This video shows the process, from start to finish, of how raw carbon fiber is turned into a watch case. First, carbon fibers are placed in a metal mold, then the mold is heated, and then it is compressed. After going through the final quality checks and being polished (not shown in video), the resulting forged carbon case.
This is the first part of my recent tour of the Audemars Piguet factory and museum, in LeBrassus, Switzerland. My tour started in the “forged carbon” department. Instead of taking notes, I figured it would be more interesting to actually photograph and videotape the carbon forging process. The slideshow (above) features photos of all the steps required to turn raw “carbon fibers” into a single piece of “forged carbon”.
First, the raw fibers are unrolled, measured, and cut. The small strands of carbon are then weighed on a digital scale, where they must be accurate to 1/100th of a gram. If the weight is off, even a hundredth of a gram, the process will not work.
The weighed fibers are sealed in a small, dust-free container and taken to an adjacent room. Here, the carbon fibers are inserted into a metal mold for forging. This is done within a work surface that features a semi-sealed electronic dust filtration system. Dust can easily cause a piece to be rejected, so many steps are taken to prevent this.
After being precisely placed in the mold (to insure uniformity), the mold is placed in an oven. Once the proper temperature is achieved, the mold is placed in a liquid-cooled forging machine, and forging begins. After 15 minutes the mold is quickly removed and placed in a vice. The final piece is then carefully extracted from the mold, using a heavy-duty torque press. Each piece is immediately hand-inspected and cleaned by the same person who made it.
If it passes this initial quality check, it is moved to another department for further quality control. If it passes these additional checks, it is sent to the manufacturing department for final finishing. Finally, it is ready to be used on an Audemars Piguet production timepiece. In this case, a Royal Oak Offshore.