Artisanal skill packed into a small space: the Universal Genève Mikrotor (micro-rotor)

Craftsmanship packed into a small space: Universal Genève Microtor


Along with the Tricompax, which is synonymous with Universal Genève, there is one watch that continues to fascinate watch fans around the world.
A time when various functions were added to wristwatches, and as they became more complex, they had no choice but to become thicker.
The star of this article is the "Mycrotor," a piece that combines a mechanical watch movement with an elegance that captivates people's hearts.
Today we will be looking at the Microtor, an innovation that Universal Geneva has succeeded in reducing weight through its exceptional technical capabilities.
*Here, we will use the term "micro-rotor" when talking about the mechanism in general, and "micro-rotor" when referring to the mechanism invented by Universal Genève.
Universal Geneva Pole Router

The photo shows a wristwatch equipped with a microphone from the 1950s.


It is no exaggeration to say that the invention of the micro-rotor brought a breath of fresh air to the perception of wristwatches. As its name suggests, the micro-rotor, which brought elegance to functionality, is a "small" (= micro) "rotating part" (= rotor).

It was this miniaturization of the rotor that later brought about a major innovation in the world of watches.
The micro-rotor, which is packed with the skills and wisdom of many watchmakers within the limited space of the movement, provides watch enthusiasts with joy and romance.

The Micro-Rotor Journey

In the history of people and watches that dates back to ancient times, the micro-rotor is a relatively new invention. It is said to have begun in 1954. At that time, Büren invented the micro-rotor mechanism and obtained a patent for it. This patent was a groundbreaking development that allowed watches to be made into masterpieces that combined functionality with beautiful design.

Drawing of the micro-rotor patent applied for by Buren

The image shows a drawing submitted for a patent by Buren.

The following year, in 1955, Universal Genève bought the patent and released the watch known as the Mikrotar. The first model released was called Caliber 215. The gold logo and the hands showing the hours are arrow hands, and their simplicity is impressive. Depending on the model, the scale on the bezel is a classy accent.
In 1966, the Caliber .2-66 finally achieved a thickness of 2.5mm, which surprised other watch manufacturers.

This put an end to the competition among manufacturers to make thinner watches.

Since 1970, only three companies have produced micro-rotors: Universal Genève, Buren, and Piaget. Among them, the works of master watch designer Gerald Genta are loved as the finest Universal creations.

How Microtor Works

The power source of a mechanical watch is a built-in mainspring. Power is generated by winding it. The invention of the mainspring was long before wristwatches became popular. According to one record, a mainspring was used in a small clock made in Germany in the 16th century.
There are two ways to wind the mainspring: manual and automatic.
Generally, hand-wound watches work by turning the crown to wind the mainspring.
Automatic winding watches have a mechanism for winding the mainspring by attaching a rotating weight called a rotor (the part that winds the mainspring) to the movement.
It was Universal Genève that brought about a revolution in this automatic winding mechanism.
Until now, the basic structure of the movement has been similar for both automatic and manual winding watches. In the case of automatic winding, the method used was to stack an oscillating weight on an axis in the center of the movement. In other words, it was like stacking a new mechanism on top of another mechanism, which had the disadvantage of making the watch more complicated in pursuit of functionality and increasing the thickness of the watch itself.
So Universal Genève tried a new idea. It was a complex structure in which a recess was made in the movement itself and a small oscillating weight was installed in the empty space. It goes without saying that the level of technical skill required was very high, since the mechanism was installed by creating additional space in the already small movement.
Universal Geneve named this mechanism "Microrotor" by combining "micro", which means small, and the part name "rotor". (Many places other than Universal Geneve call it microrotor.)
Universal Geneve micro-rotor movement

The image shows the thinnest Microtower among Universal Geneva watches.

In conventional mechanisms, the rotor takes up more than half of the surface of the movement. This means that even if you want to see the internal mechanism, you have to peek through a small gap. In this respect, the Microrotor allows you to clearly see the complex internal mechanism, which may be one of the reasons why it continues to be loved by fans.