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Thread: Zenith Event today… (Technical Announcement)

  1. #1
    Master
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    Zenith Event today… (Technical Announcement)

    Zenith has just announced a new form of regulation which stems from 1675, citing it as a “chronometric revolution”.

    http://www.watchprosite.com/zenith/b...841.9019361/0/

    http://forums.watchuseek.com/f27/defy-lab-4530577.html

  2. #2
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    To me, Zenith has been under-appreciated for too long; hopefully this sort of adventurous approach will help change that. This assumes, of course, that buyers care about the mechanism in their watches . A Rolex AD once told me that virtually no customer showed the slightest interest.
    Of course, Grand Seiko introduced Spring Drive over a decade ago. That achieves similar precision , using a quartz regulator. No battery, mechanically powered. Zenith is apparently now challenging that , without quartz regulation.
    How much?
    Last edited by paskinner; 14th September 2017 at 11:59.

  3. #3
    Master
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    Thanks, very interesting.

    So it basically wobbles like a jelly? Only very precisely.

  4. #4
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    Possibly a fabulous innovation -- depending on cost, consistency of quality and reliability.

    Not remotely attracted by the look of the watch they have chosen to put it in though.

  5. #5
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    Amazing, I hope we see it in a range of watches at affordable prices, then it will be revolutionary rather than just a (no doubt) expensive oddity. The new metal foam material that accompanies it is also clever but a bit out there for me aesthetically. Well done Zenith, in any case!

    It does make me wonder what happened to this 'nano watch movement' we were promised, and I'd also like to see more developments like this oil free movement. It would be good to see a real leap forward in accuracy and service intervals.
    Last edited by Itsguy; 14th September 2017 at 13:16.

  6. #6
    Good to see innovation. Horrible looking watch they've put it in though, hopefully will filter down through range.

    Not sure about the 'metal foam'. People (here) seem to like 'heft' in a watch, not fussed myself.

  7. #7
    Master
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    The Aeronith material is definitely marmite when it comes to looks, but the weight (or lack thereof) is impressive.
    We know the Defy range is coming back, so I suppose it was only fitting that they used the same event to announce the new material, but I’m concerned that Defy will be Hublot Jr by another name – time will tell if that’s the case or not.
    Regarding “how much?” – I’ve no idea. Only 10 pieces were made, and all have been sold to collectors already.

  8. #8
    Wow! This is the sort of thing that got me interested in mechanical movements. It's always bothered me that there hasn't been a a lot of technical development in mechanical horology for a long time, and with the industry moving to being mostly a luxury thing (with quartz for practicality) there hasn't been so much incentive to really push the R&D envelope. Tag Heuer (weirdly, considering their reputation) have probably done more than most, mainly in terms of material science, for their extremely high-rate chronographs.

    But from what I can tell this is like computers switching from valves to transistors. It's a complete departure from the way a traditional escapement works. Even the Daniels escapement is essentially just an incremental change, but this, as far as I can tell from the limited information here, is legitimately revolutionary.

    The extremely high oscillation rate leads to some pretty amazing accuracy figures for mechanical: +/-0.25s/day - and if they are promising that, it's probably capable of much better with fine-tuning. Seeing the beat rate 108kvph my first thought was that's going to create a lot of mechanical stress, but the design looks like it will actually reduce overall stress, so could lead to much longer service intervals. Plus this is amazing:

    Furthermore, the regulating system does not need to be lubricated, and is inert to influences of temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields.
    Of course it remains to be seen how this will stand the test of time, and it's a shame they're putting it in such a fugly watch initially, but this seems like it could absolutely mark a huge comeback for Zenith. They do tend to be a slightly underrated brand considering their history, but OTOH, they never really went anywhere and the name carries a certain prestige that Rolex does not, simply by virtue of being less common. This will give them something that the average non-WIS watch buyer can understand sets them a notch or two above Omega, Rolex et al in engineering terms, and they are already in roughly the same ballpark as Rolex in terms of cost & quality anyway.

