People following the wristwatch industry would’ve been very excited to visit the Basel Watch Fair 2015, where all the major brands unveil their latest designs and mechanical innovations. But as can be expected, the very concept of a smartwatch is turning that world upside down. Age-old traditional mechanical watch manufacturers are now turning to the digital world and some very interesting, stylish and unique smartwatches can be expected over the coming years. But we here at 3ders.org are particularly fascinated by the work of renowned Swiss watchmakers TAG Heuer, who are also incorporating 3D printing into their manufacturing process.
Now as you might know, TAG Heuer have been known for decades as an innovative manufacturer of Avant garde watches that focus on accuracy and tabulation. Located in a small town on the French border called La Chaux de Fonds, watch experts know that you always have to be on the look-out for their latest work. In that respect, their announcement of a collaboration with Google and Intel to develop the Android Smart Watch wasn’t completely unexpected. Projected to be launched in late 2015, it is expected to cost $1400.
More surprising were the results from a number of Chinese reporters who visited La Chaux de Fonds for an in-depth tour of TAG Heuer’s manufacturing activities. As they revealed, TAG Heuer has already fully incorporated 3D design into their manufacturing process. As the Swiss designers explained to them, their custom 3D software enables them to efficiently and productively adjust watches in every minute detail, including such little issues as the timescale and pointer problems.
After completing 3D drawings and designs, they then turn to 3D printing technology to prototype their watches. Tag Heuer uses 3D Systems’ ProJet 3500 HD Max 3D Printer to print out these high-precision mock-ups of their wristwatch designs overnight, enabling their designers to go over the real thing once they get back into work in the morning. This enables them to quickly discover flaws in designs, even in its details (buttons, pointers, and so on). Not only does this save a lot of time, it is also far cheaper than sending a watch into production before finding out about minor flaws.
Only once the 3D printed sample has been approved, will the three-person team responsible for prototyping move on to the sample production stage. In this stage, they finally build a complete watch using actual metal components by hand. These subsequently move on to the intimidatingly known ‘Torture Room’. Essentially a test lab, the finished metal watch will be rigorously tested and compared to our TAG Heuer models as well as other brands. It’s an exhausting ordeal that supposedly ensures that TAG Heuer watches are all up to the standards expected of them.
Design over at TAG Heuer, in a nutshell, is a time-consuming process that holds quality in the highest regard. It is also a process in which 3D printing technology is there to stay, ensuring that the upcoming smartwatches will be everything we expect them to be.