AND THERE WAS LIGHT !
The watch is a very special product, both a counting instrument and a decorative accessory.
The status of an instrument or tool implies, in addition to aesthetics, advanced ergonomics, of which reading information is an essential part. Obviously, this information must be legible at all times and under all conditions.
To have the right information in all circumstances
By fitting in as an object in the line of devices intended for the conquest of space, it seems important to us to significantly improve the performance of watches previously engaged in this fabulous adventure.
We began to dig into what our illustrious forerunners who labored for the conquest of the moon had studied. We have seen the similarities in the constraints, but at different times. Little space, little energy available, a need to save weight and for the on-board instruments an imperative, the most perfect readability in all circumstances.
Back to the 1960's
Let's go back in time to the 1960s, to the days of the first color televisions and punch card computers. At that time, the only display systems that could be connected to a computer were meters. Either they had hands dials, or cathode-ray tubes those that fitted televisions, or the famous NIXIE tubes still so popular among Steam punk enthusiasts.
While documenting ourselves, we discovered that the display modules of the on-board computers of the Apollo capsules and of the LEMs (lunar modules) were provided by flat screens, high resolution and high readability. But by what magic and by what reasoning did they come to this?
For a spaceship you need something resistant to vibrations, low consumption and perfect readability… The opposite of the systems available in the 1960s. Ideally, you would have an OLED flat screen. This is the direction that MIT and RAYTEHEON will take. Screens barely larger than our current smartphones are going to be produced.
Engineers working on control systems will develop the ancestor of our current displays. To the computer are connected two boxes containing relays, which can be compared to an old graphics card. These, a sort of encoder, are connected to the screen. The screen, on the other hand, is made up of a thin, but tough sandwich. A glass plate carrying the photophores, and one which is in fact a printed circuit.
On the first printed circuit board will be screen printed a copper conductive substrate acting as a positive pole and a conductive sticky substance is deposited on the copper tracks (cathode). A phosphor-based electroluminescent layer (anode) is deposited on the second glass plate, then covered with a layer of dielectric lacquer (insulating). The elements of information that are supposed to appear (texts or numbers with sticks) are screen printed with a conductive ink directly on the dielectric layer. Then we glue the printed circuit directly on this last layer. The flat screen sandwich is done.
When the system is turned on, the relays drive each luminescent segment individually. Letters and numbers appear, screen information comes alive as it lights up on the dashboard.
Thus were born the first flat screens for mobile computers. Okay, it's more transportable than mobile, and low voltage did not exist at the time, it was supplied with 300v and 80Hz ... thank you xxl size fuel cells!
A legacy for modern watchmaking
Same challenges, same solutions but with the help of nanomaterials since this time we are in the first quarter of the 21st century.
To meet this requirement of readability and visibility in all circumstances, on the LAB-ONE watch, we have chosen to apply a system inspired by the screens of the Apollo program.
The Super-Luminova ™ of the hands is replaced by an electroluminescent surface coating. Indeed, traditional luminescent paints have a very uncertain reliability and do not have sufficient durability.
By adapting the process, we have solved these problems.
When you look at the time in low light conditions, the movement of the wrist triggers the system. The hands and the dial light up at will.
As a bonus, thanks to our surface treatment, we can make more visible the activity of our electronic circuit and the different adjustment or adjustment phases of the LAB-ONE caliber. The bridges, the plates and the parts that we want to make luminous are prepared manually by us, and the surface treatment is added to the artisanal finishes of our watches.
When the electronic system kicks in to either adjust the barrel tension or adjust the index hairspring precision, the mechanical areas and parts that have been treated with the surface coating light up. So every time a correction is made, the index or barrel circuit will light up so you can see and understand what's going on.