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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The use of silicon in hairsprings and balance wheels had been tightly controlled by a patent. A few big players have had exclusive use of the material over the past years.

Free and open use after the 25 November. Will be interesting to see the releases that companies have been getting ready for this day.


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I can see ETA, and others, rolling out silicon in their top and chronometer grade movements within months. We’ll probably see existing models getting a price bump because of this more than we’ll see ‘new’ releases.
 

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Existing alloys which already lack patents also have excellent non-magnetic properties. Certainly you can measure those differences in a laboratory setting, but the question remains how will this play out in the world in which they are used. My guess is not much. I certainly wouldn’t be interested in paying more for silicon over glucydur and anachron.
 

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I can see ETA, and others, rolling out silicon in their top and chronometer grade movements within months. We’ll probably see existing models getting a price bump because of this more than we’ll see ‘new’ releases.
I don’t see that happening. I am sure you will see silicon in their very high end newer movement designs which they will produce in small numbers, but I just don’t see a future for silicon in their classic designs which they produce in large numbers. I’m not sure there will be much of a market for it either when people realize their local watchmaker will no longer be able to service their movements due to the extra training and resources required to do it with very little benefit over advanced alloys which already offer good non-magnetic properties and can be serviced anywhere.
 

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I can see ETA, and others, rolling out silicon in their top and chronometer grade movements within months. We’ll probably see existing models getting a price bump because of this more than we’ll see ‘new’ releases.
ETA is a part of Swatch who was one of the 3 pioneers of silicon hairsprings. I would think that if Swatch wanted to introduce silicon everywhere into ETA movement's they would have already done so long ago.

Interestingly enough in a recent interview with Sellita, they said that Sellita prefers to stay closer to "traditional" watchmaking and will most likely not fully implement silicon into all their movements. Skip to 6:38.

 

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I don’t see that happening. I am sure you will see silicon in their very high end newer movement designs which they will produce in small numbers, but I just don’t see a future for silicon in their classic designs which they produce in large numbers. I’m not sure there will be much of a market for it either when people realize their local watchmaker will no longer be able to service their movements due to the extra training and resources required to do it with very little benefit over advanced alloys which already offer good non-magnetic properties and can be serviced anywhere.
Why, exactly, would a silicon spring preclude watch service by an indie watchmaker?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I can see ETA, and others, rolling out silicon in their top and chronometer grade movements within months. We’ll probably see existing models getting a price bump because of this more than we’ll see ‘new’ releases.
As part of the Swatch group they own the current patent!


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As part of the Swatch group they own the current patent!


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I believe the patent is/was held by a university or research firm. However, Swatch/ETA is among the few companies that have had rights to produce monocrystalline silicon hairsprings.

Edit: patent is held by CSEM. Rolex, Swatch, and Patek provided funding and were granted access.
 

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ETA is a part of Swatch who was one of the 3 pioneers of silicon hairsprings. I would think that if Swatch wanted to introduce silicon everywhere into ETA movement's they would have already done so long ago.

Interestingly enough in a recent interview with Sellita, they said that Sellita prefers to stay closer to "traditional" watchmaking and will most likely not fully implement silicon into all their movements. Skip to 6:38.

The video is well worth watching. It's good to see how Sellita is expanding which I'm sure is a direct result of ETA going more or less exclusive to Swatch.
 

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The video is well worth watching. It's good to see how Sellita is expanding which I'm sure is a direct result of ETA going more or less exclusive to Swatch.
@Archer has indicated otherwise.

Silicon springs cannot be re-formed as would be done in the adjustment process with a metallic spring. But, this also means they aren't apt to become deformed, so provided the spring was right when it was made, it should never require re-shaping. And if for some reason it did have a problem, then the entire spring could simply be replaced with one that performs correctly.

Sellita doesn't make their own springs (they rely on Swatch Nivarox). They don't have access to silicon, so of course they are going to poopoo it. The Sellita rep also poopooed flyer GMTs, another product Sellita doesn't make but competitors are moving towards.
 

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@Archer has indicated otherwise.

Silicon springs cannot be re-formed as would be done in the adjustment process with a metallic spring. But, this also means they aren't apt to become deformed, so provided the spring was right when it was made, it should never require re-shaping. And if for some reason it did have a problem, then the entire spring could simply be replaced with one that performs correctly.

Sellita doesn't make their own springs (they rely on Swatch Nivarox). They don't have access to silicon, so of course they are going to poopoo it. The Sellita rep also poopooed flyer GMTs, another product Sellita doesn't make but competitors are moving towards.
I'm not saying there aren't ways for an independent watchmaker to replace them, but it's going to take a different skillset and equipment. Not all of them are going to want to mess with it at least in the short term. Long term they will eventually become far more common and this won't be as big of an issue. Still at the end of the day they are more expensive for very little actual benefit.

