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Damasko: A Look Inside the Manufacture – Part 2: The Movements

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When founder Konrad Damasko first began making watches in the early ‘90s, he did not set out to produce an in-house movement. His initial focus was to over-engineer all the things around the movement, inspired, in part, by the gradual decay of a watch long ago gifted to him for his confirmation. Konrad wanted watches bearing his name to withstand the test of time, and that desire gave birth to hardened cases and crowns, a patented lubrication system, anti-magnetic shielding, and other case technologies that Damasko has come to be known for today. 

“It was about identifying the weak points in the watch, and figuring out how they can be improved,” explains Christopher Damasko, Konrad’s son and Damasko’s Technical Director.  

It wasn’t until 2008 that the team turned their attention to the movement. Initially, Damasko put their energy in producing a handful of specific components — among them the oscillating and winding systems — to optimize performance of pre-existing calibers. But then came Swatch Group’s movement crunch, which set the industry scrambling. Damasko was not immune, and Konrad was faced with a difficult choice. 

“We asked ourselves, ‘What should we do? Should we just let the whole project die?’” Konrad recalls.

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Damasko didn’t dawdle. While the big players over in Switzerland spent their energies legislating Swatch Group’s decision, the Damasko team set out to make an in-house movement.

Of course, if Damasko was going to make their own movement, it couldn’t just be a run-of-the-mill caliber, nor were they interested in simply reverse engineering a standard workhorse. Like Damasko’s cases, a Damasko movement had to address mechanical weak points.

“We wanted to make [our watches] more accurate over a longer of period of time, to bring down the service intervals. That was the goal,” explains Christopher.

Konrad Damasko.

“I came from the manufacturing sector,” Konrad explains. “We couldn’t just make what everyone else was making. Our movements needed to improve on what was already out there.”

Going In-House

Damasko was one of the earliest adopters of the silicon hairspring, and they were the first to work with polycrystalline silicon, which spanned three years of development. Their patented EPS-Spring is unique in its shape, in the way it’s produced, and the way it’s coated for thermo-stability. Additionally, because of its polycrystalline structure, the hairspring is highly elastic, which makes it much less delicate to assemble and manipulate than monocrystalline springs, which are far more common in the industry today.

Damasko’s EPS-Spring.
Damasko’s EPS-Spring.

The escape wheel is also rendered in silicon, turning a potential weak point into something that can take some prolonged wear. Altogether, Damasko’s EPS-Spring and silicon escape wheel result in a more reliable and resilient timekeeper.

Damasko has about 30 patents at the movement level. — Christopher Damasko

Damasko movements also employ a free-sprung, variable inertia balance, which is almost exclusive to higher-end horology and seen in brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex. Unlike balances that feature regulators, which can be knocked out of alignment and can cause a watch to run too fast or slow, free sprung balances are adjusted via weights on the balance wheel. While this is a more technically-challenging way of adjusting a movement and requires an experienced watchmaker, it also results in more structurally sound architecture for long-term wear.

Pulling from their experience in the manufacture of parts for the aerospace industry, Damasko implemented micro-ball bearings into their movements, utilizing them in the rotor (in the automatic calibers) and winding systems. This offers a significant improvement in overall performance, and while the use of micro-ball bearings isn’t entirely unique to Damasko, the distinct track geometry created for the bearings is, and that track geometry results in a more efficient and reliable winding system where frictional losses are reduced to a minimum.

Micro-ball bearings.

Furthermore, Damasko’s ratcheted winding system, another implementation unique to the brand, allows their automatic watches to wind in both directions, with an ingenious design that ensures that even the slightest of movements from the rotor winds the mainspring. To make this possible, Damasko developed a 140-fine-tooth ratchet wheel that has been galvanically hardened for better resistance against long-term wear, speaking to Damasko’s goal of creating movements with longer service intervals.

“Damasko has about 30 patents at the movement level,” Christopher explains.

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Damasko H35 and A35 in-house calibers.
H35
A35

Damasko has three in-house calibers: the H35 (hand-wind), A35 (automatic), and A35-2 (automatic with a GMT complication). Furthermore, there are two versions of the A35: one with a central-seconds and another with a sub-seconds, with both featuring a day/date complication right off 3:00. All are rated to have a 52-hour power reserve. Aesthetically, they’re beautiful calibers with a high level of finish, large German 3/4 plates, blued screws, striping, and perlage.

Si Models

These are Damasko’s hybrid models based on the Valjoux 7750, but feature significant modifications done in-house. Functionally, these are enhanced 7750 chronographs fitted with Damasko’s EPS spring, rotor, a reinforced mainspring barrel, and an increased power reserve of 52 hours. About 30% of the movement here has been modified.

Ultimately, with these modifications Damasko’s Si models are significantly more resilient against outside forces than most comparable chronographs on the market. So much so, in fact, that the DC 56 and 57 Si models have passed extensive Airbus endurance testing and have earned status as the official watches of German Eurofighter pilots.

Bringing Back the Central-Minutes Chronograph

Once upon a time, the Lemania 5100 was the king of central-minutes chronographs, beloved by collectors of rugged tool watches for its utilitarian functionality and design. If you’re going to design a chronograph, then it absolutely makes sense to have the minutes counter centrally-mounted rather than relegated to a small sub-dial.

And then, like all good things, it went the way of the dodo when Swatch Group, for all intents and purposes, killed the movement. Damasko wanted to remedy that.

In 2017, Damasko introduced the DC80, their first-central minutes chronograph featuring the DU51 caliber. Based on the Valjoux 7750, the DU51 is an in-house-modified caliber, and the first step Damasko has taken towards building their first in-house chronograph.

Assembling the DU51 caliber.

The redesign was significant. The 7750 doesn’t have the torque necessary to employ a central-minutes function, so the entire chronograph mechanism had to be rejiggered. Altogether, Damasko estimates that 50% of the movement was changed to get it to its current form.

“The DU51 has enough torque that we can incorporate more features and complications into future versions of the movement. That’s the plan,” explains Christopher.

One area where the Damasko team wanted to improve upon the 5100 was the way the central-minutes hand advanced. Rather than a slow crawl, the hand on the DU51 jumps, which makes it clear to the wearer casually glancing at the watch how much time has elapsed.

“It’s very precise, and BAM,” Christopher motions with a swipe of his hand, “we’re one minute over!”

It was about identifying the weak points in the watch, and figuring out how they can be improved. — Christopher Damasko

The Future

Damasko has a lot of plans for their line of movements in the years to come. With the popularity of the current DS range, which feature smaller, thinner cases, Damasko will be looking at size going forward.

“We are working on new calibers” explains Konrad. “These are calibers that are state of the art with an even higher power reserve, and calibers that are flatter and simpler.”

This will allow Damasko more flexibility with their designs, with greater focus on svelte tool watches, and even dressier and women’s pieces.

“We have a lot of products in the pipeline that we think our customers are going to love,” Christopher says with a smile.


Part 1 of our look inside Damasko

Damasko’s website

Damasko watches are available at Windup Watch Shop

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.
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