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Lightness in watch-making

18/05/2022 in Your time
The light trend has not escaped the watch-making industry, although the progress is of the order of a few grams difference on the wrist.
 
For a long time, beautiful watches had to weigh a lot. Just as quality furniture could only be made of solid wood, tailor-made clothes fashioned from thick fabrics, Michelin star gastronomy enhanced with sauces and sometimes even fat... In short, it was necessary to have curves and volume to appear real and respectable. Even success was characterised by a certain corpulence.
 
Indeed, it was via our plates, in other words at table, that the light trend officially began to make its way into everyday life. In 1964, French legislation authorised the sale of the first skimmed milk. Of course, it would take more than 20 years for the term 'allégé' (and its English translation ‘light’) to be authorised by the Conseil national de la consommation. But no matter, this quest for lightness is a trend that has been in the air since the beginning of the Trente Glorieuse, a thirty-year period of economic growth in France following WWII, and quickly became apparent in a host of other sectors.
 
In his book De la légèreté published in 2015 by Grasset, Gilles Lipovetsky also points to the advent of consumer society as one of the triggering phenomena, from the same years. “From this point on, it is no longer heavy industry that drives economic growth and ambitions, but gadgets," writes the French philosopher. Everything becomes light in both senses of the word. Miniaturisation and new materials are helping to make the world lighter.”
 
In watch-making, which has always been on familiar terms with the infinitely small, this progress is down to a few grams. And care must be taken not to upset the perception of wealthy and loyal customers, for whom the value of a luxury timepiece is closely associated with its weight and, by extension, with the value of gold or platinum. The more there is, the heavier the watch is and therefore the more expensive and valuable it is.
 
The major watch brands therefore use sport as an alibi to help drive a change in ideas and lighten their models. In any discipline where performance is timed, weight is a barrier. In the 1970s, a few established brands dared to produce the first steel sports models. Then came titanium, which they associated with motor racing or the conquest of space, in order to win over the hearts of men. This was followed by the fashion for ceramics and composite materials which made it possible, time and time again, to reduce the weight of the sacrosanct case which will always be the heaviest part of any timepiece.
 
Some of the major houses also sought to make their flagship models lighter by hollowing out the mechanisms. The remaining skeletal movements seem to balance and rotate whilst hanging from a thread. And whilst klokers watches do not play in this category at all as far as the workings are concerned, their dial, which turns in the stead of the eternally-rotating hands, is a mechanical feat of the same order. It was weighed a thousand and one times during its development, just like when you are on a drastic diet as the fine weather approaches.
 
 
Texte : Frédéric Martin-Bernard
Copyright I.am_nah
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