02/2019: Gear train made of solid gold
Saxony watchmaking and LANG & HEYNE
01/2019: Geartrain made of solid gold
Looking at old pocket watches, there are some unique pieces amongst them with a gear train made of solid gold. Why was gold used back then and why can it hardly be find in today’s watches.
Back then, it was a symbol of very precious and high value watches. The material gold has always been an epitome for value.
Gold is often associated as a soft material. Through alloying, rolling and hammering the material will be hardened until it is even harder than brass. From the technical aspect, there are two characteristics of interest: this material endures dry friction very well without oiling, e.g. at the pallets fork or interfering of the gears with the steel pinions. The other advance is that it is neutral to the former used, natural lubricants. Because of this, it was used as material for escapements in Saxony pocket watches. These escapements lead to a very precise running of the watches, too, which was stable also over a longer period.
Another advance of solid gold parts: no need of galvanic coating. When it comes to gears teeth it was of special interest. The gold plating might strip away over time due to pressure on the tooth flanks, which leads to wear and abrasion. This is the reason why some companies were cutting the teeth of gears after the gold plating. For the same reason the gears of the stop mechanism of historical chronographs, which have very fine teeth, are made of solid gold. Otherwise, the wearing of the plating would lead to stopping of the watch.
It can be speculated, that these small advantages compared to the high efforts of producing were in no relation for that time. If used, than mainly because of aesthetic than functional reasons, especially when visible in the watch.
The gold wheels and escapement disappeared in the course of industrialization and cutting costs. Furthermore, could be similar results achieved with synthetic oils at the escapement and the harder steel.
The attention to detail within the LANG & HEYNE watches is unique. Following the historical Saxony watchmaking, it was a logical consequence, to replace the gold plated brass gear train with solid gold wheels.
For us it was a must, manufacturing the escapement parts as well as all running wheels of solid, hard rolled gold. The higher material cost of the wheels will be offset of the possibility applying a much nicer polishing on the gold, as well as having the option, reworking minor damages. Our watches are artfully designed mechanical timepieces, which shall be appealing to one’s eyes. The color contrast of the red-gold, filed gears and their polished chamfers in contrast to the yellow-gold, grained surface of the ground are important, too.
For us it was a process. Since 2009 the smaller movements are equipped with a solid gold gear train. Since 2016 the gear train within the big movements are manufactured in solid gold too. All watches of LANG & HEYNE are now equipped with this high-quality rose gold gear train.
Thus it is for everyone a special pleasure holding a watch of LANG & HEYNE and experiencing the perfection.