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Three years ago, we previewed an exciting project with Silicon Valley roots from an upstart indie watchmaking brand called Barrelhand. Their Project 1 watch had an innovative display for telling the time, futuristic looks, and bore the influence of designs from Urwerk, HYT, and other brands representing the vanguard of high end, independent watchmaking. The key distinguishing feature of the Project 1 is in the nature of its manufacture: components are produced through various types of 3D printing methods. According to Barrelhand, the use of 3D printing reduces R&D costs dramatically, and allows them to manufacture parts that would not have been possible otherwise. With the Project 1 finally available for interested customers to reserve, we thought we’d take another look at a watch that truly pushes the envelope.
Barrelhand Project 1
- Case Material: Titanium
- Dial: Open, with Geneva Jump Hour and linear minute displays
- Dimensions: 44 x 15mm
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Water Resistance: 5 ATM
- Crown: Binder jet steel/titanium crown release system
- Movement: Manual wind movement with in-house jump hour mechanism, 50 hour power reserve
- Strap/bracelet: Leather
- Price: $30,000
- Reference Number: n/a
- Expected Release: Reservations now open
When we talk about 3D printing in the context of the Project 1, what we’re really referring to is state of the art technology that allows for the binding of powdered metal at great precision. “Metal Binder Jetting,” the process used to create much of the Project 1, is several steps more advanced than the 3D printing technology currently available at the consumer level. According to Barrelhand, it’s capable of a level of precision that’s four times thinner than a human hair, which allows the brand’s design team a level of flexibility that is simply impossible with traditional methods. Among the innovations cited by the brand is the world’s first functional 3D printed movement bridge, an accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible even a short time ago.
The Project 1 has an avant-garde look that nicely complements the advanced tech behind its production. It’s clear from glancing at the dial that it’s anything but traditional in how you tell the time, but it’s also not completely beyond our reach – for a non-traditional time display, it’s quite intuitive. The current hour is read with a jumping mechanism at the top of the dial, and the minutes display is located at what would normally be 6:00. While the jumping hour is a traditional complication in classical watchmaking, the linear minutes display used in the Project 1 is more novel. The design is inspired by the rotation of a vinyl record, with the base dial making a full rotation once every hour. There’s a cam path cut into the dial, which is traced by a needle as it rotates. This rotation guides an indicator up and down, which allows for the reading of the minutes. A circular indicator at the bottom of this minutes column tells the user which side to read (the downward trajectory displays minutes 0-30, up is 31-60).
There are many other technical innovations in the Project 1 that will have engineering nerds excited. For example, because of the wide diameter of the rotating dial, a leveling system was designed to protect it against impacts. Ruby bearings have been utilized around the perimeter of the dial, allowing it to spin unobstructed while providing a level of resistance to shock. Even the jump hour, perhaps the most traditional single element of the watch’s design, has been tweaked by Barrelhand to offer greater functionality and reliability. The Project 1 features a “Geneva Jump Hour,” which can be set forwards and backwards while using fewer total components. Like the leveling system, the Geneva Jump Hour makes the Project 1 more robust overall, ensuring that it’s actually wearable in the real world, and not simply a display piece, or a curiosity. This mechanism was designed in-house by Barrelhand, using components made with the binder jetting methods they’ve adopted.
This level of innovation doesn’t come cheap: the Project 1 has a retail price of $30,000. That said, Barrelhand estimates that a similar watch, made with traditional prototyping tools and not the high end 3D printing tech seen here, could easily cost greater than $300,000 in R&D. Barrelhand’s ability to reduce the cost of each prototype to less than $1,000 each has a direct and substantial impact on the final price of the Project 1.
The Project 1 will be made in a limited edition of just 20 numbered watches, which are available to reserve now with a 10% deposit. Barrelhand