Why Swiss-Style Turning Machines Were Developed & Why You Should Care

In the 1870’s the demand for Swiss watches required high volumes of precise parts for their coveted timepieces. Fixed head turning machines of the day were not capable of holding the tight tolerances required for these small diameter parts. So the Swiss watchmaking industry developed a different kind of turning machine.                                                 

Over the years, the sliding headstock, or Swiss-style turning machine, has been refined to become a true workhorse for high-volume, high-precision machining – and for good reason.

A fixed headstock lathe holds a rotating workpiece while the cutting tool moves across the part. However a Swiss-style machine cuts bar stock that is fed through a guide bushing past a stationary cutting tool. This is significant because it enables the cutting tool to work close to the bushing, so the workpiece has better support which greatly reduces vibration and tool deflection.

A century after development of the first Swiss machines, the industry faced another threat. The digital watch that was both accurate and less expensive appeared and cut deeply into the timepiece market. In response, the Swiss watch industry needed to further reduce cost-per-part and so was born the automatic bar loader.

Today Swiss-style turning machines coupled to automatic, high-capacity bar feeders are ideal for unattended and lights-out production of parts ranging from medical and dental products to sensitive measuring instruments and, of course, Swiss watches.

It’s important to note that Swiss-style machines are not all created equal. The design, construction and materials employed determine if the machine will maintain accuracy and perform reliably over time. Contact your local distributor for all the facts.