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Watch Technologies Explained
In the ever changing technology of the 21st century, watch manufacturers are expanding their horizons. If you've been to any jewelry store, including Steven DiFranco Jewelers, lately you've seen the massive amounts of watches available to the customer today, and the technology of some of their inner workings may confuse you. If we were to ask you the difference between an automatic and a kinetic watch, would you be able to describe it? Or, would you be one of the many customers that comes in for a watch battery replacement even though the watch doesn't even have a battery?
These days seeing a manual wind watch is a rarity. Older, even antique watches were predominantly manual wind mechanical style watches. This meant that every morning you would put your watch on your wrist, then wind it up until you felt slight resistance. The watch would keep fine time throughout the day.
Automatic / Self-Winding
Automatic or self-winding technology has been around for quite some time. These watches are common amongst Bulova and Accutron as well as the fine Filip & Company watches, all of which we carry in stock at Steven DiFranco Jewelers. Today, many luxury brand wristwatches are powered by automatic/self-winding movements.
An automatic watch represents its "ability" to wind itself, and yes we said WIND (pronounced whined), no battery here. Your movement actually moves a half-circle shaped winder that winds the mainspring of the watch, giving it a reserve of power which will last approximately 36 hours.
This technology has been around for awhile and that's because it's very reliable. There is no need to change a battery. It only asks that you MOVE. These watches can also be wound the old fashion way by simply rotating the crown (see the watch setting page for an explanation on the crown).
Is this technology for you? Well, if you do not move either because of age or another physical condition, an automatic watch is not for you because of it's need for movement to keep the mainspring of the watch wound up. If you have multiple watches, and you will only wear your automatic watch once a week or so, you will have to reset the watch every time you are wanting to wear it. This can be a task you will quickly tire of.
Automatic winders can be of a great help with automatic watches , keeping them wound up until you are ready to wear them. These are available as a decortative item, similar to a jewelry box, or a very utilitarian item. A valuable accessory for the automatic watch collector for sure.
Back in the 1969, Seiko turned the watch/timekeeping world upside down when they introduced quartz powered watches for the masses. This was the equivalent of going from a horse and buggy to a car. As a teenager, I was working at a jewelry store in the Great Lakes Mall when this technology arrived. It was an amazing time for the watch industry.
How does a quartz watch work? A battery provides the power to an integrated circuit that controls the quartz and stepping motor. The quartz oscillates, dividing the time, and the Trimmer regulates the frequency at which the quartz oscillates. The stepping motor then transforms the electrical impulses into mechanical power and starts the gear train, activating hours, minutes, and seconds.
Essentially, the Quartz movement watches are battery operated and run off the oscillations of the quartz, think of a tuning fork. Once the battery dies, the watch stops running. These watches usually require a new battery every year to a year and a half, but some can last longer.
Bulova Precisionist Technology
Bulova pioneered this technology with the help of their parent company Citizen. Conventional quartz watches have second hands that move in "steps" every second. Bulova Precisionist technology breaks the second hand movement into sixteen steps per second, giving the you the illusion that the second hand is moving in a smooth sweeping motion.
These watches are modern marvels and tap into the power of your body movement. Like automatic watches, these movements depend on movement to keep them going, but movement doesn't wind a spring, it recharges a capacitor/battery. The wearer's arm movement causes an oscillating weight to rotate. A gear train transfers your body movement to the rotor inside the watch, whose spinning generates voltage across a coil block. The electrical current is then stored in a little electrical storage unit (capacitor/battery), which stores the power and disperses the power as a battery would.
Solar / Eco-Drive by Citizen
Solar powered watches are one of the latest technological advances in watch development. Solar powered watches contain a light sensitive receptor underneath the dial, which absorbs any light (natural or artificial), and converts it into energy to keep the watch ticking. This captured energy is stored in a small permanent lithium ion cell in the watch so that the watch still functions in the dark.
One type of these watches is the Citizen Eco-Drive, which is available here at Steven DiFranco Jewelers.
A few of the Citizen Eco-Drive watches we stock here at Steven DiFranco Jewelers have radio control technology. Actually, this is a combination of the Eco-Drive technology, quartz, AND radio control, to give you the best of all three worlds. Will this technology be the future? Nobody knows for sure, but it is very exciting to ponder. You never have to reset your watch again! During the middle of the night your watch or clock will receive a signal from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder Colorado, resetting and synchronizing your watch or clock perfectly every single night.
The only problem with this technology is that in some buildings, the signal can't make it to the clock or watch to perform the resetting or synchronizing due to steel ceilings, excess wires, and other issues. For example, at Steven DiFranco Jewelers, we can't have a radio control clock in our shop because of the steel roof, wires and equipment.