Sunday, April 2, 2017

Wrapping Up My Visit With Horage

As is so often the case with BaselWorld, one gets overwhelmed by the frenetic pace and some things, regrettably, get pushed temporarily to the side.  But today is the day to catch you up on my visit with the Horage team.

With a view of the entire facility
It is safe to say that Horage has grown beyond the point of charming little upstart - start up. The "creation story" is of course compelling and it bundles the narrative of a close-knit group of friends coming together to make something wonderful.  That is Horage, through and through.  But the story of Horage is much more than a plucky David vs. Goliath tale.  It is, at its heart, a quest to build a better mousetrap.  

I am, at my basest level, a romantic.  It is, admittedly, a bit of a drawback when working with clients to try and get them to recognize and accept some unpleasant realities.  So in this follow-up to my visit to Horage, I am going to try and temper my idealized impressions (still intact, by the way) with some things that are actually based in REALITY.  In other words, why Horage as cool as it is, might just be the tip of the iceberg to something far more important to the watch making world.  And I'd like to introduce that idea by welcoming back yesterday's watch commentator, Benjamin Braddock from the 1967 film, The Graduate, with some slightly modified dialogue:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. 

Benjamin: Yes, sir. 

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? 

Benjamin: Yes, I am. 

Mr. McGuire: Silicon. 

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

Or in this case, more specifically, silicium.

While there is a LOT of cool stuff going on with the K1, perhaps the coolest is the use of silicium in that most challenging portion of all "basic" movements - the escapement.  More specifically, the anchor wheels, for example ; )

The author's world, officially rocked
And it bears mentioning at this point, that what started out as a movement for Horage has morphed and evolved into a real movement manufacturer (albeit small and growing) -

And while I still have haunting visions of this particular Horage Array -

the real story is so much bigger than just one (albeit very interesting) watch brand.  Because what the CMK1 movements are really doing, is shifting our understanding of just how a movement can be made better, using less money with fewer people.

So let's boil this down to a level where at least I can understand it -
the use of silicon in the anchor wheels does a few things which then have a wonderful positive domino effect on the performance of the movement as a whole:
1.  Silicon components have reduced drag/friction.  
2.  Reduced friction = smoother operation, and can help prolong the time period between service intervals.
3.  Less need to open the watch to service it ensures increased integrity and performance of the watch as a whole.

Oh, and one other nice thing?  That arch villain of mechanical watches, magnetism?  Well, silicon components are to magnetism as the X-Men are to Magneto -

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

The notion of using silicon (silicium) for watch parts is not exactly brand new.  But to use it in the manner that Horage did with the design and construction of the K1 is at once so simple and so obvious that you have to wonder why it took a small band of brothers and sisters put the idea into production and prove that it could be scalable?  And for those of you who are numbers obsessed, here is a very simple one to get your head around - 65.  As in 65 hours of power reserve!

So why hasn't the rest of the industry (i.e. the industrial part) grabbed onto some of these ideas that have been around in other industries for years, ideas used by the folks who design and make auto parts?  I think the simple answer is fear.   Remember that the man who suggested the idea of a luxury stainless steel watch for Audemars Piguet was not exactly applauded at first ; )

The industry is made up of individuals, but by its very nature it discourages individual innovation unless it's birthed by committee.  

"What if it doesn't work?"

"What if the boss doesn't like it?"

"What if the boss steals the idea for himself?"

And this is an industry that is not always noted for its out of the box thinking or bold, independent action.  Watch brands and their constituent departments exist in silos.  And this can and does discourage a great deal of initiative.

But not so at Horage/CMK1 -

This is the space where the Horage team works, and this type of collaborative environment is probably why they have been able to take an existing movement concept, and make it soooo much better.

So while my initial intent was to visit a cool watch company, I found quite a bit more, and moreover hope that maybe the industry I cover can learn something from a real innovator.

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