Sellita isn't crapping on traveler GMTs. They are pointing out quite valid reasons why some people aren't going to want one. I realize lots of folks go gaga over them, but those who wear them infrequently are going to miss a quickset date complication.
 

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I'm not saying there aren't ways for an independent watchmaker to replace them, but it's going to take a different skillset and equipment. Not all of them are going to want to mess with it at least in the short term. Long term they will eventually become far more common and this won't be as big of an issue. Still at the end of the day they are more expensive for very little actual benefit.

Sellita isn't crapping on traveler GMTs. They are pointing out quite valid reasons why some people aren't going to want one. I realize lots of folks go gaga over them, but those who wear them infrequently are going to miss a quickset date complication.
The statement about silicon springs being delicate and coming apart at the slightest touch are not true. Maybe 10+ years ago in the early days of development, but not for the past 5 years at least. @Archer has noted taking the silicon spring from a recent Omega, pulling it straight, and it went right back to its original shape (doing this to a metal spring will ruin it.)
 

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I'm not saying there aren't ways for an independent watchmaker to replace them, but it's going to take a different skillset and equipment. Not all of them are going to want to mess with it at least in the short term. Long term they will eventually become far more common and this won't be as big of an issue. Still at the end of the day they are more expensive for very little actual benefit.
No, not really. The skills and tools required to remove a balance spring made of silicon are the same skills and tools used for a typical balance spring, in a repair setting.

People in this thread have focused on the anti-magnetic properties of silicon, but that is only one part of what they do. If you ask any watchmaker (meaning watch producer) what they would think of a balance spring that is perfectly formed, has no possible material variations/inclusions, and stays perfectly formed throughout its lifetime, they would jump at it.

Unless you consider very easy accuracy and complete resistance to magnetism of little value, then sure, I guess they are just all hype... ;)
 

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I'm not saying there aren't ways for an independent watchmaker to replace them, but it's going to take a different skillset and equipment. Not all of them are going to want to mess with it at least in the short term. Long term they will eventually become far more common and this won't be as big of an issue. Still at the end of the day they are more expensive for very little actual benefit.

Sellita isn't crapping on traveler GMTs. They are pointing out quite valid reasons why some people aren't going to want one. I realize lots of folks go gaga over them, but those who wear them infrequently are going to miss a quickset date complication.
I didn't take that as a takedown/slam either - he just didn't sort of fall over himself praising 12h-quickset movements and pointed out that there is a strong market for the "other kind", which there undoubtedly is. So why change that?

I'm also glad he pointed out that there isn't much of a difference technically between 12h and 24h quickset. The lionisation/deification of the 12h quickset type by people on social media has left people thinking it's powered by magic, or witchcraft, which is nonsense - it's just a two-way clutch, not a one-way clutch, and it's on a different wheel.
 

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Within 5 years of so silicon hairsprings will be in very widespread use. With most of us surrounded by strong magnets, increasing anti-magnetism is important. But more than that, it seems like silicon hairsprings provide more regular timekeeping. Sure, you can‘t adjust one, but you can easily replace it. Once the manufacturing costs are amortized, it should be cheap to manufacture a good silicon hairspring.

I‘ll also predict that the next generation of Rolex movements will have silicon hairsprings. Kenissi is using them and even Rolex already has one movement that uses a silicon hairspring.
 

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No, not really. The skills and tools required to remove a balance spring made of silicon are the same skills and tools used for a typical balance spring, in a repair setting.

People in this thread have focused on the anti-magnetic properties of silicon, but that is only one part of what they do. If you ask any watchmaker (meaning watch producer) what they would think of a balance spring that is perfectly formed, has no possible material variations/inclusions, and stays perfectly formed throughout its lifetime, they would jump at it.

Unless you consider very easy accuracy and complete resistance to magnetism of little value, then sure, I guess they are just all hype... ;)
There have been several quite notable watchmakers who have commented about the disadvantages of silicon and how it's just not necessary and question the longevity of it. So I can't agree with your statement that any watchmaker will jump on it. I think there's going to be a significant number who will reject working on them due to the additional challenges. Meanwhile existing materials already widely available do an excellent job with timekeeping, longevity, and timekeeping performance and with the higher end alloys any problems with magnetism are greatly exaggerated. The movements that use these components still won't have complete resistance to magnetism because obviously the entire movement won't be made of silicon. So while the problem with be reduced, it won't be eliminated. What you are really talking about is an incremental gain and diminishing returns thanks to materials which were already largely immune and kept time quite accurately already. So it becomes hype when you compare it to what's already available including the downsides which are there.

The material has already been available by license agreement for almost 2 decades. Some high end watch manufacturers did already jump on it, but not all of them did. This should be telling everyone what the future of silicon is. Yes it will become more prevalent, particularly in premium watch movements. No it will not overtake the middle anytime soon and probably not even the top. The ETA 24 and 28 series and their clones, Miyota 9 series, GS 9 series along with their equivalents will still dominate the field of mechanical movements without silicon for the foreseeable future.
 
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