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Breathing new life into old technology

Guilloche is a rare and disappearing craft in which surfaces are enhanced with special decoration. Professional support enabled Florentin Mack, a watchmaker from Ulm, to make his dream of owning a guilloche machine come true.

Special surface

“Crazy, right?” Excited, Florentin Mack shows us a watch that has recently been finished. The plate is covered in a pattern of extremely fine lines. “Patterns like this are created using guilloche,” explains Mack. In this process, a special machine is used to cut very fine lines at narrow intervals into a metallic surface. This creates a pattern of curved or straight lines that merge into one another - known as guilloche. This artistic decoration is used predominantly in jewelry making.

From watchmaker to guilloche expert

Mack’s interest in watches began very early on, so it was only logical that he would begin training to become a watchmaker at the goldsmith and watchmaking academy in Pforzheim, Germany. He taught himself the guilloche technique, which had been long forgotten, during his training - with support from his instructor Steffen Wolf and Jochen Benzinger, an oldschool guilloche specialist and master engraver who is well known among experts. The young watchmaker then began working in the Deutsches Museum as a conservator. “But guilloche never lost its grip on me, and when I discovered an ancient guilloche machine for sale in 2014, I just had to snap it up,” says Mack. Unfortunately, while restoring the roughly 100-year-old machine, he realized that an essential part was missing: the integrated wave-shaped profile rails. These are ultimately what create the wave pattern, which needs to be 100% uniform. Of course, after 100 years these profile rails were no longer available to buy.

SINUMERIK CNC paves the way for guilloche

With the help of the TAC Erlangen, Florentin Mack was able restore an old guilloche machine to full working order

Mack was ready to give up his dream of owning a guilloche machine when one of his father’s contacts had a brilliant idea. Freelance CNC trainer Hans-Peter Moser was sure that the Siemens CNC experts at the Technical Application Center (TAC) Erlangen would be able to produce a replacement part. However, this turned out to be a real challenge. Mack and an application technician analyzed the requirements until they were able to work out how to design and produce the profile rails. They designed and prepared the surface on the profile rails that needed to be milled for production using NX CAM and milled the profile rails on a machine using  SINUMERIK 828D. They used the “CYCLE832 - high speed setting cycle”, to activate the Top Service function and achieve an optimal surface and contours on the workpiece.

Since mid-2015, Mack has been using the profile rails with different waveforms and running a small manufacturing company. Now, thanks to the help of the TAC employees, he can unleash his creative energy and produce unique watches with his guilloche machine. Of course, such unique pieces, often requiring days of work, do not come cheap. A guilloche watch costs between €3,000 and €13,000 - but the purchaser buys it with the knowledge that the piece is incredibly special and unique. “Without the TAC Erlangen, I would have had to give up my dream of using guilloche,” explains Mack with conviction, and it is easy to see how appreciative and happy he is.