Patek Philippe invents new balance spring

Swiss luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe has created what it calls a technological advance for mechanical wristwatches: a thinner balance spring of a silicon-based material, which increases the precision of mechanical movements and allows for thinner timepieces. The innovation was unveiled to European journalists this month and reported in the Swiss press on Jan. 18.

Basically, Patek Philippe’s new balance spring significantly improves the isochronism (literally, “same time”) of a mechanical wristwatch (i.e., its ability to maintain accurate timekeeping whether fully wound or not).

The innovative material, operation, and the design of Patek Philippe’s patented “Spiromax” spring are reportedly much different from conventional springs. It can also be made three times thinner than other springs, allowing for ultra-thin mechanical movements. According to the Swiss reports, the silicon-based material used for the spring was jointly developed by the watchmaker, a Swiss research institute, and others in the Swiss watchmaking industry, under a confidentiality agreement. Specific information about it is expected to be released jointly by partners later.

The first watch with a Spiromax balance spring (a limited edition) will be officially debuted by the Geneva, Switzerland, watchmaker at the international 2006 BaselWorld watch, clock and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland (Mar. 30 – Apr. 6).

The new balance spring follows on another patented technical advance of Patek Philippe unveiled in 2005 at Basel: the first anchor escapement wheel of monocrystalline silicon, which is lighter and harder than steel and resists wear. Anti-magnetic and corrosive-resistant, it transfers energy more efficiently to the balance and never needs lubrication.