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How to Make an Affordable Quality Watch

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Concept

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Every product starts with a concept. For example in our case we wanted to create an affordable, easy to read ergonomically,inspired by the boldness of the font and contrast of a cockpit instrument like this altimeter. The watch needs to be large enough to be able to achieve the concept, hence the size of 44 to 46 millimeters diameter of most Torgoen watches.

Design

sketch
Once you establish your concept you can then move to the design phase. Some designs start with a free hand sketch. In this figure you can see the free-hand sketch that gave rise t the T7 series. A the end of this phase we pretty much know what are the materials, sizes, colors as well as which movement we will be using.

T7 Tactical watch

T7T - TACTICAL COLLECTION

We go through a long cycle of elimination until we decide about a certain look and feel and many color variations to choose just the right ones according to our marketing experts – the people who are in constant contact with the field and the retailers.

 

Prototyping

After prices are established we require prototyping of all components. This requires technical drawings that look like this:sketch2The prototypes are made usually by CNC (Computer Numeric Control) milling and lathing machines that are very good at producing components in small series. Watches made in mass production have a completely different method of manufacturing. We will come to that later. The prototyping phase takes about 30 to 45 days. After we receive the samples we normally notice things that were difficult to visualize in the renderings. This is the time to fine tune the watch look-and-feel, changing maybe slightly the shape of the lugs, the hue in the dial color, the position and size of the indexes, or the length and shape of the hands. Sometimes the changes require a new set of drawings both technical and visual and sometimes they are so minor that we go from here to production.

Components Production

Cases and Bracelets

sketch3
The first step to make a case and bracelets is to make a mold to stamp case blanks and bracelet links. This is an example of a case blank as it comes out from a 50 to 100 ton stamping machine. As you may notice, there are many things missing here. There are no holes for the pins to attach a bracelet into the case and no hole for the stem going from the movement to the crown as well as the tube covering the stem. Many times cases have more than one piece and a top ring is required. Most Torgoen cases have two pieces even though they can be manufactured with one piece but the look is quite different.

sketch4

Now comes the drilling, milling, lathing and polishing stage. This is what transforms the blank into an almost finished case. What’s needed now is to add some sub-components such as gaskets, crystal, crown tube, crown and case back. Case manufacturers typically don’t make the sub components. There are factories that do just that. They don’t even manufacture the blank (seen in the picture). They have vendors for that. The top manufacturer (the company that owns the brand) needs to specify the quality of each component and sub component. The specs usually come in a book that specify in great detail the quality required on each components and sub-component. Bracelets are made in a similar way.

Case Bracelets Materials

One can make cases or bracelets made out of brass material, or zinc die cast (the lowest quality of material for watch cases and bracelets) or different kinds of stainless steel grades. Torgoen uses stainless steel grade 316L – which is low in carbon (hence the “L” at the end), low in Nickel, whose release is not allowed above a certain level under the EU RoHS (Restrictions of Hazardous Substances) Directive and very high corrosion resistance. Therefore the 316L grade is used for marine and surgical instruments and high quality watches. Some watch companies use a higher grade, but we at Torgoen need to be concerned also about the best value. We decided that the difference between the 316L and the 905L which apparently is a little harder would give extra protection from corrosion does not give enough return on investment in terms of value for our customers.  We thought that there is no practical need for this extra quality and price would be too high.

Plating

Another case sub-component would be plating. At Torgoen black or golden cases and bracelets are plated with a thin film of real, almost pure, gold or black metallic alloys with a process called PVD which is the newest and strongest process available for the watch industry. In the past, the only available method was electroplating, a plating process that used a chemical reaction between the plated surface and the plating materials using electricity. One needed more of the material (i.e. the gold or the black alloy needed to be thicker) and the result was not as good as the new method. It wasn’t as durable as the new methods (PVD or Ionic Plating) that uses bombardment of particles in high temperature in vacuum chambers. As you can imagine, also here there are vendors that deliver different qualities and Torgoen decided to use the best ones since, unlike the stainless steel top grade, this is very beneficial for the user and the plating durability is important. It is necessary to say that no plating method provides 100% scratch resistance and rubbing the plated case against abrasive materials and even continuous rubbing against regular cotton cloth for long periods of time could expose the original underlining metal especially along sharp corners.

Water Resistance

This is an important topic. All Torgoen watches are water resistant to at least 100 meters. Water resistance is really important to customers and even if manufacturers go to great lengths to try and make 100% water tight watches, there are always a certain percentage, albeit small, that fails to pass the simple test of taking a shower with the watch. So, maybe I will explain how a watch becomes water resistant. It starts with precision case manufacturing. Without that, it would impossible to seal all the openings through which water can come into the case. There are a few methods of sealing and I will concentrate of how we, at Torgoen, do it. You probably noticed that the back of the watch has a stainless steel concaved plate closing the back access. There is a rubber “o” ring on the edges of the plate. The plate itself is not a snap back like in many cheaper watches. It screws down onto the case. The crystal is inserted with pressure with a special press through the top opening, but not before an “I” ring made from a special polymer is inserted into the opening into which the crystal is inserted. The pressure on that gasket from the crystal on one side to the stainless steel case from the other side provides the water tightness.

