Patek Philippe Advanced Research released two innovations this year, housed in the Aquanaut Travel Time ref. 5650G, and people are freaking out. With good reason, I might add, because the two innovations in question – an improved Spiromax and a new timezone-advancing mechanism – have far-reaching implications that are completely obscured by their deceptively simple appearances. Thing is, this is not going to be a discussion of the watch. At all. This is one of those instances in which I care far less about the watch than what it means. It doesn’t happen a lot, but never underestimate the power of Patek Philippe to come up with something that takes up permanent residence in your thoughts (in an Aquanaut case, no less!) and will keep you up at night.
Unless you’ve spent far too much time deep in the arid landscape of technical watchmaking, it’s unlikely that you get why some people seem so bothered about isochronism. I mean, I get it, too. So, the balance doesn’t oscillate in perfect half beats, with optimal amplitude or good concentricity, or whatever it is the technical guys like to bang on about.
Why is this a problem? Let’s take a real-life example. Say you’ve got a lovely swing set in the garden. You want to have a good time on the swing. But one side of the swing is shorter than the other, so your centre of gravity is continually misaligned with the swing’s plane of oscillation. You’re twisting about, wasting energy trying to keep the swing going — you are not having a good time. Same thing goes with a movement hairspring; if it doesn’t breathe concentrically, its centre of gravity is shifting about relative to its axis of rotation, energy that could have gone into increasing amplitude is wasted in returning the system to dynamic equilibrium, and no one is having a good goddamn time, believe me.