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Why Silicon? Why Not?




When it comes to watchmaking, innovation has taken different forms.  Sure, there have been some format or design changes, and new complications have appeared (for more on those, check out our Historical Horology series).  One of the more recent innovations has come in the use of new and exciting materials.  One such of these materials is silicon.


Now, depending on the brand, you might not actually see the word “silicon” showing up, because they’ll opt for the French term (which, yes, is more impressive sounding) of “silicium”.  Silicon made it’s first debut in the Ulysse Nardin Freak (pictured up top).  Why did they decide to try this material out?  For a few reasons, actually:

  • Silicon is simultaneously hard and light
  • Silicon does not respond to changes in the environment like temperature or magnetism
  • Silicon parts require little (or no) lubrication


With just those three bullets, you can see why this material makes sense in certain areas of the watch movement – such as, say, the escapement, where you really don’t want those environmental variables (or friction) throwing things off.  While the Freak was not exactly well-received for this material usage, the intervening decade has shown it to be of value – and many manufacturers make use of it.


If you’d like to read more on this material (as well as an interview with Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrik Hoffmann), check out this article over on Forbes by our pal Ariel Adams.

All images courtesy of Forbes

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