The second stage of production is the Union Collection case manufacturing. In the previous article, you discovered the process and creation of the flat and curved dials. Today, we will introduce you to the next chapter of our series and will discuss the savoir-faire of the case’s fabrication.
Before we begin, it is important to note that our cases go through a unique design process. Generally, the horns are an integral part of the case, but in Beaubleu, the horns come to encircle it and screw inside the case. The challenges of our design, therefore, lie in the adjustment of parts and the treatment of surfaces. An exciting process but not without risk.
Let us start the manufacturing of the cases! Suffice to say that, for now, these are simple blocks of steel, and it will be a long journey before the results. To go from the draft to the result, you must follow different stages interspersed with measurement and annealing operations.
The first step in creating the middle of the case is the modeling of the steel block. It is a simple block that will be successively compressed and flattened ten times using rolling mills – machines made up of hardened steel cylinders. This stage changes the metal quality to create a compact solid shape. Each piece will have to pass the dimension test because each variation will be visible on the final product. Nothing we can’t handle!
Today, we are in the workshop to check the first pieces of the stamping stage. We will discuss with our craftsmen the various difficulties encountered and viable solutions.
The stamping operation, which would be like cutting, consists of shaping the medium with a stamp that crushes the material. Repeated several times, the metal gradually regains its shape. Between each stamping, the part is annealed and remeasured.
We begin to see the first elements of the Beaubleu watch horns. They are worked separately, and at this stage are only a silhouette of the design. We remain ruthless in the face of quality, and non-conforming parts are entirely reworked.
Once the stamping process is finished, the piece is now ready to begin the machining stage. The machining process is an important step, and failure at this level of manufacturing can result in significant costs. This step consists in sculpting the final shape of the parts, focusing on the mechanical aspect, i.e. ensuring the placement and drilling of the screws, the adjustment of the parts between them (case horns and movement), and the quality of the shapes (chamfers, fillets, curves, and solids).
At this stage, we finally have before us the Beaubleu pieces. The horns are hollowed out using an arm capable of positioning on five axes. This technique is called CNC 5-Axis Use and is intended for small series. In our case, it is the most advanced technology to obtain the expected result. The horns’ slenderness and position must be treated first by computer-controlled machines and after by hand.
Alex, a machining specialist, sums up our day with a laugh: “Your horns are beautiful, but hell to do.” In order not to spoil anything, pieces are precise to a tenth of a millimeter, with each part remeasured and redone from the start if it is considered non-compliant.
We knew it, but the machining step being extremely delicate, several parts were not in conformity: deformations of certain parts due to metal variations and other unexpected “pleasures”. So, we stay calm and begin again. Luckily, this has no impact on production times, which is a victory.
Considering the past few days and the relaxation of government working conditions regarding Covid-19, we are now entering the most beautiful stage: the treatment of surfaces. We have gone from a big block of steel to a rough watch. Now it is time for a final look at the metal of the Union collection: grained and polished. All visible parts are placed in a sealed box where very fine sand will be thrown at high speed. Abrasion of the steel will then give this grainy, almost powdery appearance. The challenge here is to better control the grain size to obtain homogeneous and delicate graining.
The next steps is polishing. Using a lathe, the parts are polished, being extremely careful not to protrude from the grained surfaces. Despite the loud noise of the machines, the workshop is plunged into religious silence for the concentration of each craftsman. A single movement can damage the sanded surface and if this is the case, we must start sanding completely.
Another element must be considered: the quality of the surface. Aside from the absence of scratches, the qualified experts, and our designer Nicolas, check the light and environmental expressions on the watch. It is like the body of a car, the reflective design will tell you if the part is “veiled”, concave, or convex. It is a question of experience at this level because if you remove too much material from the polishing, it is the assurance to start the part from the beginning.
There is a special mention for the hollowed-out ropes. Since no power tool is small enough to polish the interior, the finishes are done entirely by hand. Great progression!
A small routine check on the first steel watches begins. The angles of the parts are well controlled, and we see ourselves in the polished surfaces. Some parts have been reworked to meet our quality requirements.
Today, there are still different stages, such as the processing of certain models such as the Audace or Olympe from the Rive Gauche line, and of course the final assembly. In the meantime, we will focus on our signature round hands and their manufacturing process.
Think of the first time you were in front of a text about a watch. Wow, it was such a thing. Don’t worry, it happened to us too, even our Beaubleu designer lived this moment. To help you for your choice or just for your curiosity, we have done a list of the main word that you will find in our Beaubleu’s website pages. Enjoy the Beaubleu watch lexicon !
The balance is a component which regulate the mechanical movement of your watch. Working with the balance spring, it produces a regular movement called oscillation. This is why you hear a « tic-tac ».
Finally, the spring regulate the watch’s movement by returning the balance at its initial position to start a new oscillation. More the quality is good more the precision is important.
Main element of the case, it is located on the top of the caseband and carry the glass of the watch. Depending of the watch, it can turn and shows, in this case, the duration of an event.
The caliber is watchmaking vocabulary to show that we have some skills. However this term names the movement of the watch.
The case is the component which protect the watch’s mechanism against impacts, humidity and dust. It is composed of several elements.
The case is composed of 3 pieces. The caseband is placed between the bottom of the case and the bezel.
The crown is a button located at 3 on your watch. It allows you to manually wide the movement and to set the clock.
The cylinder is an essential piece for the movement of the mechanism. Without a cylinder you cannot have a movement. This piece is a cylindrical case which contain the spring. The cylinder accumulates the energy produced by the spring and deliver it to the different gears of the movement.
The dial is one of the main piece of the watch. Why? it is what you see first. It shows various indications such as the hours, the minutes and the seconds.
Located at the ends of the case, they are used to clip the strap to the watch.
The index is the benchmarks for the hours. They have replaced the Roman and Arabic numbers through the history.
When a quartz watch needs batteries, the mechanical watch does need them. Indeed, it is composed of a mechanical movement which can be a manual winding or an automatic one. For your Beaubleu watch, we have chosen an automatic movement. It winds itself with the movement you make during the day. It is possible because of a rotor which turn around its axis. However, it is necessary to wind the watch manually regularly.
he watch’s movement is the set of pieces and mechanisms which make it work. This different movements are also called calibers.
The watch’s clasp is an important detail and it exists in different forms: the folding buckle, the butterfly buckle and the pin buckle. The last one is the one we used for Beaubleu’s watches. It is composed of a buckle and a metal rod, like your belt buckle. This type of claps is used for our leather straps but you will never find it on a metal strap. The good thing with this kind of buckle is that you can adjust ore precisely the size of the strap.
The spring is the watch’s source of energy. It is a small steel tape which is rolled inside the cylinder.
As you know, today the watches are not only used to indicate the time. These other functions are called watchmaking complications and some of them are very wanted by the watch amateurs. Here some of them: the perpetual calendar, the chronograph or the time zones.
The Beaubleu watch lexicon is finished. Of course, we did not list the entire watchmaking vocabulary. We want that you continue to read us and like it! However, with this basis, we will be able to have some benchmarks. If you have any questions, we are here to reply, and it will be with pleasure and passion!