“This application of quantum mechanics to classical physics could create the ‘perfect’ watch that never loses time or needs servicing”

New York City, 4th April 2019

Great Britain’s leading independent watchmaker, Dr Roger W. Smith OBE, has announced groundbreaking research into the use of nano-coatings to improve the performance of mechanical watches.

The announcement was made at a special panel hosted by the UK Department for International Trade as part of their ‘Designing Our Future’ showcase in New York City.

Roger Smith on stage announcing groundbreaking research into the use of nano-coatings to improve the performance of mechanical watches
Roger Smith on stage announcing groundbreaking research into the use of nano-coatings to improve the performance of mechanical watches.

The panel was hosted by Sophie Bushwick, Technical Editor of Scientific American and Roger was joined by Dr Samuel Rowley-Neale and Dr Michael Down, research associates at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University, which has developed an international reputation for its leading-edge work in the science of nano-materials.

The researchers are working with Roger Smith to investigate whether nano-coatings can reduce, or potentially replace, the use of traditional oil-based lubricants in mechanical watches by applying virtually frictionless nano-coatings directly to mechanical watch parts.

The ultimate goal could be a mechanical timepiece that never needs servicing and will always keep time through the use of these next-generation materials.

“The potential is quite staggering and it’s actually about lubrication rather than mechanics.” explains Roger Smith. “Once you’ve optimised the mechanics of a watch, you still have to address the deterioration of lubricant oils. It’s a centuries old barrier to progress. Even as far back as the 18th century the great watchmaker, Breguet, recognised this fundamental problem when he said; ‘Show me the perfect lubricant and I will show you the perfect watch!’ ”.

Manchester Metropolitan’s Dr Rowley-Neale said: “The main points of failure within a watch’s micromechanical mechanism are components such as pivots that use oil-based liquid lubricant to lower the amount of friction. This in turn increases the efficiency of the timepiece and so, in many ways, designing a watch mechanism can be considered a fight against friction.

“Over time a liquid lubricant’s viscosity will deteriorate, it will dry out and eventually even crumble away leaving surface deposits. The mechanism will therefore lose time and even seize up, which is why owners currently need to have their watches serviced at regular intervals”.

“What we’re proposing is the use of advanced 2D nanomaterials to create a dry lubricated surface which will remove the need for a watch to be serviced”.

The Manchester Metropolitan team are experimenting with different nanomaterials in the University’s Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre in conjunction with Roger Smith’s hand-crafted watch components including the escapement, which delivers power through to the timekeeping oscillator.

Roger Smith continues; “With the advances in efficiency and reduced energy in my latest single wheel co-axial escapement, we’re pushing the mechanical boundaries of current watch performance and service intervals beyond industry standards. However, by rendering the mechanical watch components virtually frictionless, we could be talking about creating a timepiece that can be genuinely passed from generation to generation safe in the knowledge it does not require maintenance.”

If successful, the application could also have a trickle-down effect for nanotechnology into more commonly used day-to-day applications.

Dr Down said: “We were looking to prove applications for nano-coatings in micro-mechanical engineering.

“Watchmaking is perhaps the ultimate expression of that field and we have followed the work of Roger W Smith for some time and, in particular his advances with the single wheel co-axial escapement.

“This is by far the most advanced escapement in modern horology and its mechanical efficiency and low energy factors make it ideal for this research, when compared to existing lever escapements.”

“These ideas might seem radical” added Roger Smith, “but this research actually follows a very British tradition, as all our great watchmakers in history were relentless in their efforts to advance timekeeping with new inventions. In fact more than 75% of the inventions which led to the mechanical watch we wear today are of British origin”.

Dr Roger Smith OBE with Dr Michael Down, Dr Samuel Rowley-Neale and technology editor for the Scientific American, Sophie Bushwick
Dr Roger Smith OBE with Dr Michael Down, Dr Samuel Rowley-Neale and Technology Editor for Scientific American, Sophie Bushwick.

When asked for a timescale on development of a working, tested timepiece, the team were unequivocal. “The science is proven by Manchester Metropolitan University” explained Roger Smith “and we’re already creating the parts which will have the nano-coatings applied”.

Dr Sam Rowley-Neale added; “We will have a working watch within 6 months and will have completed testing within 12 months”.

For interviews and further details, please contact

For more information or to speak to Roger W. Smith, contact Alistair Audsley at:
AlistairAudsley@rwsmithwatches.com or +44 (0)7850 468451

For more information or to speak to Dr Rowley-Neale or Dr Down contact Ian Proctor, Press and Communications Officer for Manchester Metropolitan University, at:
i.proctor@mmu.ac.uk or on +44 (0)161 247 2026.

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