If you’re a regular Haute Time reader you probably know that some of the biggest innovations in recent years are in the development of chronographs capable of measuring ever-smaller fractions of a second. The current record-holder, from TAG Heuer, is the Mikrogirder 2000, which uses a novel blade shaped oscillator rather than a spring and balance wheel to measure intervals of time as small as 1/2000 of a second. In horology, however, there’s often more than one way to skin a cat, and at the same time that TAG debuted its Mikrogirder chronograph, another concept watch took the stage at the Salon International Haute Horlogerie that offers another take on how to measure –using only mechanical solutions –ever smaller fractions of a second.
That watch is the Montblanc Timewriter II Chronographe Bi-Fréquence 1,000, which is capable of measuring intervals of time as small as 1/1000 of a second. While its absolute precision is less than that of the Mikrogirder it’s still far greater than virtually any other chronograph wristwatch in production. Readers of Haute Time may recall from our discussion of the TAG Mikrogirder that for a chronograph, the smallest division of a second that can be measured equals the frequency of the oscillator –so, for a watch to measure intervals of time as small as 1/10th of a second (the shortest interval measurable by a large scale production movement, the El Primero automatic chronograph by Zenith) it’s necessary for the oscillator that controls the watch to beat 10 times per second. More precisely, the oscillator –a balance wheel and spring –must make 10 swings per second, which equals 5 full back and forth cycles, or 5 hertz. Confused? In layman’s terms that just means that for a watch to measure 1/10 of a second intervals, it has to tick ten times per second. The faster a watch ticks, the shorter an interval of time it can measure.