Product designer Greg Koenig has written a great article on how the Apple Watch is made. He has looked very closely at Apple’s videos on the making of the watches and used his product design experience to make some educated guesses on how Apple’s manufacturing process works.
Apple has used some very sophisticated processes and has also designed some of its own solutions to create a watch of extremely high quality.
I found these tidbits especially interesting:
Apple is deliberately introducing controlled “defects” in the lattice structure of the gold that hardens it against impact. Their level of precision cutting is down to 0.01mm. Then they use something called immersion ultrasonic inspection to check for defects, a process that “is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines.”
They are using a high grade of stainless steel that prevents nickel allergies. Then they are doing cold forging to create an exceptionally strong piece of stell, one where the grain of the metal matches the final shape of the piece. For polishing, Apple has created custom plugs to prevent the polishing from buffing down certain edges.
Apple has a long history of creating precise aluminum components for their MacBooks and iPhones. They seem to have gone even further for the watch, including using a laser to clean up finishing defects after the machining process. Koenig writes, “No company in the world is finishing and anodizing to Apple’s level.”
He concludes, “I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed.”
If you’re at all interested in design I highly recommend the article.