Leading Mexican newspaper EL Universal interviewing Michiel Holthinrichs and some famous watchmakers about the 3D printing revolution in the watch industry. You can find the original publication (in Spannish) here.
The 3D printing revolution wins supporters in the rows of watches. The use of this technology is not limited to the realization of prototypes of the products to perfect them, but some brands have already released watches with parts printed in 3D.
The Swiss Watch Industry Study 2016 report, from the Deloitte consultancy, mentions that "3D printing is gaining importance in the manufacture of traditional Swiss watches. Producing a high-end watch is complicated, expensive and needs expert talent, but 3D printing can reduce costs and time. "
Sixty-four percent of the 50 industry executives interviewed by Deloitte say they use this technology to design prototypes and 4% have put 3D component parts on the market. By 2020, 32% think it will be a very used method in watchmaking.
This perception is consistent with data showing a rising market that permeates industries such as aerospace, medical, automotive and luxury.
In 2015, 3D printers were sold for a total of $ 5.15 billion, according to the Wohlers Report, which estimates the annual increase of 25 percent to $ 17.7 billion in 2020.
The new independent firm Holthinrichs Watches is going to release a watch with a steel case made by this type of printing, as well as the winding crown and the buckle of the belt. "Developing Ornament 1 took four years," said Michiel Holthinrichs, CEO and founder of the brand. "The actual printing (testing and prototyping) was a two-year process."
The technology is not cheap. Holthinrichs says the first prototype cost about $ 21,000. According to him, the 3D printer that made possible the miracle is worth $ 530,000 and belongs to the company Materialise. "Each watch takes So many hours to produce, including manual finishing of the box, buckle, crown, hands and sphere. We are open to working with titanium, gold and other materials," he said.
He admitted that with 3D printers "it is not yet possible to create small parts of the mechanism due to the thick surfaces of the finishes. Making the case is a challenge, because the adjustments must have a micrometric precision. In my case, it also requires polishing and finishing by hand. "
"I think this technology must be approached from a design perspective, because it offers infinite possibilities in the creation of forms," he said. "It's what I would like to try with my watch, which has a classic style, but details show that it was made with new technology. It has forms that are impossible to create with traditional methods."
Ornament 1 will be a limited edition of 250 pieces that will begin to be manufactured in two months. Each watch will cost about $ 3,700.
Among those consolidated, Panerai presented this year the Lo Scienziato Luminor
1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanium 47 mm. The titanium case was made with a type of 3D printing known as laser sintering, which creates a lightweight hollow structure that is impossible to achieve in any other way. It is a limited edition of 150 pieces. The independent firm H. Moser & Cie developed in 2015 a unique piece with sapphire crystal case, whose rubber strap was made with laser printing.
Jean-Daniel Schmid is the director of La Manufacture, a specialized Swiss company in 3D printing of metals such as steel, gold and silver powder for watchmakers and jewelers. For him, "we are far from making 3D products without manual finishing. This may be possible in five to 10 years."
"Technology, mobile devices, social networks and 3D printing are increasingly crucial in the strategy of watchmaking brands and in adapting to new market conditions," said Karine Szegedi, an expert in luxury and fashion at Deloitte.
- Translation of the article in El Universal "Relojes en impresión 3D: La revolución que viene" as publiched on 5 December 2016 -