Watchmaking and robots

Watchmaking and robots

Postby koimaster » May 9th 2017, 9:44am

When watchmaking ceases to hide its robots

Panerai and Richard Mille are two brands that assume the automation of certain parts of their production. They are proof that we can succeed without necessarily conveying the image of the old watchmaker leaning on his workbench

No one is in charge of controlling the precision of watch movements. At Panerai, it's a robot that takes care of it. The chronometry tests are carried out by a machine and using its articulated arm of Mitsubishi Motors. Ten meters long, she was placed among the employees and their assembly lines.

It is a rare occurrence, in an environment that generally prefers to cling to the great history of watchmaking, Panerai gladly lingers on the history of this "chronometry cell". "We have added insulation to reduce noise and have prepared a presentation film for our employees before it enters our premises," says Jérôme Cavadini, head of the Neuchâtel factory. It was finally accepted because it avoids repetitive tasks and avoids having to organize human presence on weekends to carry out the checks. "

"We are not ashamed"
Panerai has a new factory. It opened in 2014 but the brand in the hands of the group Richemont only makes it discovered to its customers and journalists for a few months. On the heights of Neuchâtel, where Le Temps went at the end of April, the most striking is not the architecture of this place made of steel and thousands of square meters of bay windows. Nor is it the fact that the administration (150 people) is larger in number than the production (100 people). This is the tone of discourse.

Jérôme Cavadini: "We are not ashamed to say that when a machine is capable of doing better than a human, it is used." The engraving? Laser machines. The colimaçonnage? Machines. The satin? Machines too. And the list is still long ... In summary, Panerai automates its processes, develops and invests in new manufacturing technologies and creates new trades. And above all, she does not hide.

At the Breuleux (JU), within the Richard Mille brand, there is no problem in showing visitors the latest equipment. In the middle of an impressive fleet of state-of-the-art machines, we discover for example this 9 tons grinding machine which spits oil at 20 bars (a little more than the Geneva water jet). A single man is enough to make it work and it allows to refine quantity of boxes, spectacles or funds of watches.

The renaissance of Panerai dates back to 1998. Richard Mille was created in 2001. It is obviously easier for them than for the legendary Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breguet or Vacheron Constantin to confess that they work with automated systems. One can easily guess that this is part of their marketing position: productive efficiency, data analysis and new materials, rather than tradition, ancestral know-how and crafts.

Read also: When is the "Swiss made 2.0"?

The key question remains, when talking about automation or industry 4.0. Are jobs destroyed? The answer is far from clear. In the broader industry, the analyzes diverge. Some promise mass unemployment, others insist that robots need new skills to work and progress. At Panerai, for example, the numbers are not being enlarged at this time. But the watchmaking business seems more involved than the machinery.

"Swiss made" jobs
One thing is certainly certain: this appetite of watchmakers for industrial innovations allows to fuel (and finance) the desire to innovate manufacturers of machines. In the factory of Neuchâtel enthroned products of Willemin Macodel and CLA Chronometrie, two companies of Delémont. There is also the name of Roxer, specialist in waterproofing, at La Chaux-de-Fonds. At Richard Mille, the machine mentioned above comes from the Crevoisier workshops, in the Jura village of Les Genevez.

Creating jobs in these companies, pushing them to invent new processes is another way to make "Swiss made". So why not let him know more openly?

Of course, to make the Asian, Russian, Arab or American customers dream, the image of the watchmaker leaning on his workbench overlooking the millennium forest surrounding his workshop is more effective than a long speech on the precision of machines Of an unknown industrialist. And this is not a lie: the genii of the minute repetition, the perpetual calendar, and the whirlwind still exist. Haute horlogerie and its mechanical complications will always need them.

But the watch companies repeat it very often: their customers have never been as well informed as today. For most of them, therefore, it is clear that the 25 million watches manufactured each year in Switzerland are not all designed, assembled and manually finished by old watchmakers.

Today, brands employ computer engineers and programmers. They should no longer refrain from saying that they use machines and robots to save time and energy.

Gaining time and energy, is not that what they have been trying to do for centuries? ... her-robots


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