April 1st, 2019 was the day that Andi Felsl first announced the Tourbillon 1 project. Fast forward 2 years later and here we are on the same day in 2021 announcing the K2 watch project. Are we fools for launching the K2 project on the same day, a day that 2 years prior would inevitably lead us down the road of a complete in-house tourbillon development? Or was the turn of fate a blessing in disguise that although painful at the time resulted in a superior product for the community? We like to think the latter. Let us be fools and double down on K2. What is K2? For those just discovering Horage or may have missed the previous K2 movement announcements. K2 is a micro-rotor movement and although slated to be our second movement development it is actually now our third as we needed to squeeze in the tourbillon movement last year. In actual fact we have been working on K2 as a kind of skunkworks project since 2017 with the first mutterings of the project coming forth just after completing our K1 movement in 2015. We had initially told ourselves that just one movement would be enough, but after 7 years of development a team learns what they are capable of and they start to see opportunities for new developments. Why a micro-rotor? At that time of completing K1 (2015) we had created the Autark with a thickness of just 10.05mm a watch that many who were or are new to Horage might assume makes use of a quartz movement. The unique complications combined in the K1 mechanical movement encapsulated in a low profile, lightweight case turned Autark into our first flagship. Our engineering minds began to wonder what kind of watch we could create if we had the ultra-low profile of the micro-rotor movement. K1 is definitely no slouch for a movement that offers 65 hours of power reserve, small seconds, power reserve indicator and big date at just 4.95mm, but if we wanted to break the 10mm mark and show what our engineering capabilities were we would have to develop a micro-rotor movement. Today, there are very few micro-rotor options available to brands. It’s a premium movement and the access to development know-how is very limited, thus the reason that a Swiss micro-rotor watches start at around $8000 USD and escalate quickly in price from there on. The limited access to development has for the most part frozen in time the geometries and technologies at play in these movements. To understand why one has to look back to the days of the quartz crises when the Japanese manufacturers had created an inexpensive, ultra-thin, battery powered, extremely precise movement that would try to do away with the Swiss mechanical movements. Although developed prior to the quartz crises the micro-rotor movement was still relatively new in terms of automatics as it was first announced in 1958 by two competing companies Büren and Universal Geneve. The first automatic dates back to 1770 and I am sure the mechanical watch world would have loved a nearly solid 200 year run of micro-rotors prior to the quartz movement. The times changed quickly and 11 years after the micro-rotor movement was announced the quartz movement would aim to disrupt and nearly cripple the entirety of the Swiss watch industry. This blow placed Swiss watch brands in survival, consolidation or liquidation mode and left little room for innovation. One glimmer of hope was Patek Philippe's development of the Cal.240 which would go on to be the most sought after movement in their collection and be used in the now no-longer Nautilus icon. Aside from Patek, Piaget also continued with development of the micro-rotor however very few since have dabbled in the development of micro-rotors and this means the technology has remained relatively frozen in time. Why Now & Why Us? The scars of the quartz crises have healed and we can see without a doubt that enthusiasts are going back to mechanical movements and steering away from quartz. Time can be found on your tv, oven, mobile phone, automobile and smart watch and all of the aforementioned have rendered the wristwatch relatively useless as a day to daytime keeping device. Yes, I admit, there is diminishing need for a watch today, but during the times of the quartz crises the wristwatch was very much a daily tool and the quartz movement had a value proposition that won hand over fist. Although a wristwatch is for the most part not needed today it still has an important role to play. There are times when it is needed as sport or tool watch when used as a primary or backup timekeeping device, or as a dress watch when continually checking phones is frowned upon. Time aside, the wristwatch is a device that not only serves as a timepiece but enriches our fascination with the mechanical world and serves as generational memory maker. Those that enjoy well engineered, beautiful mechanical items increasingly gravitate towards the watch. Additionally, entire communities have been formed who all share a deep appreciation for watches and this combined with, believe it or not smart watches, is leading the next generation to discover what other time telling wrist options there are in this world. With today’s demand centred on Swiss mechanical movements there simply are very, very limited options for thin movements that can be used in luxury watches at a fair price. We love a challenge and like our tourbillon project we also like engineering high-end, high performing and long lasting movements at a fair price at our home in Biel/Bienne Switzerland. Let me be blunt... Making clones or movements based off known geometries is difficult. Making entirely new movements is truly f@*#$!&% difficult. You need engineers, mathematicians, watchmakers and strategists, years of patience and the financial means to match. This is why we are quite sensitive to the words "in-house" as the term has been stretched to match every imaginable construct of a business. There is a big difference between engineering something or renaming something. Most opt for renaming something already in existence, we on the other hand opt for something new, every time and our tourbillon project helped solidify this value. In the automotive world its the difference between a kit car maker and a car manufacturer. We are in the world of manufacturing a place reserved for the few and the rest are making kits. It is not about having a bunch of mills and lathes, it is about the intellectual capability to innovate and improve in the critical areas and engineer them into a product. If you are capable and want to remain relevant you should as a service to your community make the hard things reality. A quote that we have carried with us since first hearing Elon Musk say it is “If you don’t make stuff, there’s no stuff.” Looking at the diminishing interest in quartz and a strengthening trend in mechanical timepieces we realized that we have the means to make the new stuff, bring new geometries, new technologies and deliver better performance over the micro-rotors of the past that are still in production today.
