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How the Harry Winston Opus Eleven Works

The Mechanism of the Opus Eleven

The mechanism that displays the hour on the Opus Eleven might remind you of the bizarre shifts you see in "Transformers" movies. And it's likely to evoke the same sense of astonishment.

The watch has 566 parts that move on 155 jeweled bearings [source: Harry Winston]. Computer programs were used in the design to help make all the parts mesh. Some of the components were formed using photolithography, the same process by which integrated electronic circuits are created. The technique allows precise levels of accuracy that surpass traditional machining.

The main event of an Opus Eleven happens when the hour changes by means of a virtual explosion and reassembling of visual components into a number. The movement or mechanism that makes this possible is based on a series of planetary gears. These gears, found in machines ranging from pencil sharpeners to automobile transmissions, have a "sun" gear surrounded by several "planet" gears, all usually contained in an outer "ring" gear.

In the Opus Eleven, four planet gears revolve around the central gear. Each of those planet gears is the sun for three more subplanet gears, which revolve around them. Each of those three subplanets turns two pentagon-shaped placard displays, each with part of a numeral on either side, for a total of 48 placard faces (four main planets times three subplanets times two placards times two faces) [source: Harry Winston].

At 2:59 p.m., the watch shows the numeral 2 constructed from four placards. A minute later, the mechanism goes into action:

  • The four main planets revolve horizontally around the center.
  • At the same time, each planet rotates horizontally around its own axis, carrying the subplanets.
  • Each of the placards on these subplanets spins vertically by means of bevel gears.

All this movement creates an illusion of chaos, which then freezes with the new number, 3, constructed from different placards, showing through the crystal.

Two dials driven by conventional watch movements displaythe minutes in a cylinder at the side of the main case. The 10-minutes disk jumps, the single-minutes disk passes continuously.

The designer decided to showthebalance wheelin another cylinder. The complexity of the mechanism suggests that it's driven by motors, if not by magic. The visible balance wheel assures us it's all mechanical. You wind the watch by hand, activating an energy system designed to propel the complex mechanism for 48 hours.