WristWatch Magazine - Page 58

LOUIS MOINET “I CAME TO PARIS IN 1815 WITH THE SOLE PURPOSE OF DEVISING AND MAKING A COMPTEUR DE TIERCES,” rate, improving the automatic movement’s efficiency and performance by 30 percent. “Everyone else worked from the premise that the chronograph was an additional complication on top of the time function,” explains CEO Schaller. “Our starting point was the opposite— sweeping away the past and making the chronograph the heart of our design, the central component to which we then added a time function, rather than the other way around.” Chronographs are the descendants of 19th century watchmakers’ unflinching desire to the increase the frequency of their timepieces—which dramatically enhanced precision. By 1820, the accepted time measurement limit was one-tenth of a second. Moinet’s compteur de tierces (“thirds timer”) remarkably measured six times more precisely than the norm, making him the founding father of high-frequency time measurement. His precision record lasted a century before it was improved upon. Moinet crafted his original chronograph as an astronomical 56 WRISTWATCH | 2016 transit instrument, mounted for use at sea to track the movement of stars, moons and planets from the land. The 1816 chronograph’s balance beats at 216,000 vibrations an hour or 30Hz—then an unimaginable frequency (modern wristwatches are typically 28,800 vibrations per hour or 4Hz). “I came to Paris in 1815 with the sole purpose of devising and making a compteur de tierces,” wrote Moinet in an 1823 letter. “The difficult and seldom attempted realization of this instrument of a new construction, has achieved my purpose most satisfactorily.” Today, Olympic swimmers are measured to 1/100th of a second. In fact, superstar swimmer Michael Phelps won his record seventh gold medal in the 2008 Beiing Olympics by this margin, a mere fingertip. Truth be told: Phelps may owe that gold medal to Moinet’s genius—as much as his own. Just as watch lovers owe Moinet for the chronograph, likely the most popular of timepiece of the modern era.