Have you ever encountered a situation where your watch and the time indicated in the office clock differs, missing an “on time entry” with a subtle difference of seconds? Is it because your watch is not timed correctly or has the battery gone down? Did you ever stop by to ponder the precision of your watch? Have you ever felt that you are following the wrong time? The answer to all these questions is quiet simple; the time displayed in a watch is all inaccurate. Surprised? Conventional mechanical watches provide inaccurate time due to the effect of gravitational forces on its various components. Watchmakers have always tried to battle the effects of gravity on a timepiece’s balance assembly. How do I get a watch that provides me an accurate time? “Tourbillon” Technology is the answer.
For centuries a tourbillon watch has been considered as one of the most complicated, ingenious and exclusive timepiece technology. Only the world’s most qualified watch makers were and still are able to make them. A watch with tourbillon movement remains a manifestation of a superior and the most exceptional type of watch, a luxury captured by select audience of addicted connoisseurs because the limited and the essential components of these tourbillons remain scarce.
Time it right
The latest release of Roger Dubuis’ novel Genevian watch brand “the Excalibur Quatuor” is a perfect example that affirms this age old truth. Costing $1.1 million a piece, this looks like a time trender!
The Excalibur Quatuor seizes the brilliance and creativity of Roger Dubuis better than any other model. It represents innovation and features a completely original power reserve indicator, while respecting the great tradition of watch making.
The four sprung balances, which are the pulse of a mechanical watch, have been set at 45° angles to take both gravity and the wearer’s movements into account, providing unparalleled accuracy. By distributing the effects of gravity across the four balances, these effects are negated, thus resulting in a more consistent timekeeping rate, irrespective of the position or motion of placement of the wrist watch. All the technical details aside, the movement is quite dazzling to behold and the sound of four balances ticking brings to mind the whirring of a machine.
Peek into the Tourbillon
In a single axis tourbillon, the entire escapement is housed in a rotating cage, and the whole assembly is constantly moving. No matter what position the watch is in, variations in the timings are essentially canceled out. The balance wheel does not just turn endlessly in one direction, rather, it moves back and forth, like a revolving pendulum, also known as balance wheel oscillation. The consistency in the back and forth movement of a balance wheel creates accuracy in the watch. For this reason, the tourbillon is often used at the seconds counter in a watch. The reason why balance wheel rotates in all possible direction is to nullify the effect of gravity caused by frictional and magnetic force.
The first registered patent on Tourbillon technology was filed in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Lot of patenting activity has been going on since then in this technology.
There is some uniqueness in tourbillon watches designed by every manufacturer in the market. The figure depicts the working model of an Excalibur watch prior to the invention of Excalibur Quatuor. Roger Dubuis holds a design patent (USD636692S1) for the working model of the Excalibur watch.
The advancements in tourbillon technology made Roger Dubuis come up with a unique watch with four tourbillons placed at fixed angles relative to the plane of the dial. This advanced model eventually turned out as Excalibur Quatuor. Roger Dubuis has filed a patent application for the same.
The figure illustrates the distribution of patents in Tourbillon technology across the world. A larger chunk of patents is held by Chinese manufacturers, who provide Tourbillon technology at a cheaper rate. These Chinese watchmakers have become a potential threat to major Swiss brands. Major players in this niche industry are Swiss manufacturers such as Breguet, Greubel Forsey, Richemont Group etc. In spite of having a lot of products in Tourbillon technology, Luxury brands such as Omega, Zenith do not have significant patent assets.
If you think, the markets for these niche watches are dropping down. Well the answer is no, the buyers for these aesthetic and unique watches are growing. Players like Greubel Forsey, Omega have designed watches that provide world time on par with the earth’s rotation. There are masterpieces which work in anti clock direction, watches displaying the different phases of a moon, anti-magnetic watches etc. Well, with tourbillon technology growing in importance by the day, will watchmakers modify these antiques to work with precision?
Interesting you say, Mr. Icahn. Can you be finally writing about Apple and Nuance opening doors for a future we’ve seen as part of science fiction? Or is the industry going to see the reemergence of the three ‘musk’eteers? It will be fascinating to see Apple, Nuance and Tesla mix their secret ingredients to cook up a perfect “D” we’ve heard about recently. Batmobile for all! Or maybe it’s an appeal to go open source, only time will tell.