    Definitely going to be following this one for more technical details on the escapement when people with the relevant expertise have had a chance to study it more closely.

  9. #9
    Master Wooster's Avatar
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    Very good article also here: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/ze...or-introducing

    Not keen on the case material, advanced as it might be, but the mechanics of the watch sounds spectacular.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    It does make me wonder what happened to this 'nano watch movement' we were promised
    That link is broken. It's just the words "nano watch project". I think you pasted the wrong thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Itsguy View Post
    ... this oil free movement.
    That's very cool too, I hadn't seen that before. Does seem to be some interesting stuff going on in the materials science arena. The Swiss industry is unlikely to let these filter into mainstream movements for a long time though.

    Hopefully some Chinese manufacturer will realise that these semi-exotic materials can actually be mass produced quite cheaply to produce low-cost movements with much longer service intervals. Often the materials & processes aren't really that exotic, just things that weren't widely available in the 50s when the majority of movements in service today were designed.

    What the industry needs is some serious competition to shake things up. However the mechanical market is such that competition doesn't really exist. It's all about being "traditional" and "exclusive" and so on, to cater to the high-cost luxury buyer that's more interested in social signalling than technical merit.

  11. #11
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    ^
    I wouldn’t say the industry has been sitting still though, Rob.
    One was Martin Braun, with his (now defunct brand) Antoine Martin Slow Runner, and Michel Parmigiani has his concept model with a 70 day PR due to the escapement design utilised.
    Then you’ve Girard-Perregaux with their Constant Escapement, and Ulysse Nardin with their Anchor escapement.
    Others are working on their own solution to the escapement “problem”, and ways of extending power reserve.

  12. #12
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by robt View Post
    That link is broken. It's just the words "nano watch project". I think you pasted the wrong thing.
    Thanks, now fixed!

    ....And yes, I agree that a lot of focus is on how movements appear, the beautiful decoration, the gold rotor through the display back. Which of course has its place, the traditional movement is appealing, but so are 21st century materials, high accuracy and minimal servicing, it's good to see progress on this.
    Last edited by Itsguy; 14th September 2017 at 13:22.

  13. #13
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    One thing I must give this new Zenith escapement major kudos for is the amazing isochronism – the rate accuracy is maintained for 57 of the 60 hours power reserve.
    I’m not aware of any other movement (bar Spring Drive) that manages to come even close to achieving that.

    It loses a number of marks due to the thickness – 8.13mm – which means it won’t be showing up inside any Hublot Classic Fusions or Bvlgari Octos, least of all the Finissimos.
    Unless or until they can thin out the movement, it’s going to be in fairly thick/chunky watches – which explains why they introduced the Aeronith material.

    Hmm…one hand giveth whilst the other hand taketh…!
    Last edited by PJ S; 14th September 2017 at 13:39.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by PJ S View Post
    I wouldn’t say the industry has been sitting still though, Rob.
    Yes there have always been occasional developments which have mainly gone into limited run, high end pieces. However none of it has led to anything truly revolutionary. This is a genuinely revolutionary design. It remains to be seen whether it'll filter down into mainstream movements, but having now read the Hodinkee article it sounds like they are aiming for just that. They want to scale down this oscillator so it can sit roughly where the escapement lever sits in most movements now.

    Since it's just etched silicon, the production costs should be low enough to make this completely viable at scale. Once the design is finalised and the tooling is ready, probably even cheaper than current movements because there are far fewer parts. It's like replacing about 30-odd complex parts all of which need to be set in place by a watchmaker and are prone to damage, with one single part that's the equivalent of a hairspring (similarly delicate, but its only one part). If they only get a yield of say 75% on these silicon oscillators, it really doesn't matter because they are dirt cheap anyway. The duds just go in the bin.

