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TAG Heuer's radical new V4 watch movement

TAG Heuer's radical new V4 watch movement

TAG Heuer's radical new V4 watch movement

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Since its earliest days, TAG Heuer has led Swiss watchmaking tradition by challenging and innovating its most time-honored conventions. Founded in an horological golden age, it has repeatedly revolutionized the timing and watchmaking world.

With the Monaco V4 Concept Watch, the first design-integrated mechanical movement truly of the third millennium, the tradition continues. Once again, this time by reinventing the mechanical movement, TAG Heuer stakes claim to the cutting-edge of watchmaking and honors its motto: "Swiss Avant-Garde since 1860."

Watchmaking History

To trace the history of modern watchmaking, one must go back four centuries, to Huygen's invention of the spiral in 1675. The next key advancement was in 1753, when Beaumarchais created the first watch with escapement. In 1770, Perrelet designed the first automatic movement. Fifteen years later, Breguet invented the tourbillon, and in 1822, the first chronograph. TAG Heuer made its first major contribution to Swiss watchmaking in 1897 with the oscillating pinion, still an essential component in today's traditional mechanical chronographs.

In 1916, TAG Heuer pushed the technology further with the Micrograph, the first stopwatch to achieve 1/100th of a second accuracy.

In 1966, TAG Heuer's Microtimer was the first timekeeping instrument accurate to 1/1000th of a second.

In 1969, TAG Heuer revolutionized chronographs at Basel by being the first to market an automatic chronograph movement, the famous Chronomatic 11 with a microrotor to rewind the barrels. During this same period, the brand pioneered Swiss quartz technology and launched the first Swiss LED and LCD movements, showcased in the Chronosplit Manhattan, one of the first digital and analog display chronographs, introduced in 1975.

In 2002, TAG Heuer brought out the Microtimer F1 wrist timepiece, the first prestigious Swiss chronograph accurate to 1/1000th of a second and winner of the Best Design Award at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. Motors and Movements: The Challenge of 3rd Millennium Technology

Having pushed quartz movement technology to the extreme edge of performance, TAG Heuer has turned its engineering and design prowess to the mechanical movement.

Despite the many revolutions that have occurred at the heart of timekeeping, little has changed in the heart of the mechanical movement and the traditional contrivance of a kinetic chain of pinions still rules the day.

With the Monaco V4 Concept Watch, TAG Heuer designers have once again broken with tradition in several key areas. TAG Heuer's best engineers and watchmakers, working with the inventor and designer Jean-François Ruchonnet, began delving into the fundamental concepts of mechanical watch movement two years ago, under the strictest terms of confidentiality. What began as an idea and a blank piece of paper is now the Monaco V4 Concept Watch, which can be admired for the first time at Basel Fair 2004. The components and bottomplate of the V4 were engineered and machined at the TAG Heuer workshop in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, then assembled and finished by a famous Swiss master watchmaker. The name V4 derives from the movement's four barrels, which are mounted on a V-shaped main plate angled at 15 degrees, like cylinders in a high-end motor racing engine. It also pays tribute to the movement's inspiration: while the V4 draws from the newest concepts in industrial technology, its true muse is the world of high-tech, high-performance racecar engines. A Revolutionary Mechanical Movement

Like a car engine, the fundamental mechanical dynamics operating upon a watch are: transmission, friction, torque and power. Working from this parallel, TAG Heuer's team of designers, watchmakers and engineers hit upon three paradigm-shifting responses to the traditional dictates of watchmaking.

These traditions dictate, for example, that a movement's power must be transmitted by wheels; that rotating axes need to have synthetic rubies as bearings; and that an oscillating weight rotating on its own axis provides a movement's spring barrels with energy. None of these hold true in the new V4 watch movement.

Dictate N° 1: The only possibility for transmission is pinions

In response, TAG Heuer has invented the first patented drive-belt transmission in a watch movement. The V4 Movement replaces the pinions of the traditional mechanical movement with a relay of 13 drive belts whose tension is controlled by turnbuckles and whose gauge measures a slender 0.5x 0.45 mm. Linking and turning two axes in the same direction by the use of a belt is much more efficient than by means of an intermediate wheel. This revolutionary concept, the use of belts in a watch movement, is the object of a TAG Heuer worldwide patent.

Dictate N° 2: Oscillating mass is always rotating

In response, TAG Heuer has invented the first linear oscillating mass. The oscillating weight traditionally used to wind an automatic watch movement has been replaced by a linear oscillating weight. In the V4's case, this is a 4.25-gram platinum ingot that moves up and down on a track between the four spring barrels. A gear system on the long side of the weight engages a cogwheel and translates the linear movement into a rotating movement.

Dictate N°3: Most of the friction is reduced by means of rubies

In response, TAG Heuer has optimised friction reduction with 39 micro ball races. For the rotating parts, technologies from automobile design were once again adapted. Thirty-nine micro ball races help minimize friction in the power transmission system, replacing the traditional use of synthetic red rubies. The smallest ball race has a diameter of 2.2 mm and is 0.5 mm high. The bearings have little balls rotating within them that have a diameter of 0.25 mm.

An architecture inspired by car engines

The movement's energy is provided by four barrels aligned in a 2-by-2 series and linked by a differential with a V-shaped bridge. Each barrel gives a force of 375 grams for a total of 1.5 kilos. The barrels are mounted in a V (angles at 15° with respect to the dial) and two constant velocity joints, also borrowed from the automobile world, transmit their energy to the movement. The barrel bridges are in sapphire, allowing the movement to be visible from below. It is this unique design component that gives the Monaco its automotive-sounding name: V4.

The audacious look matches the movement it houses

The beveled sapphire crystal, manufactured in 3-D, curves down to join the sides of the case. The small second hand is at 4:30. The folding-buckle bracelet is in stylish alligator. The overall design is inspired by the iconic Monaco, the world's first automatic chronograph with microrotor, created in 1969 and still ahead of its time.

Worn by Steve McQueen, the original Monaco's big, squared-off case signaled a complete break with conventional watchmaking aesthetics. For the new Monaco V4, it made perfect sense to borrow from this ground-breaking heritage to showcase TAG Heuer's continuing quest to push outside the dotted lines of conventional watchmaking.

Yet, even without the signature TAG Heuer logo, the V4 is instantly recognizable as a TAG Heuer design. Like the brand, pure design in and of itself is the timepiece's founding principle. Unlike traditional movement designs, which are usually cosmetic decorations, the V4's mechanical originality comes from its unique form and the technological concepts that are the source of that form.

Representing Swiss watchmaking at its most revolutionary, the Monaco V4 Concept watch takes TAG Heuer's proud and unparalleled tradition of innovation and prestige and pushes it deep into the third millennium.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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