Jean-Claude Biver, The Innovator in Horology
“Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption…”
On Thursday 15th December, in the Metallurgy department of the Hublot Manufacture in Nyon, Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO, and Andreas Mortensen, a Professor at (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) unveiled a range of brand new alloys set to revolutionise the characteristics of precious materials and may also pave the way for new alloys to be used in the high-tech industry.
Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s CEO
This presentation focused on a genuine “fusion” of 24-carat gold (the finest of noble materials and a natural product) and the very latest in high-tech materials expertise. Almost three years of collaboration and research have gone into achieving this impressive result: a completely new type of noble gold, with patents pending and graded 18 carats by the Central Office for Precious Metals Control. Hublot’s 18-carat gold is the world’s first scratch-resistant gold, and as such eliminates the age-old vulnerability of gold and its alloys.
Hardness is a measure of a material’s resistance to indentation; doubling a material’s hardness means doubling the force required to produce a given indentation. Whereas “standard” high-quality 18-carat gold can reach 400 on the Vickers hardness scale, Hublot gold has a hardness rating of almost 1000 Vickers (most hardened steels are up to 600 Vickers). This makes Hublot gold the hardest in the world, and by some margin: it can only really be “scratched” by diamond.
Components made from this material are produced using a complex process: boron carbide powder is formed by cold isostatic pressing in molds very close in shape to that of the finished part, e.g. watch cases, bracelets, bezels, etc. This ceramic – one of the hardest in existence – is also highly refractory: the preforms are then hardened at very high temperatures to create a rigid, porous structure without altering the shape. After this, molten liquid gold is injected under very high pressure. This operation is performed under inert gas pressure, at a sufficiently high temperature and pressure to ensure that the molten metal fills the pores in the ceramic, causing the two to “fuse” into a single new material.
The resulting 18-carat Magic Gold must, like other 18-carat alloys, be composed of 750 parts pure gold out of 1000, but the inclusion of ceramic makes this gold scratch-resistant, unlike traditional 18-carat gold.
Hublot has now passed the experimental stage for its new gold and acquired the means to produce the new material entirely in its own Manufacture, thanks to a high-tech foundry enabling processes such as refractory ceramic sintering and high-pressure metal casting. The first watches made from Magic Gold were presented at BaselWorld 2012.