50 hz and we pushed it up to 3000 hz. So we don’t know the upper limits, but it’s certainly above 3000 hz and we know that it’s truly ideal for high frequencies….this system covers the field of ultra high-frequency from 50 –3000hz. It could find an application in the Mikrograph and we could use it in the Mikrotimer and of course the Mikrogirder.”
At one end, 3,000 hertz is three-times as fast as the Mikrogirder and implies a movement accurate to 1/ 6000th of a second. Using the beam system in a watch like the Mikrotimer would simplify the movement, while at the same time increase the power reserve.
Where you won’t see the system is in a “standard watch”- at speeds of less than 50hz, the traditional system is superior, as if the angle of oscillation is increased too much in order to slow the movement, the system does not work.
Certifying the Chronograph
If you own a high-end Chronometre, you will be comforted by the fact that an independent body- Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, or “COSC”- certifies the performance of your watch, so you know that you got what you paid for. But here is something you may not know- guess who certifies the accuracy of a Chronograph? Surprisingly, no-one does.
There is no-one who will confirm that your 1/ 10th chronograph ever performs to that level. Yes, you can have a watch with a chronograph function COSC certified, but COSC don’t check the chronograph- only the watch function.
One of the challenges of certifying a chronograph is this: a traditional chronograph shares its transmission chain with the watch- a single escapement. As you might expect, as you pump energy into the Chronograph, this takes energy from the watch, which can be enough to push a Chronometre outside COSC standards. This may explain why brands don’t push to certify the chronograph, because if they did it could place the COSC certification of the watch at risk.
But if you’re going to have a family of ultra-high accuracy watches, then you need someone to certify that fact, not only to give customers assurance on what they buy, but also to separate “real” fractions of time from “estimates” of fraction of time. I’m yet to understand how the Montblanc 1/ 1000th movement can accurately measure to that precision with a movement that “only” moves 100 times per second. But without a COSC-like body, how will customers know who is precise and who is not?
TAG Heuer have begun to push for the “double-certifying” of chronographs- both the watch and the chronograph. And that problem of draining power from the watch? Doesn’t exist for TAG Heuer, which has a patent on the dual-chain system described earlier, which means that pushing the chronograph button draws zero power from the watch.
The TAG Heuer Mikrogirder is an incredibly important development in high-speed watch-making, not because it simply goes faster than the previous model, but because it delivers that accuracy in a totally new way and one that has no clear limit in sight. It’s not the accuracy that makes the Mikrogirder special: it’s how it delivers that accuracy.
Combing this innovation with a unique movement architecture that isolates the watch from the chronograph means that TAG Heuer is uniquely position to keep exploring the boundaries of cutting time- and of proving to customers that the watch does what it claims. Make no mistake, TAG Heuer want to “own” the space of high-precision chronographs- and leave the chimes and perpetual calendars to others.
Some will say that this is all pointless, as 99.9% of watches don’t need 50hz and therefore won’t benefit from the micro-blade system. But pushing the limits of technology has always been about the 0.1% which do and for that reason, the Mikrogirder is a fascinating development that is sure to throw up more surprises in the future.