A wristwatch - An adventure
Deciding to create your own watch is one thing; making it is another!
To do this, one needs more than just ideas; most essential is the time to spare, the money to finance a concept and live during the time you need to establish your project, an address book of customers who could be interested in your ideas and of course the companies to assist you in the specialist manufacturing of the required components.
Starting from scratch, if you don't have a good number of the above mentioned elements in your hand already, it's not worth trying out this adventure!
Growing up in a family with generations of watchmaking experience, as well as living in an area filled with every imaginable high-quality source of watch manufacturing know how.
I knew exactly where to go once I had made my personal design choices. My first stop was to visit my friend Hughes Jolidon (Créajo in Courfaivre) who assisted me in codifying the technical drawings based upon the sketches of my case design. He was a great help in finding and contacting the finest companies able to produce all of the various small, delicate and essential components needed to complete the case such as the sapphire glass front and back, (created by Sebal in Bassecourt and Erma in Boécourt), gaskets for the front sapphire glass to ensure water resistance, (Henri Schaller in Bassecourt), the same for the bottom gaskets, crown and tube (Isoswiss in Boécourt). The stamping operations for my case, a very specialist task in the first step before milling can start, were struck by Damien Gatherat in Courtemaîche.
Having worked with an excellent prototypist in Saignelégier, Claude Ourny in the past, I discussed my project with him to get his opinion on my case design and advice about the best company for its production.
For my dials, the company Vicro in Porrentruy did an excellent job with the collaboration of Daniel Guélat in Courtedoux creating the cliché (used in the dial printing process).
The hour and minute hands for my timepiece were produced according to my drawings by Estima in Grenchen, the only company in my watch project form outside the Canton of Jura.
The company responsible for laser-engraving the caseback, the crown, the ratchet as well as the logo on the case and the buckle of the bracelet, is Technocut in Bonfol.
My daughter, Léa Etienne, a graphic designer, assisted me in creating a stylish logo and the documents that accompany each watch in its presentation box.
For the movement surface treatment, another local company with years of expertise, the Mondor company of Delémont, was responsible for the electroplating of various parts according to my plans.
My leather straps come from Italy, from GB Cinturini in Turin and the rubber straps from Isoswiss in Boécourt, a major supplier to some of the most important watchmaking brands today.
Such expertise, available within the small area of the Canton of Jura, ensures the highest quality and execution possible in regard to everything one could desire for a wristwatch of the highest level of quality, a timepiece that will provide a lifetime of pleasure and enjoyment for its owner.
After the drawing for the dial has been completed, the first step is the creation of the dial blank that will become the face of the watch. The seconds subdial is given its characteristic background grooves and a central hole is drilled for the cannon pinion on which the hour and minute hands will later be set (1). The partially worked dial is then thoroughly finished and cleaned (2), then given a primary coating for the color layers and printing that will later be applied (3).
After the colors have been applied in a dust free environment and have completely dried, the numbers, indexes and other dial markings will be printed using tamponnage technique. In this system all the marks to be printed are first engraved into a highly polished steel plate; thereafter these engraved depressions are filled with paints of various colors chosen for the dial. A specially shaped transfer ‘nub’ of flexible silicone is then used to pick up the paints from the steel plate (generally one color at a time), thereafter, the blank is set into place and the nub is pressed down, transferring the paint to the dial surface. This very traditional technique is an art form all on its own, and becomes increasingly complex and delicate as more colors are added to the dial’s surface.
The engraved steel plate ready to have paint applied
Before and after shots of the taponnage process
The roughly prepared piece (above) before milling operations, and the finished and polished case together with front bezel (below left)
Case production and finishing is a multi-faceted process; it of course starts with a thorough drawing of all details that will allow the case to perfectly enclose the precious movement and provide it protection against water and moisture.
For me personally, a good case design should always feel comfortable on the wrist and simultaneously possess a classic elegance so that it will always look contemporary in a manner independent of changes in taste in fashion. Many of these aspects are determined by the shape of the lugs and the way they will meet the strap, together with the areas where the sapphire glass and case sides meet the front and back bezel.
The first production steps are stamping operations in which the rough basic outline of the watch case is created from a larger piece of metal, further repeated as required. This is followed by a time-consuming milling operation that brings the material to its final dimensions followed by fine finishing and hand polishing operations.
A primary step in the roughing out of case material
The roughly prepared piece (upper right) before milling operations, and the finished and polished case together with front bezel (below left)
Machines, however accurate, still require human supervision and control over the smallest details in order to produce a perfect case.
Case stamping report
Mr. Damien Gatherat has been practicing his profession for 35 years, his father was already a stamper in the village of Courtemaîche, in the heart of Ajoie.
First of all, it is necessary to draw up plans of the case, as a whole, to then manufacture the various stamps which will be used to cut out the case middle, the bezel and the back.
The material is 316L steel and the cases are cold cut from 8mm thick plates with a 150 ton press.
It takes four operations to obtain a case middle, which will then be machined by another company specialized in this field.
The first operation is to cut the outer part of the watch case out of a steel strip.
The second operation is to pass the middle through a second tooling to refine the outside.
Then, a third tooling to cut the central part.
The fourth operation repeats the second one to obtain a good quality of finish in order to avoid any problem of deformation and to be able to machine the part correctly.
Concerning the bezels and the bottoms, it requires only three passages.
When you make a small quantity of watches, it is very difficult to find craftsmen who accept this work. For example, it took more time to set up the cutting press and change the tools, than to cut the few pieces.