The 1 area of watchmaking that’s in constant development is the use of substances. Today, a carbon fibre or even a ceramic watch case might strike us as pretty standard compared to this exciting variety of materials being deployed in the construction of watches.
Borrowing technology from aerospace and high-tech industries, watchmakers are constantly on the hunt for innovative materials to protect the movement from harm and include years of performance and endurance to the watch, plus offer their products a modern personality in keeping with the times.
Lightness and immunity are mantras in Richard Mille along with the brand new RM 50-03 McLaren F1 watch reads like a Guinness World Record entry. Weighing less than 40 grams – including the strap – with 600-plus parts in the movement, the RM 50-03 is the lightest split-seconds chronograph in the world.
Made from a nano-material called Graph TPT™ – or graphene – the substance was first isolated by Andre Greim at the University of Manchester and earned him the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. By mixing titanium and Carbon TPT™ (classic Richard Mille concoctions) using Graph TPT™, the carbon physical qualities are improved, developing a material six times lighter than steel and 200 times more powerful.
Currently being used by McLaren-Honda for the building of its own Grand Prix cars, Richard Mille got to test-drive the material ahead of the races for the mind-blowing RM 50-03. The lightest chronograph of all time, the RM 50-03 is capable of withstanding shocks of 5,000gram and, unlike the McLaren-Honda F1 car that will be driven by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, doesn’t need a drop of gas to power its formidable chronograph engine. Knowing that horophiles like to ogle the core of the mechanical watch from each angle, the introduction of totally transparent sapphire crystal instances was a dream in the flesh.
The second-hardest material on Earth after gemstone, sapphire crystal is almost impossible to scratch, and Richard Mille (RM 056) and Hublot (MP-05 La Ferrari) were immediately seduced by the operation possibilities afforded by an entirely see-through instance. Determined to flaunt its watchmaking kudos, Bell & Ross has created a skeletonised chronograph movement complete with a flying tourbillon complication positioned in a 45mm sapphire crystal clear case.
Panerai has developed a fresh substance to shield its iconic Luminor Submersible diver on its 300-metre plunges. Called BMG-TECH™ (bulk metallic glass), the substance is a metallic glass alloy that has not yet been permitted to crystallise, thus preventing the electrons from organizing themselves in regular geometric constructions.
The chaotic structure is the secret to its success. Corrosion and scratch-resistant, robust and resilient to shocks and magnetic fields, and harder and lighter than steel, BMG-TECH™ is slightly greyer in colour than titanium and has been used since the armour of the case, bezel and distinctive crown of Panerai’s Luminor watch.
Famous for its”venetian blind” system of moving slats to signify the moment, MCT is a small, independent Swiss company using a gutsy avant-garde approach to designing watches.
British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor was invited to collaborate on the S110 Evo Vantablack view, previously, which is made from the blackest material made by humankind, originally designed for military stealth assignments. As Kapoor explained:”It is the blackest substance in the world, following a black hole; a physical thing that’s not possible to see.”
Vantablack is composed of nanotubes measuring one-millionth-of-a-millimetre thick and capable of absorbing 99.9% of the light that shines on it. The consequence of using this high-tech substance on the watch is disgusting, together with all the motion appearing to be suspended in space as a little Moon put on the tip of the moments hand appears and disappears mysteriously on its orbit.