La montre à l'heure atomique

La montre à l'heure atomique
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Publié le 26 avril 2013

Reportage: Miroslav Mares

Montage: Ulrich Teiger

Mixage: Philippe Lahaye

L’une des plus gosses innovations dans le monde horloger passe presque inaperçue. Elle est en cours de développement dans les laboratoires du Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique de Neuchâtel où des scientifiques travaillent à la miniaturisation de l’horloge atomique. Un prototype pourrait être produit à grande échelle dans les deux ans.

 

Les horloges atomiques sont utilisées depuis plus de cinquante ans. Elles mesurent le temps en fonction de la fréquence de l’oscillation d’un atome (entre 10 et 7 milliards de fois par seconde). C’est en effet l’atome qui donne le rythme à l’horloge.

Ultra précises, ces horloges donnent le temps de référence mondial, elles équipent également les satellites. Grâce à l’émission de leurs fréquences, les appareils qui récoltent les données spatiales peuvent coordonner le flux d’information. Cette précision est notamment nécessaire lorsque que l’on utilise un GPS ou un programme de géolocalisation.

Pour les chercheurs, le défi était de passer d’un conteneur d’une trentaine de litres au format d’une montre, tout en garantissant une heure des plus précises, soit avec un décalage d’une seconde tous les 3000 ans.

La prouesse technique vient d’être réalisée. Le système a été miniaturisé et il ne reste plus qu’à régler les problèmes d’alimentation. A l’heure actuelle, une pile traditionnelle fournit l’énergie suffisante pour une durée de 10 minutes, pas davantage.

Du côté des horlogers suisses, cette innovation ne crée pas l’enthousiasme. Au même titre que l’arrivée probable sur le marché des smartphones, elle laisse indifférent même les plus innovants. Il faut dire que l’horlogerie suisse réalise 75% de  son chiffre d’affaires par la vente de montres mécaniques, et ceci même si en terme de nombre de pièces, le quartz représente le 75% des ventes.

En Suisse, c’est encore l’horlogerie traditionnelle qui prévaut. Une montre ne sert plus uniquement à indiquer l’heure, elle est aussi le reflet du statut social d’un individu. L’horlogerie de luxe traditionnelle aurait donc toujours de beaux jours devant elle, la révolution dans le secteur ne serait pas pour demain.

Reste que les chercheurs y croient. A Nechâtel, ils se souviennent qu'il y a 40 ans, la première montre à quartz était née dans leurs locaux. Une montre qui a radicalement changé le monde horloger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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