Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

Thread: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

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  1. #1
    v76
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    Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    I found this interesting article on the Tissot Astrolon -
    http://members.iinet.net.au/~fotoplot/tissot/tissot.html

    I know that its introduction roughly coincided with the emergence of the quartz movement. But it makes me wonder why something like this was never attempted (or marketed aggressively, anyways) when the Swiss watch industry was back on its feet?

    Is it that the mechanical watch now is more of a luxury than it was without the presence of quartz, or is it that the big groups want to keep the prices high enough so that the "prestige" associated with Swiss brands wouldn't be diluted? I don't think the stigma that used to be associated with the word "plastic", "synthetic" or "polymer" in the preceding decades exists anymore. It looks like the introduction of mostly plastic parts would give a lubricant free mechanism, and from all accounts there are plenty of Tissot Astrolons ticking away merrily with little to no maintenance being done on those watches. The timing results from a few accounts I've read haven't been too shabby, either.
    Last edited by v76; March 31st, 2010 at 04:56.
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    LUW
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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    Quote Originally Posted by v76 View Post
    ...or is it that the big groups want to keep the prices high enough so that the "prestige" associated with Swiss brands wouldn't be diluted?
    That's the only logical explanation. Just look at Rolex and their pricing strategy.
    Cheers!
    Luciano

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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    Pretty cool. You learn something new every day here on WUS!

    Sodiac
    Too many watches, only two wrists and never enough time...

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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    check this out (scroll to the top)
    Last edited by Moosie; March 31st, 2010 at 05:36. Reason: new link

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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    I think that an extensive use of Polymers in a movement would result in increased thickness.
    I am not sure about the longevity of the polymers.
    Here at least, polymers and other man made material only last 1/5 of what they last in the US.

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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    I've done it. I made a clock out of acrylic. Stands up well, as I bushed the acrylic plate with brass bushings. Maybe I'll do the wild thing and jewel the bushings next. By the way, the clock is a miniature carriage clock, which makes it just about the size of a large pocket watch.

    Considering how crappy the drill press is that I did this with, I suppose the reason no one has done it is because no one has done it. There is no reason, certainly not "tooling".

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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    Sorta cool that it could be done, but what would the point be now? Certainly wouldn't be any cheaper than a cheap quartz movement, so it's not going to get much of the bottom of the market. Inexpensive mechanical movements only cost a few dollars at most, so even there you're not going to have much of a cost advantage. Even simple ETA movements only cost a few 10s of dollars, so the movement's cost doesn't contribute much to the overall cost of a watch.

    I'd also be concerned with the durability of the movement. Sure, it'll last a few years without any problems, but don't many plastics get brittle over time? The one advantage would be if it could be designed to not require any lubrication for an extended period of time. If it could reliably run for say 25 years without requiring a service that might be something.

  9. #8
    Mod. Russian, China Mech. Chascomm's Avatar
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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    The famous Lemania 5100 chrono is well known (notorious perhaps?) for its extensive use of plastic. I've recently read rumors that ETA intends to build another low-cost mechanical chronograph, specifically drawing upon lessons learned in the Astrolon project. Seems like the humble Astrolon has been reinvented as a technological tour de force, rather than the embarrassing mis-step that it has been remembered as until now.

    But the story of plastic mechanicals is bigger than that. There were the Premier Precision 16 and 26 series that used metal main plates but most of the parts were plastic. Those were probably a last-ditch attempt to compete with the emerging low-cost quartz movements in the 1980s.

    Although the Astrolon came out at a similar time to the first quartz, at that time quartz was a luxury technology (as in $1000+). It was only after Texas Instruments broke the sub-$10 barrier in the mid 1970s that quartz arrived (primarily from Japan and Hong Kong) as a cheap alternative to the mechanical watch.

    I've also seen one cheap Swiss pin-lever movement from the 1970s that contained substantial plastic components which was probably intended to compete against other budget mechanicals (e.g. Timex) rather than quartz.

    No doubt there are other rare examples that may show up from the 1970s and 80s but I'm confident that nobody else has ever taken it as far as Tissot and Agon did with the Astrolon.
    Chascomm
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  10. #9
    v76
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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chascomm View Post
    The famous Lemania 5100 chrono is well known (notorious perhaps?) for its extensive use of plastic. I've recently read rumors that ETA intends to build another low-cost mechanical chronograph, specifically drawing upon lessons learned in the Astrolon project. Seems like the humble Astrolon has been reinvented as a technological tour de force, rather than the embarrassing mis-step that it has been remembered as until now.

    But the story of plastic mechanicals is bigger than that. There were the Premier Precision 16 and 26 series that used metal main plates but most of the parts were plastic. Those were probably a last-ditch attempt to compete with the emerging low-cost quartz movements in the 1980s.

    Although the Astrolon came out at a similar time to the first quartz, at that time quartz was a luxury technology (as in $1000+). It was only after Texas Instruments broke the sub-$10 barrier in the mid 1970s that quartz arrived (primarily from Japan and Hong Kong) as a cheap alternative to the mechanical watch.

    I've also seen one cheap Swiss pin-lever movement from the 1970s that contained substantial plastic components which was probably intended to compete against other budget mechanicals (e.g. Timex) rather than quartz.

    No doubt there are other rare examples that may show up from the 1970s and 80s but I'm confident that nobody else has ever taken it as far as Tissot and Agon did with the Astrolon.
    Thank you for the detailed explanation, Chascomm!
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  11. #10
    Member Ananda's Avatar
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    Re: Why wasn't an experiment like the Astrolon ever repeated?

    well, it has been sorta... the eta 2842 (swatch diaphane auto) utilizes a 'plastic' escapement.
    the official canadian time: http://time5.nrc.ca/webclock_e.shtml

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