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Silicon is one of the important new materials used in watchmaking.
The material silicon is more recently used for watch movement parts, especially as base material of the levers and the escapement wheels.
Silicon Balance Spring
Ulysse Nardin was first to produce a silicon balance spring (“DIAMonSIL”) in a limited-production 2001 Freak, developed with Sigatec. Shortly after this, Rolex (“Syloxi”), Patek Philippe (“Spiromax”), and Swatch Group partnered with Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM) to develop silicon hairspring technology. The resulting patent will expire in 2021. Richemont was not part of this group, so it was not until 2017 that they introduced a production “Twinspir” silicon balance spring in the Baume & Mercier Clifton Manual 1830.
- 2005 Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5350 Cal. 324 “Advanced Research” - Limited production silicon escape wheel only and “Spiromax” silicon hairspring (first Patek Philippe)
- 2006 Breguet Classique 5197 Cal. 591A - Silicon balance spring and escapement (first Swatch Group)
- 2007 Ulysse Nardin Freak InnoVision - Many silicon components
- 2008 Omega De Ville Hour Vision Annual Calendar Cal. 8520 - “Si 14” balance spring (first Omega)
- 2014 Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster Cal. 2236 - “Syloxi” balance spring (first Rolex)
- 2017 Baume & Mercier Clifton Manual 1830 Cal. BM12-1975M - “Twinspir” silicon balance spring (first Richemont)
Frederique Constant Heart Beat Tourbillon Manufacture with silicon escape wheel, 2008
© Frederique Constant
Escapements made of silicon are characterized by low weight combined with high stability. Such escapements may include the escapement wheel and possibly also the lever. The benefits of silicon escapement wheels have less friction, leading to reduced energy loss and wear, even without lubricant. This fact in turn frees from the disadvantages of lubricating oils, such as aging, volatilization, and drying out or contamination of the movement by undesirable leakage points. Through the use of light silicon components the escapement wheel gets less inertia, thereby improving the power reserve of the movement.
Notable watches with a silicon escapement
- 2001 Ulysse Nardin Freak - Experimental silicon escape wheel
- 2005 Patek Philippe Cal. 315 “Advanced Research” - Limited production silicon escape wheel only
- 2006 Patek Philippe Cal. 324 “Advanced Research” - Limited production silicon escape wheel only and “Spiromax” silicon hairspring
- 2008 Patek Philippe Cal. 324 “Advanced Research” - Limited production “Pulsomax” silicon escapement and “Spiromax” silicon hairspring
- 2008 Patek Philippe Grand Complication “Advanced Research” - Limited production “Pulsomax” silicon escapement and “Spiromax” silicon hairspring in a grand complication watch
- 2009 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB - Limited production concept with silicon escape wheel only
- 2010 Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Silicon Escapement Cal. MB R120 - Limited production silicon escapement
- 2011 Patek Philippe Cal. 240 “Advanced Research” - Limited production “GyromaxSi” balance with “Oscillomax” silicon escapement and hairspring
- 2018 Baume & Mercier Clifton Baumatic Cal. BM12-1975M - First full-production silicon escapement from Richemont
At Baselworld in 2017, Zenith showed an integrated silicon regulator without a separate balance wheel or hairspring. Instead, it uses an integrated silicon component that Zenith claims oscillates with 100% amplitude when fully wound and when unwound. This first appeared in 10 limited Zenith Defy Lab watches but was released for commercial sale in 2019 in the Zenith Defy Inventor. The Inventor has an escape wheel with flexible silicon teeth and oscillates at the extremely-high rate of 18 Hz or 129,600 A/h.