Jul 14, 2016 | By Alec

Mechanical watches and clocks have amazed people for centuries, and it’s therefore always very heartwarming when modern technologies like 3D printing are applied to that age-old hobby. And while we’ve seen numerous 3D printed watches and clocks in the past, nothing quite prepared us for the amazing 3D printed Clockwerk three-axis tourbillon clock, which uses a mind-numbing mechanism that has only been around for a decade. Designed by the Brooklyn-based Adam Wrigley, this could be the most impressive 3D printed watch ever made. What’s more, you can now recreate it at home.

While the Clockwerk might not look as sleek or cool as other 3D printed watches or clocks out there, this amazing creation stands out head and shoulders above the rest for incorporating the tourbillon mechanism. As any watch expert will tell you, this is one of the most complex time-telling mechanisms out there. Developed all the way back in 1795 by Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, the tourbillon mechanism is an ingenious method for fighting gravity. For a watch is always fighting a losing battle when needing to climb upwards and downhill while continuously displaying the correct time, and Breguet solved this by adding an escapement and balance wheel to the watch, in a rotating cage. By continuously rotating the entire wheel/escapement assembly at a slow rate, the positional errors caused by gravity are averaged out.

It’s a remarkable mechanism featuring countless small parts, and very difficult to get right. Incidentally, Swiss designer Christoph Laimer designed and 3D printed a huge, highly intricate and fully mechanical tourbillon watch back in January. Wrigley, however, takes it one step further by building a three-axis tourbillon – a mechanism that was invented back in 2004 by Thomas Prescher. Easily costing several tens of thousands of dollars each, it’s one of the most exclusive types of watches in the world.

And as Wrigley revealed, that was his main problem. He grew in love with Vianney Halter's ‘Deep Space Tourbillon’ watch a while ago (visible in the clip above). “It costs $200,000 though, so I decided to print the mechanism since I could not afford it. It's very calming and a bit hypnotizing to look at, and I didn't think this was something that should only be afforded to people with $200k of disposable income,” he tells us.

Fortunately, he has the skills to build one. A mechanical engineer at Frog Design in NYC during the day, he typically works on all sorts of consumer electronics, medical devices, wind turbines and more. But he is a huge fan of nerdy stuff like watchmaking, which came in handy here. Applying all his skill, he built the Clockwerk: a wall hanging kinetic sculpture of a 3-axis tourbillon escapement, and (to our knowledge) the world’s first 3D printed multi-axis tourbillon. “The mechanism is heavily inspired by Vianney Halter's wonderful "Deep Space Tourbillon" watch, but adapted for the scale and materials of 3D printing,” Wrigley says.

This amazing clock can be seen in the clip above, and the first question that might come to mind is: how do you tell the time from it? Well you can’t, actually. “There are no hands for reading time, but the unit works with a counterweight that hangs below the main tourbillon,” Wrigley explains. “If you fully wind it and let it go, using another time-telling device you can put some marks on the string every minute (or whatever length you want to time) as it's running. These should be consistent going forward, and you can then count the marks to know the time that has passed since you started it.”


But that doesn’t make it any less impressive. What’s more, this could be a cheap DIY project, as it doesn’t actually use any electronics at all – all power is instead provided by a 5 lb. counterweight. “It's based around a classic Swiss lever escapement at its heart, which is responsible for the ticking, and the Vianney Halter watch which is what allows the spinning,” he reveals. In the model visible here, each axis is made in an alternating color to make the mechanism easier to understand. The central blue part rotates within the white cage, which rotates within the blue U, which in turn rotates within the white bowl.

As Wrigley revealed, he used SolidWorks 2016 to design all parts. All the parts – 34 in total – were subsequently 3D printed on a FlashForge Creator Pro in Polymax PLA, without support structures and at a 0.2 mm resolution (20 percent infill). All in all, it took three or four days to print everything. But the fun only starts there, as it further includes 8 ball bearings, 3 metal shafts, 2 barbell plates, 1 meter of fishing line, and 51 screws. “It can be assembled in about an hour if all the parts are printed well, but some may need to be adjusted depending on the tolerance of the printer,” he says.

That means this is quite a challenging project, but if you want to try this at home you can find all the downloadable files on Thingiverse here. Just note: this is a project for experienced makers with an understanding of watches. “The first thing I recommend is familiarizing yourself with the function of a Swiss lever escapement,” Wrigley advises prospective makers. “It's not necessary to fully understand a tourbillon, or a triple tourbillon, but it is important to understand the Swiss lever escapement. This is the most difficult part to assemble, and I can't fully explain it myself. It also helps to look at the assembly files I've included in CAD before assembly to get a better idea of how this all fits together in that area.”

Also be sure to watch the clips provided on the Thingiverse page, which will give you a good understanding of the complexity of the project. Alongside with the assembly video (visible below), you should be able to recreate this truly remarkable watch at home.

Wrigley, in the meantime, is already thinking about improving the project. “The next steps for this design would be to shrink it, and change the aesthetics to be more ‘me’ and less ‘Vianney Halter’”, he tells us. But as this was such a grueling task to complete, he will be leaving his 3D printer alone for a while. We can’t say we blame him.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive