Precision timing - making the Hublot F1 King Power 11 Jun 2011
Since being appointed as official Formula One watchmakers in March 2010, Hublot have released a range of timepieces that embody the spirit of F1. For Hublot, motor racings ultimate series is and always has been a great source of inspiration. It represents cutting-edge technology, top-level competition, and the ultimate in precision and control - all of which fit perfectly with Hublots tradition of quality, luxury, excellence and advanced technological research.
As a result of the intense collaboration between Formula One Management executives and Hublot's watch designers, an already impressive limited edition series of watches has been conceived in less than 12 months - the F1 King Power in zirconium, gold and ceramic, the F1 King Power Monza and India and the ultra-exclusive F1 King Power Tourbillon in zirconium and gold, with plenty of surprises still to come. Details such as the brake-disc inspired ceramic bezel, the flame-proof NOMEX strap insert and the distinctive Start button clearly highlight the effect F1 has had on the prestigious Swiss brand. They also showcase the impressive capabilities of Hublots manufacturing.
With the recent inauguration of their fully-fledged production facility, bringing all elements of production in-house, the doors have opened onto a new world of possibilities for Hublot. The new factory facilities have already brought about several world-firsts and have even allowed the brand to produce their own lightweight alloys. The pursuit of vertical integration allows Hublot to express their creativity to the fullest extent; as seen in the King Power F1s highly sought-after special edition pieces.
Manufacture of the F1 King Power is divided into several departments, based on the different watchmaking production phases. The first phase, known internally as T-0, is where most of the watchs components (the F1 King Powers movement alone has 252) are made and finished using a huge variety of machines and techniques such as CNC machines, band saws, lathes, wire erosion machines, furnaces, micro-blasters, deburrers, polishers, washers, spin dryers, engravers and sharpeners.
Hublots milling and turning workshops allow them to produce even the smallest components that go into a watch, transforming rough brass, copper or steel bars into micrometre-accurate parts such as the barrel axis, barrel drums, centre pinions and winding stems. Hublot also format and recalibrate machinery to allow it to operate on high-tech materials, while their electroplating department can supply components with precious metal coatings. One area of the department is dedicated to handling large quantities of gold, rhodium and nickel, while another is responsible for researching new colours and specialist development.
Following manufacture, certain components will be passed to the decoration workshop, where technicians receive pieces in their unfurnished state before applying the absolutely perfect finish demanded by Hublot, Formula One and their customers. Decorative patterning techniques such as Cotes de Geneve, perlage, satin brushing and bevelling allow infinite possibilities for personalising each timepiece design.
Moving on to phase T-1 of the production process, tradition meets innovation. At this stage, loose parts are brought to the watchmaker, where they are assembled to form the completed watch movement. That is then fitted into a watch case by another specialist watchmaker. In fact, T-1 works like any modern production line - albeit on a much more exclusive scale - as every watchmaker on site has a specific expertise and is responsible for one step in the manufacturing process. For example, one watchmaker is in charge of fixing the movement into the case, another is responsible for placing the hands on the dial, and so on. By the end of T-1 Hublot have a fully functioning watch case, with the movement and hands intact, ready to go into testing.
The last production phase, T-2, is where testing and final assembly takes place. Watches go through different tests to ensure optimum performance. These include water-resistance, pressure testing, sensitivity to air humidity and thermal shock testing (extreme heat followed by extreme cold). After passing these tests, the watch is assessed for its timekeeping ability in different positions. Once it passes that examination, the watch is polished, cleaned and meticulously finished. Finally, the strap and buckle are attached and the watch is placed into a sealable bag filled with argon gas to protect it against any kind of corrosion or oxidation.
That already highly labour-intensive production process is for the standard F1 King Power. For the special editions, which include more complex mechanisms - or complications as they are known in the watchmaking industry - Hublot have gone one step further and created an isolated department within the factory. The King Power F1 Tourbillon, for example, was conceptualized and produced within this department, where typically one watchmaker works on a single watch from start to finish, applying both traditional know-how and modern techniques in realizing what can only be described as mini-masterpieces of horological engineering.
For more pictures of the F1 King Power in production, click here .
For more information on Hublot visit Hublot.com.