SAVOIR FAIRE Swiss Made Savoir-Faire, Chapter Three: Our Movements, Perfected to the Micron

5 min

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary savoir-faire that defines our Maison.

© TAG Heuer

Welcome to our ‘House’ – join us for an in-depth exploration of the extraordinary savoir-faire that defines our TAG Heuer Maison. In this series, we’re taking you behind the scenes, all the way into the very ateliers where horological marvels are born. From the first inkling of an idea, to the final polish on each perfected timepiece – via every careful step in-between. Already an expert on the art of watchmaking? Get ready to take your knowledge to the next level, with up-close-and-personal details sure to thrill even you masterminds of Swiss-Made magic. In Chapter Three, we’re taking a closer look at several stages of our movement-making in Chevenez, Switzerland. More on movements to follow, with a second chapter exploring the assembly of our timepieces at our headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

© TAG Heuer

This specialised manufacture and workshop means we can create our own movements, keeping a close eye on quality control and development of products to ensure we always reach the height of excellence.   Producing our own Heuer 02 movements entirely in-house is an important part of our ambitious technical savoir-faire at TAG Heuer.

At Chevenez, we are constantly seeking the utmost precision in our practices – the process of movement-making generally includes multiple complex stages.  These range from the cutting of brass components by machining and milling to a precision of 5 microns, to ‘reaming’, or removal and refining of edges on brass components.  Trimming, sandblasting, mounting, and electrotyping (also known as ‘galvanoplasty’) come before the pressing and setting of up to 70 ‘jewels’ (or jewel bearings) and metal components.  Simple, right?

© TAG Heuer

Let’s take a closer look at each of these stages to see what brings a TAG Heuer to life.

We begin with a prototype machine, to trial examples of new movements or adapting existing movements. With the ability to produce complications such as tourbillons, this machine allows us to test out new ideas and develop the tools we will need for manufacturing.  We take pride in our ability to produce all necessary tools in-house, giving us even further control over the quality of parts we make.

At every stage, we examine quality carefully – often under a microscope! We also use large-scale digital displays to see the motion of various tiny parts up close and personal; from conception all the way to the programming of our machines, precise quality checks are paramount. 

Machining of the brass plates, the raw materials which will eventually be transformed into incredibly complex structures, involves six machines which are refined to actions within the confinement of +/- 5 microns. In this way, we optimize accuracy in each of our movements.

  • © TAG Heuer

As part of our objectives to increase sustainability and support our beautiful natural surroundings, we have implemented several key practices to reduce waste, energy consumption, and the impact of the products we use on the environment.  Specifically, we now recycle leftover brass fragments from our milling and machining processes.  We implement solar power wherever possible. We have minimised our use of chemicals and our overall emissions since 2016.  What’s more, our washing greywater is now sent to a specialised company to be cleaned, filtered, and recycled biologically.

Sandblasting develops the aesthetic finish of our movements, refining and unifying the surfaces to prepare them for their final finishes. But this rather messy process then requires extensive washing and cleaning before finishes such as nickel electroplating can be added.  Several components are also treated with a thin, invisible layer of material to serve as a barrier against the spreading of oil throughout the movement.

Next, different components are positioned into the brass plate.  A program is set to place each component with exceptional precision – simultaneously testing force, pressure, and position within the tiny holes where they must be mounted to ensure the correct functioning of the movement. About ten percent of our movements undergo complete quality testing at an extensive level to be sure that the nearly 70 components are always in their perfect place before they are pressed into the movement.  These components range from wheels and screws to the synthetic rubies, add lubrication to the movement.  By reducing friction in the many moving parts, they are able to preserve efficiency in our watches.

  • © TAG Heuer

The quality control program for this stage of the process is created at the same time as the design of the movement; each component must be positioned according to the design of the individual watch, with tiny pieces fitted perfectly into their places.  A ‘zero point’ is established for each timepiece’s movement, to determine the exact depth or height at which components are placed within a range of  +/- 10 microns.

  • © TAG Heuer

With every piece in position, our movements are ready to move on to their next stage of the journey at our Headquarters in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.  Stay tuned for an exploration of the way our signature Heuer 02 movements are incorporated into our timepieces at our Headquarters in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.