This Rolex watch is made using an eye surgery laser

Although the a . file A repository of well-established analogue skills and craftsmanship, today’s luxury watch industry has developed the deft ability to source high-tech innovations from sectors that have absolutely nothing to do with the watch world.

The high latent strength of carbon fiber – achieved in 1963 at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, a British Army-owned research facility for use in jet engines – is now routinely used in high-end watches. Deep reactive ion etching, developed for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), is now also used to make silicon watch parts that have changed the watch industry thanks to its antimagnetic properties (metal watches with constantly moving parts hate magnets).

TAG Heuer, based on a process first developed at the University of Utah, attempts to grow a hairspring from carbon nanotubes, tiny spirals at the heart of a mechanical watch that drive the balance’s vibrations, which in and of themselves allow, with each vibration, a single tooth of a wheel Driving to “escape” and push the hands of the watch. Presumably they are less brittle than their silicone counterparts; It is similarly resistant to magnetism but has better shock resistance and is easier to assemble for the watchmaker.

The titanium and ceramic compounds found in today’s watch cases were created for military and dental uses. Panerai’s Carbotech material was actually developed for brake pads.

And the list goes on. Essentially, no new material used in watch cases has ever been developed, in fact, for watches. Watch brands are very adept at finding and incorporating new things into their field.

However, while new materials, manufacturing techniques, and engineering processes have moved heavily and rapidly from the likes of the automotive and aviation sectors, eye surgery may seem a less likely source of technological inspiration.

However, this year Rolex turned to laser technology used to remove cataracts in its quest to create unique, flawless decorations for its dial. The latest version of the classic, self-winding Datejust – a watch first made in 1945 to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, in which tropical palm fronds swing across a light green dial where the face is lighter in the center and darker in bezels in a semi-abstract fashion – uses this very process .

The palm on the base of the sunray dial was engraved using femtosecond laser technology, which was first developed for surgical purposes in the early 1990s.

During cataract surgery, very short laser pulses (femtoseconds of one millionth of a billionth of a second) are used to cut with a precise geometry in the surface of the eye, allowing for the removal of this type of cataract material. Accuracy that the surgeon’s hand cannot achieve.

Photo: Rolex

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