The second stage of production is the Union Collection case manufacturing. In the previous article, you discovered the process and creation of the flat and curved dials. Today, we will introduce you to the next chapter of our series and will discuss the savoir-faire of the case’s fabrication.
Before we begin, it is important to note that our cases go through a unique design process. Generally, the horns are an integral part of the case, but in Beaubleu, the horns come to encircle it and screw inside the case. The challenges of our design, therefore, lie in the adjustment of parts and the treatment of surfaces. An exciting process but not without risk.
Let us start the manufacturing of the cases! Suffice to say that, for now, these are simple blocks of steel, and it will be a long journey before the results. To go from the draft to the result, you must follow different stages interspersed with measurement and annealing operations.
The first step in creating the middle of the case is the modeling of the steel block. It is a simple block that will be successively compressed and flattened ten times using rolling mills – machines made up of hardened steel cylinders. This stage changes the metal quality to create a compact solid shape. Each piece will have to pass the dimension test because each variation will be visible on the final product. Nothing we can’t handle!
Today, we are in the workshop to check the first pieces of the stamping stage. We will discuss with our craftsmen the various difficulties encountered and viable solutions.
The stamping operation, which would be like cutting, consists of shaping the medium with a stamp that crushes the material. Repeated several times, the metal gradually regains its shape. Between each stamping, the part is annealed and remeasured.
We begin to see the first elements of the Beaubleu watch horns. They are worked separately, and at this stage are only a silhouette of the design. We remain ruthless in the face of quality, and non-conforming parts are entirely reworked.
Once the stamping process is finished, the piece is now ready to begin the machining stage. The machining process is an important step, and failure at this level of manufacturing can result in significant costs. This step consists in sculpting the final shape of the parts, focusing on the mechanical aspect, i.e. ensuring the placement and drilling of the screws, the adjustment of the parts between them (case horns and movement), and the quality of the shapes (chamfers, fillets, curves, and solids).
At this stage, we finally have before us the Beaubleu pieces. The horns are hollowed out using an arm capable of positioning on five axes. This technique is called CNC 5-Axis Use and is intended for small series. In our case, it is the most advanced technology to obtain the expected result. The horns’ slenderness and position must be treated first by computer-controlled machines and after by hand.
Alex, a machining specialist, sums up our day with a laugh: “Your horns are beautiful, but hell to do.” In order not to spoil anything, pieces are precise to a tenth of a millimeter, with each part remeasured and redone from the start if it is considered non-compliant.
We knew it, but the machining step being extremely delicate, several parts were not in conformity: deformations of certain parts due to metal variations and other unexpected “pleasures”. So, we stay calm and begin again. Luckily, this has no impact on production times, which is a victory.
Considering the past few days and the relaxation of government working conditions regarding Covid-19, we are now entering the most beautiful stage: the treatment of surfaces. We have gone from a big block of steel to a rough watch. Now it is time for a final look at the metal of the Union collection: grained and polished. All visible parts are placed in a sealed box where very fine sand will be thrown at high speed. Abrasion of the steel will then give this grainy, almost powdery appearance. The challenge here is to better control the grain size to obtain homogeneous and delicate graining.
The next steps is polishing. Using a lathe, the parts are polished, being extremely careful not to protrude from the grained surfaces. Despite the loud noise of the machines, the workshop is plunged into religious silence for the concentration of each craftsman. A single movement can damage the sanded surface and if this is the case, we must start sanding completely.
Another element must be considered: the quality of the surface. Aside from the absence of scratches, the qualified experts, and our designer Nicolas, check the light and environmental expressions on the watch. It is like the body of a car, the reflective design will tell you if the part is “veiled”, concave, or convex. It is a question of experience at this level because if you remove too much material from the polishing, it is the assurance to start the part from the beginning.
There is a special mention for the hollowed-out ropes. Since no power tool is small enough to polish the interior, the finishes are done entirely by hand. Great progression!
A small routine check on the first steel watches begins. The angles of the parts are well controlled, and we see ourselves in the polished surfaces. Some parts have been reworked to meet our quality requirements.
Today, there are still different stages, such as the processing of certain models such as the Audace or Olympe from the Rive Gauche line, and of course the final assembly. In the meantime, we will focus on our signature round hands and their manufacturing process.
For a few days, for general health, we are encouraged to stay at home. But no worries, life is still going on and more than ever the Beaubleu adventure so. As you may know, our new Union Collection has highlighted some innovations such as the second’s hand, the lume, and the blued steel hands. And we will talk about these last ones.
You can see them on some models like the Olympe and the Intrepide, they are easily recognizable with their blue shades. We have chosen them to twirl on our dial because they give poetry – as we are always looking for – contrast – you can find it in every detail of our watches – and readability – their blued shade stays discrete to be more focused on the reading of time.