Normal crown with O ring

Other openings of possible water resistance problems are the crown and pushers. These have special construction and with the help of “o” rings provides the necessary water tightness. Crowns and pushers have double rubber “o” rings. There is another type of crown which is used for more than 100 meters pressure. That is the screw-down crown. Since most of Torgoen watches are not water resistant for more than that, we use that type of crown only in the T25 and T24 series which are diver’s watches and are water resistant for up to 200 meters. This type of crown sometimes is misused by users when they forget to screw down the crown and go into the water. Some users are not familiar with its operations and try to pull out the crown applying force with an instrument causing the tube to be ripped off the case body. That

Crystals

Torgoen usually have large watches and therefore crystals are more likely to break. Therefore we use on most watches a super-hardened mineral crystal called K1. Some models have sapphire crystals which is significantly more expensive and is also scratch proof. The T40, T16M, T7 and T7T series have all sapphire crystals. We found that in order to provide both affordable and quality watches for some models we decided to provide them with the highest quality K1 mineral crystal which is a very durable and hard crystal and even has some scratch resistance. Many of Torgoen watch crystals have also antireflection coating to ease the reading, which, as you have seen before is one of our main points of concern.

Dials and Hands

Torgoen is known for ergonomic designed dials and hands which are easy to read and have good night vision. There are various dial manufacturers with different qualities and prices. The same philosophy of best materials within the limits of our functionality that Torgoen uses for choice of case materials, we apply also for the choice of the precision level we use for dials. From the background colors through the printing of figures and markers Torgoen uses one of the top manufacturers.

Torgoen Dials

This is the place to mention Super Luminova – this is a non-radioactive luminous material and is considered best in the industry. In the past, companies used radioactive materials such as tritium to cover dial surfaces and hands for luminosity. This was banned in many places and does not comply with safety codes unless made by licensed manufacturers that insert radioactive glowing material in tiny glass tubes that can be glued to dials and hands. The big difference between the two methods is that the latter glows continuously and the former – the Super Luminova – absorbs light during the day and releases it slowly during the night. It fades during the night after a few hours. Torgoen uses good vendors that provide multiple layers printed with Super Luminova both on dials and hands. This needs to be a high precision printing. One can see clearly the time even after 8 hours, provided your pupils are well adjusted to the dark which happens after 20 to 30 minutes in dark room.

QC (Quality Control)

Without this process, we wouldn’t be able to deliver high quality watches even if all components had high standards specs. When components are received from vendors, before entering the warehouse, they have to pass rigorous inspection. We call this IQC (Incoming QC). Components are checked for production flaws, both visual (scratches, discoloration etc…) and functional (dimensions, slight deformations, etc…). Some components are passed through machines that scrutinize its structure such as bending and pulling of bracelets and straps, steel ball dropped on crystals to check breakage tolerance, sweat tests in solutions simulating sweat to check for corrosion, etc… There are numerous tests that Torgoen components have to pass before going to assembly.

Water testing tank

Here is not the place to describe everything. There is a QC book that the QC team has to follow.
Components then are passed to assembly and QC is performed by each assembler to make sure his / her task was performed properly. After the watches are assembled they go through water resistance testing. For many QC procedures we use a method which picks up random pieces out of a lot. The size of this random selection depends on the type of test and the lot size. This is called the AQL method as is proven satisfactory but for water resistance it has not. Water resistance test is one of the tests performed on 100% of the watches. At torgoen we don’t do air tests; it is done with a high pressure water tank that actually simulates taking the watches down to a depth of 100 meters (330 feet) for few minutes. The watches then are placed on a hot plate and a wet towel is

placed on top of them to see if vapor condensation is formed underneath the crystal.

One of the most important tests is the 48 hours run test which is another test performed on 100% of the watches. It is a simple test where we set the time on all watches to the time zone where the watches will be shipped to and we check if they keep time after 48 hours.

Summary

I hope that this article shed some light into the complexity of watch manufacturing trying to optimize the tradeoffs between price and quality and give the customer the best value without compromising what is important for functionality and durability. What you read here is only the tip of the iceberg I hope you enjoyed reading.

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HIGHEST QUALITY ASSURANCE

We take great pride in ensuring that all of our watches are produced to the highest standards, with an emphasis on innovation, creativity and manufacturing integrity. We use only the best components, materials, and production methods, including aviation grade stainless steel cases and Swiss movements, to create a watch that can be worn with confidence, pride and the assurance of knowing you are dealing with a company that genuinely cares.

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