If silicon was considered a rarity in the past few years, it is now commonplace, especially this year, no matter whether it is a big brand or a small brand, it is definitely not enough if you don’t get a little bit with silicon. Fashion, I have been asked before whether silicon is a gimmick or really useful. I have never used it, so I can explain it according to the general laws of nature. As we all know, the simpler the structure, the more reliable it is. It has been tested by the market, but one thing is certain that the escapement fork has changed from the original three parts to one part. It is quite reliable. Let us analyze in detail the benefits of silicon escapement.
Silicon is the eighth in the universe and second only to oxygen in the earth’s crust. Its chemical structure is similar to carbon. It is a tetravalent metal. Silicon has four electrons, and the outer electron layer has four free spaces. Links to other substances through many chemical bonds. This electronic configuration also gives single crystal silicon the same crystal structure as diamond, some metals, and glass.
Therefore, crystalline silicon is hard and light, antimagnetic and corrosion resistant, and can be polished to a smooth and low friction state, all of which are ideal characteristics of watch parts. However, due to two major constraints, silicon was not used in mechanical watch manufacturing until recently: first, silicon is very fragile like glass. Second, micromechanical components made of silicon need to be finely crafted by extremely complex and high-tech photolithography processes. Of course, it has now been resolved.
The real impetus for introducing silicon into the watchmaking industry began in the late 1990s, when a private company CSEM (Swiss Electronics and Microtechnology Centre) in Neuchâtel was under (Including Patek Philippe, Rolex and Swatch Group) commissioned to develop a silicon watch component. However, they are not the final winners, because the first mechanical watch with single-crystal silicon components to be released was the Freak (Available in 2001) watch from Athens. This Freak watch uses an ingenious ‘two-way’ escapement. Two plasma-etched silicon escape wheels can alternately provide thrust to the balance wheel. Interestingly, the design concept of the silicon escapement wheel is derived from CSEM.
Silicon, a pioneering high-tech material, does not require lubrication, it is harder than stainless steel, lighter in texture, and has a lower coefficient of friction, which can effectively reduce component wear and reduce operating forces, so it can obtain the same Accurate timing results. Silicon is non-magnetic and has excellent anti-wear and anti-corrosion properties. It can bring the manufacturing limit of precise timing mechanism into a whole new field. For silicon escapements, Athens can definitely be regarded as a pioneer. This year’s new Athens anchor escapement uses a circular silicon frame. The escapement fork is suspended by two blades that are perpendicular to each other and bend under pressure. . The effective operation of this complex device all depends on the physical characteristics of the blade spring-when the blade is bent in one direction, the other directions cannot be bent at all, so as to generate the power function of a support shaft.
Every half of the balance swings back and forth, the energy will be transmitted to the blade. The blade bounces like a hairpin, and it will suddenly change from a stable state to another state. , But without friction. So when the pallet fork returns to its original position, the system will provide the stored energy and its loss will be close to zero. In addition, because the pallet fork does not need to rotate on the shaft, the pallet shaft is omitted, and the movement of the pallet fork becomes smoother. Although the system is still at the conceptual stage, it is destined to have a significant impact on the development of silicon escapements in the future.
In addition to Athens, Zenith’s ELPrimero Synopsis also began to enter the silicon escapement. Synopsis uses a movement called ELPrimero 4613. This movement removes the original timing function, but still maintains the iconic EL movement. The frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, although this movement can not be timed, but I feel that this movement has become more pure, and the addition of silicon escapement makes this movement even more powerful. The escapement fork and escapement gear are made of silicon. Since silicon itself is harder than steel, its texture is light, and its coefficient of friction is low, so the use of this material on high-vibration movements can maximize the role of silicon.
In addition, the unique happy design of this watch can be said to be perfectly integrated with the silicon material. With this design, the interaction between the faint blue silicon pallet and the escape wheel can be fully received. fundus. Because the Synopsis Happy Watch is based on the legendary ELPrimero movement, the position of each splint, mechanism and part has been carefully studied and market-tested, so I believe this EL is non-chronograph The silicon escapement movement will surely achieve good market performance in the future.
In addition to the above two top brands, this year we are also glad to see that Frederique Constant, known as the bezel Zara, has also joined the silicon escapement camp. Since Frederique Constant’s first heartbeat self-produced movement was successful in 2004, Every year, new members are added to the series. This year’s new FC-945 heartbeat movement, after two years of design, development and improvement, uses the most technologically advanced silicon material available today. Like other brands, Frederique Constant used deep reactive ion etching technology called DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching) when making silicon escape wheels. The image of the escape wheel is first projected on a silicon wafer with a diameter of 100 mm and a thickness of 0.5 mm. The diameter of a silicon wafer is generally between 25.4 mm and 300 mm. The semiconductor boule cuts the wafer and then polishes it on one or both sides. A silicon wafer with a diameter of 100 mm can make about 250 escape wheels.
The silicon escape wheel is made well. It has the same three-dimensional structure as diamond, light weight, high hardness, and corrosion resistance. Therefore, it is not necessary to use lubricating oil on the meshing surface of the gear. At the same time, it also has good friction performance and reduces friction. It is most suitable to replace the existing metal materials and achieve the highest efficiency requirements of the escapement process.
From the above text, we can see that silicon escapement has unique high-quality performance. I think that with the continuous maturation of its processing technology, silicon escapement will definitely replace the current metal material in the near future.