TAG Heuer Mikrograph 1/100th of a second chronograph
Not many mechanical watches are capable of meausuring time to the nearest hundredth of a second. The brand with the longest history in this area is TAG Heuer, who presented their TAG Heuer Mikrograph 1/100th of a second chronograph, reference CAR5041.FC8178, in January 2011. This piece separates the normal time gear chain, running at 28,800 beats per hour, from the chronograph mechanism at 360,000 beats per hour, reducing energy loss and improving precision, enabling the watch to be COSC-certified for precision both when the chronograph is not running, and when it is operating. It achieves the measurement of one-hundredth seconds by means of the 360,000 bph mechanism, driving a blue central foudrayante hand that rotates once around the dial every second. In addition, there is a chronograph minutes counter at 3 o’clock, a second counter at 5 o’clock, a chronograph power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. Case, crown and bezel are in rose gold, and there is a sapphire caseback to see the movement. This was a 150-piece limited edition in a presentation rose gold case, at the price of €44,100. When I enquired in the boutique yesterday, there was just one left. Click here to find TAG Heuer stores.
Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100
The Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100 displays hundredths of a second using a system conceptually and visually similar to the TAG Heuer Mikrograph above. It is a lovely combination of the modern TimeWalker design aesthetic and the traditional crafts of the Montblanc manufacture at Villeret, previously Minerva, a historic brand that launched a hundredth-second stopwatch in 1916.
The MB M66.25 calibre Montblanc movement has a dual mechanism, a conventional 2.5 Hertz balance for the time functions, and a much smaller balance at 50 Hertz for the chronograph. The chronograph balance begins operating only when the chronograph is activated: its barrel provides enough energy for 45 minutes chronograph operation, but the crown can be used to wind this barrel even while the chronograph is running (anticlockwise to wind the chronograph barrel, clockwise for the going train – time functions – barrel). The time functions barrel provides a power reserve of 100 hours.
The case is in titanium steel with a scratch-resistant DLC coating; the titanium caseback has a sapphire window revealing the movement. The central cylinder (carrure) of the case is in titanium sheathed in carbon fibre. The result of this complex design is a light but robust case with a modern, typically TimeWalker look, large at 45.6 mm diameter and 15.48 mm thickness. The crown has an inset Montblanc emblem in mother-of-pearl. The pusher that starts and stops the chronograph is at 12 o’clock, a reference to the 1916 Minerva chronograph.
The centre-sweep seconds hand revolves once a second against the 100th second scale on an inclined flange at the edge of the dial. The dial is open-worked, and so you can see parts of the movement, in particular the chronograph column wheel at 12 o’clock, and parts of the winding system at 3 o’clock. Time indications – hour and minute – are shown on a central grey ring, with small seconds at 9 o’clock; there is a chronograph counter at 6 o’clock, with two hands for 60 seconds (longer black hand, red outer scale) and 15 minutes (red hand, inner scale). The sapphire caseback reveals the two balances, the larger conventional balance for the going train (normal time function), the smaller balance for the chronograph function. The watch will probably be available for purchase later this year (autumn 2014): it is a limited edition of 100, with a price of €50,000 each. Click here to find Montblanc stores.
F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain
The F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain is a 100th of a second chronograph, with one hand that makes a revolution every second. The chronograph display has three dials, one for one second, one for 20 seconds, and one for ten minutes. For each, a tachymeter scale is marked inside the time scale, so on the one-second dial, the tachymeter reading corresponding to a tenth of a second is 36,000. In theory, of course, because human reaction times have to be taken into account and they are far higher than hundredths of seconds. But no matter, this is a brilliant piece of engineering and a perfect expression of the fascinating dichotomy of watchmaking: high-priced objects of mechanical perfection, that have no real application in the world today.
It has to be said that François-Paul Journe has worked on the problem of reaction time, and instead of buttons on each side of the crown, the watch has a rocker at 2 o’clock on the case band, which starts, stops and resets the chronograph.
Another technical feature is the fact that the chronograph has a gear train separate to the timekeeping function, so that the latter is not affected by starting and stopping the chronograph. The watch has an exceptional power reserve, 80 hours without the chronograph running, and 24 hours with the chronograph used continuously.
As for all F.P.Journe watches, this has a movement in rose gold, comprising 284 components, in a case 40 mm in diameter, 10.7 mm thick. The watch is made in gold or platinum, with leather strap or metal bracelet. It is spectacular when it is in operation, with the three chronograph hands revolving at different speeds.
TAG Heuer Mikrotimer Flying 1000 Concept Chronograph
There are three more TAG Heuer watches that come into the category of 100th second watches, but in fact they are much faster, attaining accuracies of a thousandth and a two-thousandth of a second, but losing the immediacy of the 100th-second watches above. While you can fit a hundred divisions around a circular scale at the edge of a dial, you can’t do the same with a thousand divisions, and so designers have to think up different ways of creating an analogical display for thousandths.
The TAG Heuer Mikrotimer Flying 1000 Concept Chronograph can display one-thousandth of a second by means of an escapement developed with Atokalpa, vibrating at 3,600,000 beats per hour (1,000 beats per second, 500 oscillations per second). Like the Mikrograph 1/100th of a second chronograph, the normal time gear train is separated from the chronograph, and runs at a conventional 4 Hertz frequency (28,000 beats per hour), while the chronograph runs at 500 Hertz. The chronograph regulator has no balance wheel, but just a short spiral spring, which transmits its impulses to a lever, and thence to a wheel.
The display takes the form of a flying central hand that makes ten rotations per second, and so when you see it, it’s like an aeroplane propeller, just a blur. This hand shows both thousandths and hundredths of a second, with tenths of seconds shown on a 5-seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, and seconds shown by another centre-sweep hand on a two-and-a-half minute scale. Just reading off the elapsed time requires some careful mental arithmetic. The chronograph mechanism has its own barrel, and there is enough energy for just two and a half minutes. The time display, with its own barrel, has a conventional 42-hour power reserve. The watch has a case in steel coated with black titanium carbide, and a movement treated with black ruthenium. This is a concept watch, with 11 units made, retailing at about €65,000.
TAG Heuer Mikrogirder 2000
The TAG Heuer Mikrogirder 2000 doubles the oscillation speed to 1,000 Hertz, so 2,000 vibrations per second, and so it attains accuracy of 1/2000th of a second, with a central hand revolving 20 times per second. The oscillator in this case is a metal blade (which is presumably the reason for the name Mikrogirder), visible through a window on the dial, whose vibration becomes the chronograph regulator. This watch is hard to read, like the Flying 1000.
TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder 10000
The TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrogirder 10000 is a development of the Mikrogirder 2000, with the same precision of a 2000th of a second, but with a different dial display: the two-thousandths are shown on the outer scale, with hundredths on a subdial at 3 o’clock, and seconds on another subdial at 12 o’clock.
This video by TAG Heuer shows the progression of its “high speed” watches: