Once again the internet is abuzz with news of the unveiling of Cartierís latest concept watch, the ID Two. Donít let the simple name fool you though as this is one seriously advanced timepiece, representing the culmination of over five years of intense research and development. Much like the ID One unveiled in 2009, the focus has been on finding practical ways to dramatically improve the functionality of a watch movement through using cutting edge technology and pioneering new techniques.
For the ID Two, Cartierís team of technically advanced watchmakers turned their attention to finding new ways to improve the efficiency of a watch movement. The key objective was to increase stored energy by nearly a third while at the same time reducing energy consumption by half for a constant volume. Starting with a blank page, the team was free to explore possibilities never before considered, resulting in the development of new materials, novel manufacturing techniques and unusual yet innovative designs.
All mechanical watch movements (at the most basic level at least) face the same handful of challenges when it comes to energy efficiency, namely how do you generate, and more importantly, store as much as energy as possible, and then how do you efficiently transfer that stored energy into driving the movement? And of course, how do you achieve the maximum efficiency possible over the lifetime of the movement? Many solutions to these questions have been proposed and developed over the years, including increasing energy storage through double-barrel configurations or increasing the length of the barrel springs, or sometimes both. Whatever the case, the focus has always been traditionally, and exclusively, on the movement itself. Not so with the ID Two.
Surprisingly, one of the most significant developments the brand has made in improving efficiency doesnít even relate directly to the movement but rather the case in which it is housed. How is that, you ask? Well, according to Cartier as much as 75% of the energy generated by the movement is wasted as a result of friction and air resistance. Although a case may be considered technically airtight, inside each moving part, however small, undergoes aerodynamic pressure which dampens its movement, thus draining power.
With this in mind the original idea was to try to find ways to mitigate the consequences of aerodynamic pressure on the movement, and thus increase efficiency. That was until the metaphorical ĎEinsteiní moment occurred and someone asked; ďwhy donít we focus on treating the cause, instead of the symptoms?Ē
Sounds easy enough, all they had to do was build an airtight case, right? Not quite. According to the brand, this apparently simplistic solution presented some pretty challenging technical hurdles as the engineers had to design a case with just two parts that could fit together without any screws, and create an airtight vacuum. And what a case! Constructed from a single block of Ceramyst, a newly developed transparent polycrystalline ceramic, the unique design allows for uninterrupted viewing of the technically advanced movement Ė but more on that later.
To ensure the best seal possible the gaskets between the case block and the back as well as those surrounding the setting crown were doped with nanoparticles, resulting in a 99.8% vacuum inside the case. What is perhaps most impressive though is the fact the oscillator consumes 37% less energy when operating in vacuum.
Of course the airtight case is just one, albeit critical, part of this story. The ID Two also incorporates some pretty significant innovations in the development of the movement too. Here again we see the intelligence of the watchmakers shining through. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel on a grand scale, the focus is on identifying the key factors that affect efficiency and then finding ways to improve them. For example, the differential gear train with ultra-light components works without lubrication, minimizing friction and offering an optimized reduction ratio. Similarly, the barrel springs that are responsible for providing energy to the movement have been made from glass microfiber, a first in watchmaking, and are capable of storing 30% more energy.
If all that wasnít enough the components of the movement have been covered with a special ADLC coating (Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon), a mix of carbon and hydrogen, that creates a fine black protective layer that is unaffected by wear, self-lubricating, and highly shock-resistant. Not only is this coating greatly improve functionality and efficiency, it also looks cool, a trait that is only magnified by the fact that clear case allows for up-close viewing from all angles.
Of course, given that this is a one-off concept watch (for the time being at least) getting up close and personal with it anytime soon may prove problematic. Still, we can dream.
The Final Word
Although the ID Two was only designed to be concept piece, itís not hard to see the potential practical applications of the highly innovative developments achieved by the Cartier team. The construction of the Ceramyst case alone is almost enough to justify the entire project, let alone the significant advancements made in movement design and construction. Many of the ideas tried and tested in the ID One have now been incorporated into the creation of Cartierís new Astrotourbillon Carbon Crystal watch (which we will take a closer look at next week) and so it seems reasonable to suggest that it wonít be long before we see aspects of the ID Two incorporated into future retail models, which, I have to say, is pretty exciting.
For more information on the brand the new ID Two Concept Watch please visit the official Cartier website: www.cartier.com
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