Small revolution in the world of luxury watchmaking: the Poinçon de Genève has unveiled the adoption of a new hallmarking technique. This novel technology comes from a laboratory of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and MaNEP (National Center of Competence in Physics Research supported by the NSF from 2001 to 2013). It has been developed in partnership with PHASIS, a UNIGE spin-off company based in Plan-les-Ouates.
Using the latest developments in nanotechnology and materials physics, the process marketed by PHASIS enables to modify, at the microscopic scale, the surface of tiny metallic objects and parts. It offers then a new opportunity to hallmark the mechanical components of very small dimension.
The technical advantages of this technology will be fully exploited in the context of the Poinçon de Genève. This new process involves no contact, which means that there is no strength applied to the workpiece whose physical integrity is fully respected; this allows fragile or delicate parts to be stamped. Moreover, the size and geometry of the hallmark are very well defined with a resolution of one thousandth of a millimeter. By offering an aesthetic definition of high quality, and the possibility to use an identification of biometric type on hallmarked pieces, this new technology opens up exciting opportunities to the watch Industry where authenticity is essential for security.
The transfer of this technology from laboratory to industry took several years; and the physics basic research has been strongly supported by the SNF through the NCCR MaNEP. The prototyping and the industrial feasibility phases have been funded by the CTI (Commission for Technology and Innovation) and technically and financially supported by Vacheron Constantin Geneva. The success of this collaboration is an important illustration of the innovative and creative solutions that the University of Geneva brings to industry. It also illustrates the role played by institutions such as the SNF and CTI in their policy to promote technology transfer from academic sources. PHASIS, which holds a license of exploitation for this new technology, has achieved a remarkable breakthrough in a prestigious market. This success puts the company in a key position to extend its technology to other markets in the near future.