Today, more used for the aesthetics of our watches, the blued steel hands used to have specific usefulness.
Let’s go back a few decades ago, we can say the Before War period. The steel hands were flame blued to reduce the sensitivity of the metal against the corrosion. But what process do we use? It is quite simple – depending on your knowledge and experience of course – the blued color is obtained thanks to a temperature rise process. First, we heat red the steel and then we steep it to increase its resistance. Then, we heat it again at a specific temperature. If it is not heated enough, we will have yellow shade, if the temperature is too high, we’ll obtain a purple shade.
Here we are, you know all about our blued steel hands and the contrasts they give to our timekeeper while conserving the best reading of time possible. Each variation given by these hands extends the discovery of your watch and these surprises unfold by the everyday light. For us – and for you too – each detail counts, then it seemed important to us, and useful, to tell you these “small” information about our circular hands.
Even if the actual period in France is not the best ever, we will keep writing every week about our watch and our universe.
We wish you wonderful hours,
Take care and stay safe.
The Beaubleu Team
You couldn’t miss it, our babies are out, and we did not expect this frenzy about the new collection! The excitement aside, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about the story of the Union Collection. This part is the first step about the design process of the house before the launching (very expected) of the pre-orders.
A few months ago, someone asked me: “so how is going to be the new collection?”. I knew people were expecting a lot from this new creation, and I asked myself: How to offer more surprise and keeping at the same time the Beaubleu’s identity? Who will go these watches to? How to integrate the community’s expectations? Such a hard work…
However, before putting down my first thoughts, I strolled in Paris… From the antique stores to the design gallery and the 11th district restaurants, I was looking for a main thread for the entire collection. It was the moment to find the coherency.
I imagined this watch like an interior. From a room to another, the aspect stays because of the combination of warm and cold materials. The warmth of a wood table with a velvet sofa joined by a marble table, all these contrasts play with our senses, for our greatest pleasure.
As often, we have the same vision as our ambassadors. The envy of giving colors was evidence. So, what colors? How to keep the vibrating and warm side of the interior design? I started to buy velvet and satin to find deeper colors, that tell stories.
Once the main thread is found, it is complicated to not draw the first ideas, and keeping adding new materials, and images. We test our first inspirations, to see if, with time, we are not bored. This process is long and hard, but we cannot miss it, because if there is one thing that we don’t want, it is that became bored. No, no and No !
After, I compiled the finale inspirations, and I mixed them: a velvet with a polished steel, a green with a Soulage painting or a grained paper. And without any drawings, the models started to appear (almost) by themselves.
Then, the inpiration step is ending, but will stay on our Studio’s wall until the end of the production.
This step was celebrated with the team, of course, and the next day, the serious thngs were back with the step of creation.
Next week, same day, same hour, we meet for the second step of creation. We will talk about drawings and composition.
We wish you wonderful hours,
Nicolas Pham, Beaubleu’s designer
In a previous article, we talked about our circular hands, signature of Beaubleu which give a new vision of the time and a poetic reading of the clock. Now we would like to go back in the time and relate the story of the hands and how they affect the design and the personality of a watch.
Everything started with only one hand. Remember the sundials we talked about. The shadow of the sun on a flat surface used to tell the time of the day. This shadow gave birth to the hand for the hours, which was the only one until 1691. From this date, after the invention of the Spiral which gave more accuracy, the hands for the minutes have been invented by Daniel Quare. After in 1812, the first hands manufactory was created by Charles Wagnon. Other manufactories were created with more than 400 types of hands.
Despite all these types, they have the same composition: the base, the neck, the head and the body. And what do you think of talking about the most important types of hands?
The baton hands
Part of the most common hands, the baton hands have a straight and flat form, relatively dense. They can have a tip at the end.
The sword-shaped hands
As their name indicated, they have the form of a sword to indicate the hour. They are often on military or diving watches.
The Dauphine hands
The Dauphine hands take the form of an elongated triangle with a relief at the center. This is because of the facets.
The Breguet Hands
Invented in 1783 by the famous watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet, this thin and litgh hand has at its end a hollowed-out moon.
The Skeleton hands
This type of hands permits to see the dial underneath. They have been cut to open their body.
The spear hands
The spear hands dispose of a more significant shape, with a tip as an arrow taking the shape of a triangle. This type of hand is often used for the sportive watches, known for their great readability.
The Beaubleu hands
The Beaubleu circular hand offer a more poetic vision of the time. Compare to the other hands which show an absolute time, the Beaubleu hands indicate a location which stop for an instant.
Finally, the watch’s hands, despite what we can think, are at the heart of the dial and then at the center of the design. They can make everything change about the personality of the watch.
For some models, they become a reference. Such as the circular hands of our Beaubleu’s watches.