    Same goes for servicing. I would imagine that these oscillators will wear out eventually as they are so delicate, but just like with springs in movements today, you just throw it away and replace it. It will probably be the cheapest part of the movement (at cost though - not at retail prices!).

    That Senfine is really interesting too, and similarly is based on doing completely new things with silicon, but it takes a very different approach. Will be interesting to see what falls out from these, with other designs incorporating elements of both, adding new ideas, etc. We could be entering a genuinely revolutionary time for mechanical movements. It doesn't seem that far-fetched to imagine we could end up with mechanical movements with similar accuracy to low-end quartz, service intervals in the region of 50 years, month-long power reserves and all mass produced at costs similar to a Seiko 7s26. I doubt we'll see anything like that until patents start expiring in about 20 years, but in terms of the technology itself, it looks like it's in the 5-10 years range, provided that the R&D keeps pushing these boundaries, rather than making incremental changes to 1950s lever escapement designs, using the same fundamental processes and materials.

  15. #15
    Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    The Hod. article says it runs at 15 hertz, so that's 30 ticks per second - to the human eye, how smooth will a second hand going like that look?

  16. #16
    The Cal. ZO342 “Cicada” is fascinating. I'm still struggling to understand *exactly* how it works, but the regulation is really clever.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Der Amf View Post
    The Hod. article says it runs at 15 hertz, so that's 30 ticks per second - to the human eye, how smooth will a second hand going like that look?
    Well UK TV (PAL) is 25fps, USA (NTSC) is 29.97fps (don't ask why) and movies shot on film are generally 24fps. According to research done by Disney back in the 30s, the minimum frame rate required for a cartoon to appear as a smooth animation is 12fps, and that's been used as a rule-of-thumb baseline ever since (although some earlier animations used even lower rates). It also works out conveniently as half the standard cinema frame rate, which was decided around the same time for different reasons.

    However, this is partly dependent on how far things are moving each frame. Modern games are expected to run at a minimum of 60fps. VR requires at least 90 and 120 is preferred. For the tiny movements made by a second hand, the 8fps you get from a 28kvph movement is already enough to make the movement seem pretty smooth, although not quite perfect. Even a 36kvph movement falls slightly short of the 12fps baseline, but you're already at the point where it's close to impossible to see.

    Interestingly, you can see the difference that the size of "jumps" make if you ever get a chance to compare the Zenith 36kvph El Primero with the Striking 10. I did get a chance to compare them side-by-side at a dealer, and it put me off the Striking 10 slightly, because the movement of the sweep hand is not as smooth as you would expect given the beat rate. Because the jumps are so much larger (because it moves 10 times faster) the fact that 10fps is below animation-quality becomes noticeable.

    This is all further complicated by the fact that a second hand is an analogue device, so it doesn't actually jump from one point to the next instantaneously. Another factor in how smooth it looks is how the gearing is set up, which ideally should allow the hand to sweep around as smoothly as possible rather than making lots of tiny jumps. I haven't looked into this in detail, but my understanding is that some movements do have their gearing set up differently to allow this to happen. Of course the problem to be avoided in all cases is where the second hand runs ahead too fast and then gets pulled back, which will give a stuttering effect. Apparently this is a common problem with the 7750 if it's not serviced correctly (happened to my Sinn 103 in fact, now fixed fortunately).

    So in summary, as long as the gearing is set up well, it will look very smooth indeed at the equivalent of 30fps. For the tiny movements being made, you will not be able to see the jumps at all. However, if there's any backlash, it could stutter, because that is independent of the beat rate.

  18. #18
    Craftsman Richie_101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robt View Post
    Will be interesting to see what falls out from these, with other designs incorporating elements of both, adding new ideas, etc. We could be entering a genuinely revolutionary time for mechanical movements....
    It's an interesting development for sure and removing all the escapement is certainly a step further than many of the previous efforts.