Whats the problem with the old micro-rotors? Read up on micro-rotors and one will quickly realize that there has been some lacklustre performance results in the mechanical race for thinness. This is due to a few factors. Firstly there is a reason the rotor is called "micro", meaning it's much smaller than a regular automatic rotor. This size difference means there is less oscillating weight (swinging weight) and less weight to swing around means a watch have more difficulty rewinding the main barrel spring as well. Secondly, a micro-rotor is designed to sit inside the movement rather than on the outside of the movement and this means there is less overall space for the main barrel to occupy. The main barrel is where wound power is stored and the smaller the barrel the less power reserve the watch will have. Thirdly, as things get smaller they get more complex. Why are most movements big? This is because "big" is easier. The 90’s trend was for bigger, bulkier watches and this meant for the most part any automatic movement would suffice. This trend would further dimmish the need for smaller more technically challenging movement development projects. With bigger movements there is more wiggle room for tolerances, however tolerance gets tight the smaller a movement gets. Tighter tolerances results in the cost of development increasing and thus the reason Swiss micro-rotor watches are priced with a simple small seconds or three hand function above the $8000 mark. The result of the above is not just a costly movement and watch, but also often times a poor performing movement with sub-par power reserves of under 48 hours. Additionally many of these 60 year old technologies still are unreliable and generate costly service fees to the enthusiast as their processes have still not had the opportunity to be highly industrialized and de-risked. To better on the above a team capable of playing with the laws of physics and with access to some new materials is needed. We use silicon escapements and create our own geometries. Geometry is probably the least sexy watch development topic, but if you want to squeeze every ounce of power reserve, reduce gear and escapement friction and create long-lasting reliable movements, then geometry is a very important thing to master. Understanding the past micro-rotor limitations, the weight and size of the K2 micro-rotor has been optimized to use as much space as possible and be made from tungsten a very heavy weight ideal for rewinding watches. Our main barrel spring is more pliable to increase the rewinding efficiency.
What can you expect from K2?
For starters we have industrialized and de-risked this elusive movement platform to deliver a movement that can range from 2.9mm to just 3.6mm depending on which of the 38 variations are used. Regardless of the spec, K2 will deliver 65 hours of power reserve or more. It utilizes a silicon escapement with our new screw type regulation balance wheel. Small or centre three hands, calendar, power reserve indicator, 12 or 24 hour GMT can be achieved in the 3.6mm version. Small or big seconds in the 2.9mm version and small or big seconds, big date in the 3.3mm version. The movement will be beautifully decorated with Côtes de Genève bridges in a black gold finish. Our plan is to bring you up to speed on the development of the movement and to quickly get you involved in the watch design process. The goal is to have one of the most exciting movement and watch pre-orders that not only the Swiss watch industry, but the mechanical watch industry as a whole has seen. My hope is that you can help spread the word on our project and get those in your local watch community to join in on the conversation. If you haven't signed up to be a member you can do so with the link below and you can send to friends in your watch community. The more we have taking part the better the project will be.
The benefits of being a member is different than just subscribing to the newsletter. As a member you can add the Horage Wix app directly on your phone and this means you don’t need to continually check emails for updates. You can message other friends or connect directly with myself and others at Horage all in-app. What can you expect from K2 The more community members we have the better chance we have at reaching our production goals and delivering the best priced micro-rotor movement watch to you in future times. Please share with your friends and watch community and lets together not just make the latest and greatest micro-rotor watch, but make Horage the most community connected watch brand. Due to the overlap of Tourbillon 1 with K2 there is a lot of catch up on and many product decisions to finalize in a short amount of time and therefore I would like to know if you are ok with more frequent updates. One to Two Updates A Week? If you are already a member be sure to add the app and let’s get the conversation going in the comments below. There is a new exciting road ahead and from all of us at Horage we look forward to connecting with each and every one of you on this next chapter in development. Until next time... Landon Stirling