February 18, 2022

Much more than a simple specialization within the company’s R&D department, on-board computing is part of a long tradition of mechatronic developments. Indeed, for more than twenty years, electronics and computer science have been integrated into VOH’s products, and the company invests 10% of its annual turnover in research and development. This approach aims to increase tenfold the added value of the watchmaker’s know-how and skills thanks to the power of electronics. Richard Vaucher and Bastien Paratte, respectively CEO and head of the R&D department, explain.
Since the multi-purpose electronic board developed more than twenty years ago to equip the Echappemètres, on-board electronics has been one of the spearheads of the company’s innovations. “When I arrived at VOH, one of my first tasks was to modernize this card to make it as versatile as possible while controlling its costs and energy consumption and increasing its performance,” explains Bastien Paratte. In terms of cost, the engineer emphasizes the importance of thinking ahead, especially about the digital functions to be implemented. During this first step, Bastien Paratte and his team evaluate whether new functions need to be created. “For example, we check if we already have a functional block capable of driving a defined engine. If this block does not exist, we have to look for its availability on the market or develop it internally.” Of course, the challenge is to arrive at an economically optimal solution, both in terms of performance and final selling price. At the beginning, the customer expresses his needs,” explains Richard Vaucher, “which we transform into functions that then become the characteristics of the final product. At the end of the day, all that matters to the customer is the final result and the price/satisfaction ratio. How we get there is entirely up to us.
Beyond the financial argument, the “customer response” requires the expertise of several specific advanced skills when designing a modern electronic board. For VOH, this includes the mastery of wireless communication, low power consumption, sensors and signal processing (especially for force and position measurements) and, of course, solid knowledge of motor control. “In addition, a perfect understanding of the final device is necessary to make the integration of the electronics as natural and practical as possible; overall ergonomics is a major component when designing the electronic part of the product.”


The integration of electronics in a mechanical device is described by a catchword: MECHATRONICS. Bastien Paratte explains its meaning: “Every time we develop a mechatronic system, we have to take into account the mechanics, its functions and the geometric constraints of the device. It’s a constant negotiation between the two fields, the result must be an ideal fusion of one and the other.” Within this framework, the basic thinking involves defining which mechanical functions of the product can eventually be replaced or assisted by electronics. “With this in mind, the team asks itself a series of questions that form a kind of specification for the developer: will the device communicate with another device? What will it communicate? Will that communication be wireless? Does it require a user interface? Does it need a battery? What is the expected accuracy? etc… ”

“It is necessary to contextualize each project,” says Richard Vaucher, “and to question the relevance of what we are creating, for whom and why. These questions must be reflected in each stage of the development, with the final vision being a precise response to the client’s expectations.”


In the Industry 4.0 era, basic mechanics and electronics are no longer enough. We therefore add a layer of computer science that requires us to integrate geeky engineers into our R&D team who are capable of real achievements. These engineers position VOH as a leading high-tech company in its market, with a high degree of technological mastery. Very few organizations can claim to have complete control over development and production with almost 100% of the tasks mastered in-house: embedded computing is therefore the final layer of skills we have brought to our organization; it is a natural complement to our mastery of mechanical and electronic design, machining, assembly, and many others necessary for the creation of advanced manufactured products.

With embedded computing in VOH products, users have complete traceability data “captured” in a discreet manner. “Clearly, the best electronics are those that are invisible,” says Bastien Paratte. However, it is important not to limit the advantages of the products to discretion and accessibility of the data; the original function remains the ultimate goal of a VOH product.

“It does not replace the human being, but rather enhances the skills that make Swiss watchmaking so valuable,” enthusiastically states Richard Vaucher. In fact, enhancing the watchmaker’s skills is the true leitmotiv of the company’s employees. Each member of the team has a precise role to play, coordinating and optimizing the realization of each product, from information technology to assembly, including ergonomics, always with the constant concern of designing quality products with a reliability level deserving of VOH’s ambition.