The balance spring is probably the single most difficult component of a modern wristwatch to manufacture. Balance springs must perform with, as much as possible, unvarying characteristics irrespective of temperature changes, the presence of magnetic fields, the influence of gravity in different positions, and so on. To date, the making of balance springs, either in Nivarox-type alloys or in silicon, has been restricted to a few specialist manufacturers, all of which have been based in Europe (or, in Germany or Japan, depending on the brand).
However, for the last few years, business partners Nicholas Manousos and Kiran Shekar have been developing, at Columbia University, the ability to manufacture silicon balance springs here in the United States. They’ve just announced that in collaboration with F. P. Journe, their balance spring has been tested and validated in an F. P. Journe Chronometre Bleu.
F. P. Journe said, “I am delighted to see that watchmaking research continues, especially so far away from Switzerland. I have enjoyed watching this company grow since my first visit to their laboratory three years ago, and I look forward to continuing to work with this group of horological entrepreneurs.” Manousos commented, “We are grateful to François-Paul for his ongoing support and guidance, and look forward to continued collaboration. This is an exciting time for the entire watchmaking industry, as nanotechnology makes possible horological innovations that were only dreamt of in the past.”
The balance springs are produced at Columbia University’s Columbia Nano Initiative Clean Room, which is a fully-equipped micro- and nano-fabrication lab. In addition to balance springs, Firehouse Horology has created silicon gears as well. The team is rounded out by well known collector and internationally known watch expert William Rohr, Director of Strategy & Business Development.
Why the name Firehouse Horology? Manousos says, “The name Firehouse Horology is from our first manufacturing space, an old firehouse in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. When Columbia University’s renovated nanofabrication laboratory opened, we switched gears to focus on silicon, but the name Firehouse Horology stuck.”
There were major technical hurdles to overcome, says co-found Kiran Shekar, but one of the biggest obstacles was simple credibility. “One of our biggest challenges …read more