A New Regulator from Zenith Could Change Watchmaking for the Better

Jean-Claud Biver unveiled a new watch regulator that promises to be friction-free and accurate to within a second per day.

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Girard-Perregaux and Panerai

Watch website Watches by SJX is reporting that Jean-Claud Biver, LVMH’s Head of Watchmaking and Zenith’s interim CEO, has unveiled a new type of regulator. Made from silicon, the new regulator takes the place of both a traditional hairspring and balance wheel and promises to be more reliable, accurate and affordable than a traditional watch’s regulating system.

Short explainer: A hairspring and a balance wheel are two parts that, when combined, form a pendulum of sorts that oscillate at a (mostly) constant rate. This oscillation is what regulates the consistent ticking of a mechanical watch’s hands. These parts are usually made from metal (though some watchmakers have used silicon for the hairspring before) and thus are subject to friction, which can mess with the oscillation rate of the watch, throwing off accuracy.

But this new system, a “rapidly vibrating, tensioned silicon component,” replaces both parts entirely, according to Watches by SJX. This means friction is essentially non-existent and oil isn’t necessary to keep the part working properly, making servicing easier, and the watch more accurate. According to Biver, it’s accurate to within one second a day — COSC-certified chronometers, widely accepted to be some of the most accurate mechanical watches you can buy, are off by a couple seconds per day. It could also increase the watch’s power reserve by “dozens of days.”

As per Biver’s interview at Watches by SJX, Zenith plans to first roll out the new regulator in a limited run of ten experimental watches that will cost consumers around $31,000 each (30,000 Swiss francs). Biver added that the system would then become part of a mainstream run of watches that will cost closer to $8,250 (8,000 Swiss Francs). According to Biver, the former will be available this September, and the latter will be launched at Baselworld in 2018.

We’ve reached out to Zenith and will update the story with any new information.

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