Carl Icahn holds close to 19% stake in Nuance and 0.88% in Apple. So the most likely thing we’ll find in the letter will have something to do with Nuance. Market speculations regarding the mysterious tweet puts Nuance and Apple stocks on a bullish trend. However, let’s look at the pros and cons of this arrangement from an IP and technology perspective.
Apple will profit from this as its speech recognition back plane is powered by Nuance and with little to no tweaks it can go about its business as is now. On the other hand, if Samsung decides to buy Nuance, which has been rumored to be up for sale, Apple will have to make a major overhaul to Siri and might just end up breaking what is fixed and smooth.
Nuance holds seminal patents in the Speech Recognition domain and irrespective of who buys Nuance, anyone who wants to implement SR technology will have to get into some kind of agreement with it. Having said this, is Nuance holding a monopoly? Or will we see a paradigm shift in the near future?
To get answers to these questions, simply ask your smart assistant to watch this page for updates, and sit back while we beam you to the wonderful world of voice recognizing smart virtual assistants.
Picture these. You are on one of your adventure trips and desperately need to quench your thirst. Instead of breaking a sweat and asking around for a nice restaurant you simply speak to your watch “Find a restaurant nearby”; and your watch presents you with feasible options and a map with directions to get to them. You are working out in a gym and after the session your watch gives you an overview of the calories you have burnt. You have the license to feel smug at having lost all those calories. You are driving and urgently need to text your colleague. Don’t bother picking up your phone. Just speak to your watch and it will send the message for you.
Imagine a scenario where you feel overwhelmed by the beauty of a scene and just use your watch to capture it. How cool is that! Gone are the days when you looked at your wrist to simply take note of the time. Now your watch will assist you in a way that once caught your imagination as part of fancy Hollywood sci-fi flicks.
Behold the modern day smart watch – a wearable device all set to keep you updated on the move. Coupled with a smart phone or not, a smart watch may incorporate a whole spectrum of functionalities such as GPS navigation, heart-rate monitoring, media player, texting, calling or even clicking pictures. In short, it lets you do almost everything that a smart phone does without you having a need to fish into your pocket. According to Google on an average a smart phone user checks his or her phone 125 times a day. This number is surely going to come down as users start getting updates on a device they can wear on their wrists.
Smart watch suddenly appears to be a pool of wealth in which every company wants to swim. Be it Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, LG, Motorola or Asus, more and more companies have either announced or started rolling out smart watches in a bid to get a stronghold on this (potentially) billion dollar market. Samsung Gear, Moto 360, Sony SmartWatch, LG G watch, the recently unveiled Apple iWatch, Pebble Smart Watch series and Google Android Wear, all indicate a paradigm shift on how an individual will use mobile devices to ease his life.
However, novel though they may seem, Smart Watches aren’t something invented over the past decade. They did exist in much less sophisticated form, offering calculation and paging functionalities. Seiko offered a watch that could store digits and compute data. Casio offered a series of “game watches”. IBM came up with a smart watch operating on Linux and even owns a patent related to smart watch (US 6477117). However, imbibing more features in these watches meant a larger size which was why they weren’t fancied by the public. Only recently, with the advent of technology that can make miniature devices possible, the development of smart watches has gained momentum. Apple and Samsung, two companies involved in probably the most high profile global tussle related to patents, have already started fortifying their portfolio of patents related to smart watches. Apple filed for US patent 8787006 in 2011, which discloses a wrist-worn electronic device with all its unique functions. Samsung also obtained a design patent US D709873 S1 which discloses a circular smart watch, unlike its Gear devices which are all rectangular in shape. Dominating a market needs innovation which is why it is highly likely that the patent count related to smart watches will increase in future.
Development of smart wearable devices is still at a nascent stage. There are various doubts as to the commercial success of smart watches due to factors such as limited battery life. However, as was seen in the case of tabs, it doesn’t take time for the market to explode once the device and its usage becomes apparent to users. Smart watch is an emerging domain of portable devices and may go on to claim a huge pie of the revenue in the mobile devices market. What remains to be seen is who emerges as the leading market player and what sorts of innovations can companies bring to alleviate the present concerns related to smart watches.Earlier Posts »