Imagine if a few weeks after delivering its 336 km/h FF supercar, Ferrari announced a new concept car with a top speed of 3,360 km/h. Ten times faster, but exponentially more challenging to get this ten-fold increase in speed.
TAG Heuer have achieved the watch-making equivalent of this feat with the announcement today of the TAG Heuer Mikrotimer Flying 1000, a new in-house concept watch capable of 1/1000th accuracy. You may recall that the Mikrograph set new record back in January for being the first mechanical chronograph to achieve 1/100th accuracy, a record that has been smashed. While there is speculation that other brands may show 1/100th concepts at Basel this week, TH has moved the game on.
Even more amazing is this fact: the first time that TAG knew that the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 actually worked in reality rather than on paper was on 11 March 2011- only 12 days ago. Had the watch not worked straight out of the box, a different concept watch would have been brought to Basel- a luxury of choice that most brands would kill for.
Over the last 12 days, the team estimate that they have put in 5 month of working time to get the concept watch ready for Basel. To again use an automotive analogy, it’s the equivalent of turning up the Geneva motorshow with the paint still wet on the new car.
The speed and high-frequency of the watch is mind-boggling- 500hz beating at 3.6 million beats per hour- 10 times faster than the Mikrograph and 100-times faster than an El Primero. And yes, that means that the central chrono. hand completes a full rotation 10-times every second.
If the Carrera Mikrograph is a classical nod to the earlier times of pocket watches, the Mikrotimer is the opposite- a highly modern design with an innovative case system (the case design and the movement itself are covered by 12 patents). Design-wise, the Mikrotimer looks like a development of the basic Carrera shape. The case is black titanium carbide and features titanium horns in contrasting silver
Reading the Mikrotimer
The dial has two central Chronograph hands. The first green central hand measures the 1/100th and 1/1000th of a second on the external scale. The second, smaller central hand indicates elapsed minutes and 1/12s of a minute (i.e. 5 seconds).
The time is read on the dial by adding together the 1/ 10th of a second from the 5-second sub-dial at 6 o’clock to the 1/100th and 1/1000th read from the central hand on the external dial. Its not as easy as simply reading off the 1/100th of a second from the dial of the Mikrograph, but it does allow the dial to remain relatively un-cluttered and places a priority on being able to more easily read the smaller increments of time.
Inside the Movement
The most interesting part of the Mikrotimer movement is this: there is no balance wheel system. TAG Heuer explain that instead it uses:
“a Launcher-Hub-Brake system controlled by a column wheel and made possible because of the increased rigidity of the spiral. “START” activates the launcher by putting it in solid contact with the radial escapement. “STOP” radially pushes the launcher onto the hub, instantly stopping the movement of the spring.”
The movement is a development of the 50hz Mikrograph movement (About 2/3rds of the movement is carried over), using the same dual-assortment system. The importance of having two assortments can not be overstated. A single assortment, as used on most watches, means that the Chronograph drains power from the watch. Repeated use of the Chronograph will eventually start to impact the accuracy of the watch and push it outside COSC-standards. The two assortments addresses this problem, and having this basic layout patented, TAG Heuer pushed the concept to the extreme- 500hz.
The movement has 354 components and a 43 hour-power reserve for the watch and 150 seconds for the chronograph
History of the TAG Heuer Mikrotimer
1966 Heuer Microtimer
The Microtimer (with a “c”) created a revolution when it was released in 1966- the world’s first timer with 1/1000th second accuracy.
It was with the development of the Microtimer- led by Jack Heuer- that launched Heuer into the world of Formula 1, a relationship that is central today.
In 2003 TAG Heuer released this Microtimer- a development of the Micrograph of 2002. To confuse you further, while this TAG Heuer Microtimer is a development of the Micrograph, the new Mikrotimer is a development of the Mikrograph. Still with me?
The watch was the first watch to achieve 1/ 1000th accuracy, but electronically rather than mechanically. You can read about the Microtimer here.
Price and Availability
The good news is that the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 has been commercialised and will go on sale in October 2011. To see more information on price and when the watch will be on sale, take a look here at Calibre 11‘s exclusive interview with Jean Christophe Babin on the development of the watch.
To say that TAG Heuer are proud of the Flying 1000 is an understatement. All of the team that I met in La Chaux de Fonds have been working day and night to get this new watch ready on time and it really is a technical marvel. Its worth again stating that when Jean Christophe Babin joined TAG Heuer around 10 years ago, the company did not make a single movement and relied 100% on ETA. Putting hyperbole aside, there is no other company today with the breadth of in-house high-precision movements that TAG Heuer has:
- Calibre V (Monaco V4)
- Mikrograph (1/100th mechanical- Mikrograph)
- Calibre HR03 (1/1000th digital- Microtimer)
- Mikrotimer (1/1000th mechanical)
And this list is before you add in the Calibre S and Calibre 1887. Quite an achievement and one which is shifting people’s perceptions of what TAG Heuer is all about.
Launch Press Conference
Below with the new Mikrograph are Jack Heuer (left), TAG Heuer CEO Jean Christophe Babin (centre) and Guy Sermon (VP Sciences & Engineering)
Photo: Live Shot: Abel Court