Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking
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  1. #1
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    Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Reposting this in the HAQ forum as my public forum thread is just getting troll comments. Hopefully the WIS here can shed some light on this subject for me.

    A number of modern watches seem to be incorporating nickel-phosphorous components, especially in the escapement. Rolex for instance uses a nickel-phosphorous balance wheel and anchor for their new 3255 Calibre:

    https://www.rolex.com/about-rolex-wa...ibre-3255.html

    Primarily this material is touted as providing magnetic resistance, but it also seems to be used in some high-end quartz watches like the recent Citizen Caliber 0100:

    https://watchesbysjx.com/2019/03/cit...100-solar.html

    So what's the deal with nickel-phosphorous? Nickel is a ferromagnetic material, so how can this be insensitive to magnetic interference? And why is it being used for HAQ movements like Citizen's, where the timekeeping elements are immune to magnetism anyway? Does it provide other desirable qualities, like wear resistance or temperature stability?
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  2. #2
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    Re: Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by Covenant View Post
    Reposting this in the HAQ forum as my public forum thread is just getting troll comments. Hopefully the WIS here can shed some light on this subject for me.

    A number of modern watches seem to be incorporating nickel-phosphorous components, especially in the escapement. Rolex for instance uses a nickel-phosphorous balance wheel and anchor for their new 3255 Calibre:

    https://www.rolex.com/about-rolex-wa...ibre-3255.html

    Primarily this material is touted as providing magnetic resistance, but it also seems to be used in some high-end quartz watches like the recent Citizen Caliber 0100:

    https://watchesbysjx.com/2019/03/cit...100-solar.html

    So what's the deal with nickel-phosphorous? Nickel is a ferromagnetic material, so how can this be insensitive to magnetic interference? And why is it being used for HAQ movements like Citizen's, where the timekeeping elements are immune to magnetism anyway? Does it provide other desirable qualities, like wear resistance or temperature stability?
    Even though Nickel is indeed magnetic, and can be magnetized, the Nickel-Phosphorous alloy, if above about 11%, is non-magnetic.

    Nickel-Phosphorous has many physical properties that would make it desirable for use in watch movements. Among these, its natural lubricity is probably foremost. When alloyed with Phosphorous the alloy is very wear and corrosion resistant. This combination of lubricity, wear and corrosion resistance is probably a great choice for bearing surfaces, like gears, in a watch movement.

    Another advantage of Nickel-Phosphorous is it can be deposited electrolessly onto a base meterial. Electroless deposition (plating) has the advantage of maintaining critical dimensions by depositing in a uniform thickness - unlike electoplating which can vary in thickness due to variations in current density.

    HTH

    Edit to add: Here's a good paper about the properties of electroless Nickel-Phosphorous: https://www.nickelinstitute.org/medi...kel_10081_.pdf
    Last edited by gaijin; 2 Weeks Ago at 16:09. Reason: Add citation
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  3. #3
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    Re: Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Sounds like a more useful alloy for mechanical watched then quartz ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gaijin View Post

    Even though Nickel is indeed magnetic, and can be magnetized, the Nickel-Phosphorous alloy, if above about 11%, is non-magnetic.

    Nickel-Phosphorous has many physical properties that would make it desirable for use in watch movements. Among these, its natural lubricity is probably foremost. When alloyed with Phosphorous the alloy is very wear and corrosion resistant. This combination of lubricity, wear and corrosion resistance is probably a great choice for bearing surfaces, like gears, in a watch movement.

    Another advantage of Nickel-Phosphorous is it can be deposited electrolessly onto a base meterial. Electroless deposition (plating) has the advantage of maintaining critical dimensions by depositing in a uniform thickness - unlike electoplating which can vary in thickness due to variations in current density.

    HTH

    Edit to add: Here's a good paper about the properties of electroless Nickel-Phosphorous: https://www.nickelinstitute.org/medi...kel_10081_.pdf
    Great answer, thank you! The electroless plating method having more uniformity is a great tidbit of trivia I wouldn't have unearthed otherwise.
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    Re: Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by ronalddheld View Post
    Sounds like a more useful alloy for mechanical watched then quartz ones.
    I agree that for a regular quartz it's likely not needed but for 1 sec/yr. accuracy I'd wager it is. Reducing friction to make time keeping more predictable is likely why. I'm sure they had to 'sweat the details' on things not normally considered for a regular quartz movement or even for their older HAQ movements, that would mean the mechanical bits too.
    Last edited by tmathes; 1 Week Ago at 21:36.

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    Re: Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by tmathes View Post
    I agree that for a regular quartz it's likely not needed l but for 1 sec/yr. accuracy I'd wager it is. Reducing friction to make time keeping more predictable is likely why. I'm sure they had to 'sweat the details' on things not normally considered for a regular quartz movement or even for their older HAQ movements, that would mean the mechanical bits too.
    Maybe reducing friction was needed for their power management goal?

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    Re: Nickel-phosphorous in watchmaking

    Quote Originally Posted by ronalddheld View Post
    Maybe reducing friction was needed for their power management goal?
    Probably both now that you bring that up. Two-fers are always welcome when doing complex designs.

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