Watch manufacturer cuts time to market
3D CAD allows 50 percent time savings through faster development of watch movements
Achieving quality and affordability
NOMOS watches are mechanical watches offering an extremely high degree of accuracy. The company is located in Glashütte, a town between Dresden and the border of the Czech Republic that is the mecca of the German watch making industry. Here, watches are made that can be worn for a lifetime. In 2006 NOMOS Glashütte employed a workforce of 56, mainly watchmakers, but also toolmakers, engineers and computer specialists. NOMOS has been manufacturing its own watch movements for more than a year and about 80 per cent of its watch components are designed and built on site in Glashütte.
When NOMOS develops a watch, the focus is not only on special technical features and innovations. It is primarily on achieving the best quality and function. The clear design of the casing and dial, and the fact that the brand should have its own “face,” is typical for NOMOS. But another vital factor is the price. The products should be perceived to be of high value in terms of quality and design – not necessarily inexpensive, but still affordable for a large number of people.
These were the guidelines for the automatic watch as well: a functional, very good, nice-looking and affordable watch. The first NOMOS automatic watch – further models are to come – used the face of the company’s Tangente model. This watch was created in 1990 for NOMOS by designer Susanne Günther and has made a major contribution to the success of the company. The automatic version was to be somewhat larger, as automatic watch movements require more parts, like for example the rotor and the teeter motion rectifier. On the other hand, larger movements are desirable for accuracy and larger watches reflect current trends. The complete development of the new movement was in the hands of watchmaker Mirko Heyne, who had only been at NOMOS for half a year when the boss, Roland Schwertner, gave him the job with the words,“How about doing an automatic?”
Adopting the latest development and manufacturing technology
The Peseux 7001 movement from Swiss manufacturer ETA, which NOMOS used at the beginning, was considerably upgraded in the works in Glashütte, but not a great deal of design work was needed.As gradually more and more functions were added to the movements, such as the stop seconds or even the patented power reserve display, the NOMOS Alpha, Beta and Delta gradually came into being. A 2D CAD system was used for their development.
The new automatic movement not only meant more complex design tasks, it also aimed to present a stronger image to the outside world. A 3D CAD system was required for fast generation of realistic graphics and easy-to-read exploded diagrams during the development process. But that was not the most important reason for investing in a new CAD system.The decisive factor was the desire to optimize the development process itself.
Solid Edge® software was chosen as the company’s new CAD system because it was already being used by another celebrated watch manufacturer in Glashütte and Mirko Heyne already had experience of working with it. A Siemens partner from Saxony, called PROCIM, was also available for consulting, implementation and training. There were many reasons for this decision which, from today’s point of view, has really paid off for NOMOS.
Time savings through 3D CAD
It doesn’t just simply happen that the watch developer simply sits down in front of the screen and immediately creates a virtual 3D model from his initial rough ideas. Ideas are only transformed into more precise 2D representations when the watch is as good as finished in the watchmaker’s mind. But when it came to the detailed design of the new automatic movement at NOMOS, Mirko Heyne took full advantage of the benefits of 3D. Watches are “tightly packed,” and the distances between the components, possible collisions, the type of function and also possible assembly problems are considerably easier to spot in a 3D model.
3D also offers considerably more security when the design is being translated into reality. This means that unpleasant surprises when initial prototypes are built and serious design errors can be limited or completely avoided if virtual product models are consistently generated and used. And this in turn avoids timeconsuming and costly change cycles.
Faster time to market means faster sales
These benefits were also seen in the development of two watch movements – Zeta with date function and Epsilon without. “In the past you had to allow three to four years for the development of two watch movements,” says Mirko Heyne. “We have managed it in two years up to readiness for the market, including prototype construction, necessary minor modifications and comprehensive practical trials.”
These fabulous results were not achieved with the help of the CAD system alone. Re-use of available components, the most modern production and test machines, direct use of the CAD data in production and also the sheer fact that all those involved worked so closely together were equally important. But the process wasn’t only quick: The fact that no serious changes were needed following intensive practical trials by 250 testers speaks for the high quality of the watches and the development process.
3D CAD creates more transparency
3D CAD is not only more transparent and more efficient for the developer. Other departments and suppliers also benefit from the 3D models. For example, Christian Gammel, production manager and, as a Bavarian, one of the few “non- Saxons“ at NOMOS besides Schwertner, makes direct use of the precise component data generated with Solid Edge for the control of his modern CNC milling and wire eroding machines. At the same time, the 3D model of the watch gives him better access to other information relevant to the manufacturing process.
There are also fewer misunderstandings with regard to the few components that are bought in from Switzerland because of the exact drawings, always to scale, which are generated from Solid Edge. Easy-to-understand 3D views of components or exploded diagrams make discussions in-house easier during the development phase and lead to quicker decisions. An additional bonus is that they can be used directly for marketing and training purposes.
Now that development of the automatic caliber has been concluded, Heyne now hopes that in the future he will have a bit more time to find out about what more Solid Edge has to offer. Possibilties include, among other things, analysis and simulation functions for even smoother running of the watch movement or new opportunities for realistic representation. And for production manager Christian Gammel, the new NC module CAM Express, which enables data for control of CNC machines to be generated even more efficiently and corresponding to the design data, could be of interest. In any event, these techniques seem essential for the ongoing success story at NOMOS.