Last year we wrote a featured article about solar powered watches. Although this is the latest Eco-friendly technology being utilized in watch manufacturing today, it isn’t the only renewable energy used in timepieces.
Before batteries or rechargeable cells, watches operated by mechanical means. Watchmakers would construct the movements with tiny cogs (gears), springs, and jewels (used as bearings) which would keep the watch running for several hours after it was wound. These are commonly referred to as “Mechanical” watches. Watch manufacturers continued to improve the movements and created self-winding mechanical watches, referred to as “Automatic” with a moving weight or pendulum, that winds the watch as you wear it. Although some may view this technology as outdated, it is environmentally friendly because it is not utilizing a battery that would have to be replaced and discarded.
So you may think, “Why do most watches today require a battery to operate if they were originally made without a need for them?”. Mechanical and automatic watches are not considered highly accurate because they have to be wound and keep track of time by mechanical means. In the late 50’s, watches first utilized batteries and were referred to as “Electric Watches”, but they still kept track of time using a mechanical movement. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the first “Quartz” wristwatch was developed using the vibration frequency of a quartz crystal which happens to be a highly accurate timekeeping mechanism. It quickly took over the industry because it was also inexpensive to produce. Solar powered quartz movements have since been developed as an Eco-friendly step forward.
So are mechanical watches completely obsolete? Not quite. Mechanical watches are still sought after for their collectivity, craftsmanship, and intricate beauty, most notable in skeleton or open heart watches. In the 1980’s the first “Automatic Quartz” watch was produced. Utilizing a self-winding rotor, very tiny electric generator and capacitor (rechargeable cell), these watches are capable of producing and storing energy used to operate a quartz movement. This results in a highly accurate timepiece which does not require a battery or frequent winding to operate. One of the most popular and well-known automatic quartz watches is the Seiko Kinetic.
Want to learn more about why batteries are so destructive to the environment? Watch an informational video featured on our YouTube channel: Battery Waste Info Graphic – Recycle All Batteries