When Abraham-Louis Bregeut invented the tourbillon, it is unlikely he would have expected his masterpiece to be crafted virtually entirely from plastic with the aid of a 3D printer.
Christoph Laimer is the innovative architect behind what may be the world’s first fully functional 3D printed watch with a tourbillon. The timepiece, which rests at a large 98mm, is black and orange, and rather hefty. Visually, it is a stark contrast to traditional tourbillons, which are synonymous with meticulous craftsmanship and luxury.
It is a remarkable feat. Every gear, escapement, case, balance spring and main spring was printed from a consumer level 3D printer. The only parts of the timepiece which were not printed by the 3D printer are the metal pins, which are used as the axes for the gears, and some of the screws.
There is still some room for improvement. While the 3D printed watch with a tourbillon can be wound up and the time can be set, it is not very accurate, and, according to Laimer, can only run for about 30 minutes.
It is ironic that the mastermind behind the 3D printed watch does not own a watch. “I don’t own a watch and I am not a watch collector,” Laimer told the Post by email. “However, I have always been fascinated [by] the mechanics of all kinds of watches.”
That said, the architect of the 3D tourbillon cites the Deep Sea Tourbillon by watchmaker Vianney Halter as an inspiration for his adapted tourbillon. Halter is best known for his Opus 3 for Harry Winston, the first digital display mechanical watch, and his Antiqua watch collection.
Watch aficionados and collectors will no doubt point out that the tourbillon is one of the hardest complications in the world to build, and is also one of the most expensive to own. It may therefore come as a surprise to many of them to learn that Laimer has shared all the necessary files and instructions for printing one on the 3D design community website Thingverse.
While Laimer’s product may be frowned upon by horological purists, it demonstrates the development of 3D printing technology. And there has been real interest in his work from the technological world.
As at the date of print, Laimer’s 3D printed tourbillon has been downloaded over 39,000 times and nine people claim to have attempted to re-create his masterpiece.
The 3D printed watch with the tourbillon is Laimer’s
second foray into horological printing. He first printed a wall clock with an anchor escapement and balance-wheel with a spiral spring.