Even Lange's patent drawings are things of beauty. This patent, which expired in September, 2016, discloses and claims a beautifully simple mechanism to zero a second hand while setting the time.
The basics of this mechanism is a cam-plate drive. The cam plate can be seen attached to the seconds stem. When the crown is pulled into the setting position the cam is driven by a spring-driven lever into the zero position. By using a heart-shaped cam, the mechanism will also hack - keep the second-hand at the zero position while the minute hand is being set.
For such a desirable feature, there are surprisingly few parts involved, and given that the patent on this mechanism has expired, I'd love to see to lower-end watch companies start to incorporate this into their watches.
Design patents are an integral part of the intellectual property strategy of many watch companies. And design patents are exactly what they sound like: patents on the design of an object.
Typical patents, called "Utility Patents" in the business, protect only the useful, or functional, elements of a product. So, for many brands like Rolex, Omega, and Lange, they file patents on their innovations in the materials that make their cases, their co-axial escapements, or new and wondrous complications.
But a large number of watch companies don't innovate in technology. They innovate in design and use off-the-shelf movements.
Companies like Baume & Mercier have their entire patent portfolios (near as I can tell) dedicated to design patents: over a dozen design patents in the US dedicated to the design of watches, watch faces, and watch parts.
Design patents only last 14 years from the date the design patent is granted, and only protect the look of the item, not the way it works.
Status: Patent Application (allowed in US 5/7/18, patent to issue), pending elsewhere in Europe and the world as of publication.
Description: This is such a clever idea. The basic concept is to take the relatively mundane day-night complication and make it really special, by having the moon in the day-night complication also display the phase of the moon.
The patent application discloses a couple of different gearings to make the mechanism work, but requires that the moon phase be part of the day-night, and that the aperture for the moon phase be off center, as it naturally would be.
What it means: This would allow Blancpain the exclusive right to manufacture, import, sell, or license this dual complication in any country where they are granted the patent. Blancpain would have that exclusive right until July 4, 2036, as long as they continue to pay regular fees to maintain the patent. They do not have to make watches with this complication, but they really should. It's very cool.
Welcome to Second Hand Patents. This is a site created and run by Ben Snitkoff, and sponsored by Modern Renaissance Legal.
Ben is an avid watch collector and has been assembling a large database of patents related to wrist watches. This blog will pick some of those patents and highlight them because of their cleverness, historical significance, or just because they're interesting.
Nothing on this site is legal advice, nor should it be taken as such. If you'd like legal advice, or for Ben to consult with your company about watch patents, non-watch patents, intellectual property, or internet law, scoot over to ModernRenaissanceLegal.com.