    I don't know why but these revolutionary systems rarely seem to make it much past the prototype stage; Tag Heuer's Pendulum System and Mikrogirder chronograph from 2010 and Girard Perregaux's Constant Escapment from 2013 were touted as game changers at the time but never made it down into production watches. (They are still available, but all with price tags of around £60k.)

    It will be interesting to see if anything significant happens with the Zenith endeavour but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality and cost of producing the silicon parts which I can't imagine is cheap right now.

    On a technical point, I wonder how much vertical flex there is across the oscillator? Given that it's 30mm in diameter and only supported in the centre, I'd imagine there must be some vertical movement on impact. Perhaps that's why there isn't a dial?


    Rich.

  19. #19
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    ^
    Lack of dial is only to showcase the new escapement, not because of flexure.
    Last edited by PJ S; 14th September 2017 at 15:16.

  20. #20
    Grand Master number2's Avatar
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    Very interesting movement, like others have said I'm not too keen on the case appearance but at the moment that's a minor detail,
    Sent from My etch a sketch

  21. #21
    Craftsman Richie_101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ S View Post
    ^
    Lack of dial is only to showcase the new escapement, not because of flexure.
    Yeah sorry, I was being a bit flippant there, I should have used an emoji.


    Rich.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Richie_101 View Post
    On a technical point, I wonder how much vertical flex there is across the oscillator? Given that it's 30mm in diameter and only supported in the centre, I'd imagine there must be some vertical movement on impact. Perhaps that's why there isn't a dial?
    The Hodinkee article goes into some detail, but we really need a more detailed technical dissection with diagrams, as the design is too complicated to really understand from their description. One point they make though is that the silicon is able to flex in lots of different ways and they control this with different mounting-point designs, which is what leads to the peculiar shape. So the entire design is such that it will flex in exactly the way they want, which is different for different parts of the whole oscillator. I see no inherent reason why it should have more vertical movement than a hairspring or balance wheel, especially since unwanted vertical oscillations would result in lost energy, so they will have gone to some lengths to eliminate as much as possible. Perhaps the most important question is how sensitive that is to movement when the watch is on the wrist, as there will most likely by gyroscopic forces at play, but that might be part of the reason for the high rate, low amplitude design.

    Really fascinating ideas, but impossible to understand properly without more details. Unfortunately I'd imagine some of the details are trade secrets, but OTOH someone with more hardware engineering knowledge than I could possibly dig out the relevant patents and piece together many of the details. Presumably the specifics of making it move exactly as desired and not like a jelly would be patentable, and if so, its unlikely it wouldn't have been patented.

  23. #23
    Master
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    So in what way is this an advance on spring drive? That brought extraordinary accuracy to an essentially mechanical movement , powered by a traditional mainspring. No battery. GS uses a quartz chip, Zenith uses vibrating silicon. Where's the advantage? Both are essentially mechanical watches with unusual regulation.
    Neither changes things, because the simple truth is that bog standard quartz does it better, cheaper.
    This is for romantics....like most of us. Technically it is pointless, like a better horse buggy.
    Last edited by paskinner; 14th September 2017 at 16:54.

  24. #24
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    ^
    Not really, since this one piece performs the task of balance wheel, hairspring, and pallet fork – with Spring Drive, Seiko changed those parts to equivalent ones rather than amalgamate them into a single piece.
    Remember that Piaget has already created their version of Spring Drive, which will set you back $70K a pop.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Amf View Post
    The Hod. article says it runs at 15 hertz, so that's 30 ticks per second - to the human eye, how smooth will a second hand going like that look?

  26. #26
    Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    Presumably reality is smoother than YouTube?

  27. #27
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    ^
    Possibly, depending on how constant the frame rate was with their camera – otherwise WSIWYG. (what you see is what you get)

  28. #28
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    This is a more detailed review of the new escapement... https://youtu.be/xWh0p9Irznw

  29. #29
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    Very cheap to make too, looks like they get 6 pieces from a silicon wafer costing $100.

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