Explore the secrets of achieving micron-level precision in watchmaking with insights from this video, spotlighting the integral role of Sodick's machines at Inhotec SA
The high-end Swiss watchmaking industry is renowned for its precise and beautiful timepieces that consist of graceful movements that can dazzle and amaze. Located in Le Lochle, an area known as the centre of Swiss watchmaking with roots that date back to the 1600’s is INHOTEC, a manufacturer that has invested heavily in machine tools from Sodick Europe to achieve the impeccable levels of precision and quality demanded by this industry.
Producing high-quality watch blanks and components for many of the world’s leading watch brands, INHOTEC SA is a true trailblazer with more than 190 employees and a colossal machine park that has rapidly ascended to a leading market position since its 2011 formation. Commenting upon the evolution of the business, Luca Calapa the Country Manager for Celada Suisse SA which represents Sodick Europe in the region says: “INHOTEC is one of the largest watchmaking suppliers for the famous brands in Switzerland. The company produces movement components and with so many moving components that have to fit together in a watch, you need to be able to work to micron tolerances.”
Looking at the extremely tight tolerance bands the company works to, Alexandre Eme, Director at INHOTEC SA says: “In our field, we are working to microns. The movement is the heart of the watch, creating its ticking mechanism. We specialise in all aspects of the movement and all of the pieces must fit together to be perfectly assembled. This means precision within microns is necessary for all of these parts. The maximum tolerance is around +/- 2µm in many pieces, which is an extremely high standard to achieve. This strict dimensional requirement is equally matched by aesthetic requirements. The parts need to be both perfectly sized and visually appealing because usually the watch can be seen and some of the movement pieces can also be seen. The decorative aspect, the finishing, and the final assembly are as important as the micron aspect overall. We use extremely high-end machines and our equipment includes technology from Sodick. We have more than 20 machines installed at our facility. The reason for our preference for Sodick is based upon the quality that they offer.”
Discussing why the Sodick machines are perfect for the ultra-precise watchmaking industry, Luca continues: “INHOTEC SA and their customers are looking for the micron, so you need a special type of machine - a machine that Sodick offer as standard. This level of precision is achieved through the linear motors and the automatic wire threading system. This is particularly pertinent with the premium Sodick AP250L wire EDM machine with oil that is at INHOTEC. As standard, it has a 50 to 200µm wire diameter and as an option we can have a 30µm wire diameter that threads automatically through the parts.”
Alluding to why INHOTEC SA has continually invested in machines from Sodick such as the ALC400P and AP250L wire EDM machines, Alexandre Eme adds: “It was an obvious choice for the exceptional machine quality, reliability, surface finishes and a list of additional technical factors. We have been collaborating with Celada, the local machine re-seller and it has been amazing since we started as they have provided excellent technical support. We also have very fast machine procurement that gives us a truly fantastic synergy with Celada and Sodick – the service and support have been exceptional.”
As a company that runs its facility 24/7 with production ranging from bespoke personal services to series runs beyond 50,000-off; the uptime, reliability and service support of the machines is as important as the micron precision levels they achieve.
Discussing how Sodick supports customers like INHOTEC SA, Vice President for Sodick Europe Mr Manabu Takemura says: “We cover more than 18 European countries, we do not only provide machines with local representatives but we also provide technical support. We train all of the dealers and their service engineers in our European headquarters in Warwick, so they can support companies like INHOTEC SA, so they can make most of our machines.”
Diving into why INHOTEC SA strategically invested in a series of AP250L machines, Alexandre Eme adds “The AP250L was chosen for its oil bath feature. It is particularly useful for steel components to ensure component quality, surface finish and technical precision levels as well as corrosion resistance. We have potential corrosion issues with some components and we prefer how Sodick overcome this issue. We also chose the AP250L for its performance, price-to-performance ratio, and reliability. As I always say, it was an obvious choice for us from the very first tests we conducted. We are extremely satisfied with all our tooling and components produced on the machines. Additionally, Sodick was a natural choice for our business as some of our employees were already familiar with the brand - and now, we are more than happy with Sodick.”
Looking to the future partnership between Celada, Sodick Europe and INHOTEC SA, Luca concludes: “Sodick introduced its first linear motors some years ago and the motors keep improving and innovating. This is also the case with our automatic threading system that can work with 30µm wire. In the last year, Sodick also introduced the i-Groove+, so we are always looking to get better and faster to give the maximum advantage to our end users. This will certainly benefit INHOTEC SA in the future and build upon our partnership with this incredible company.”
Inhotec SA Mastering Micron Accuracy with Sodick's AP250L
Examine the practices employed by this Swiss watchmaker to achieve micron-level precision in watchmaking, specifically with the Sodick AP250L. Immerse yourself in the synergy of technology and craftsmanship, culminating in the highest precision in Swiss timepieces.