3D Print a Working Watch

3D Printing & Imaging Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Digital Fabrication


Check out this amazing 3D printed watch with a tourbillon, created by Swiss maker Christoph Laimer. For those not up on their horology, a tourbillon is “an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement… A tourbillon aims to counter the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage, negating the effect of gravity when the timepiece (thus the escapement) is stuck in a certain position. By continuously rotating the entire balance wheel/escapement assembly at a slow rate (typically about one revolution per minute), positional errors are averaged out…Originally an attempt to improve accuracy, tourbillons are still included in some expensive modern watches as a novelty and demonstration of watchmaking virtuosity. The mechanism is usually exposed on the watch’s face to show it off. [Wikipedia]

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Christoph created his tourbillon watch to test the limits of modern consumer 3D printing. He designed the watch in Autodesk Fusion 360 and printed on an Ultimaker 2. He used a combination of PETG and PLA filaments, depending on whether he wanted bendability/shock absorption or strength/durability in the part. On the Thingiverse page for the project, he writes (and concludes):

This is a mechanical watch with tourbillon driven by a 3D-printed mainspring. The watch has a Swiss lever escapement. The mainspring inside the going barrel keeps the watch running for approximately 30 minutes. Accuracy is roughly one second deviation within one minute (depending on print settings). The project demonstrates that the 3D printing technology is developing. Compared with earlier generations of printers, the process works more reliable and more accurately. However it’s still a very advanced project, with printing inaccuracies needing to be trimmed manually using some watchmaker skills, or the watch won’t tick.


Here is an animation showing the components and the watch going together.

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Besides making the print files available on Thingiverse so that you can print your own, Christoph is also selling printed copies of the watch on his website.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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