ΠAlthough the history of timepieces goes back as far as 2000 BC with various mechanisms such as the well-known hourglass, only in the last, approximately, 250 years, watches have entered the daily life of people. Nowadays, seeing the time is so easy that most people do not even think about it (smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.), a watch, however, is not just a machine that tells the time. Indeed, watches from the very beginning (dating back to 1810 when Abraham-Louis Breguet made the first wristwatch for the Queen of Naples) were a jewel, a proof of high aesthetics and detailed engineering.
Today, we will see how these peculiar jewelry-tools strike, the various mechanisms that power their function, the heart of the watches.
So let's look at them in a little more detail 3 most famous clock mechanisms in chronological order:
1) Mechanical watches
It was mechanical all watches, whether wall or pocket or the first watches for a very long time.
How such a mechanism works is not easy to describe as in addition to its complexity, there were many different mechanisms.
In short, however, a mechanical watch is "driven" by a cylinder which must be wound at intervals. The power generated is transmitted through a series of gears to power the balancing wheel, a weighted wheel that oscillates back and forth at a constant rate.
Sophisticated to understand and even more so to implement, mechanical watches are great examples of detailed engineering and for many years have been the only tools to know the time.
A big advantage of them is the fact that since they do not work with a battery that is consumable, the average life of these watches is much higher than the others that we will talk about below, while their main disadvantages are their production cost and the fact that they have to to wind otherwise they stop working.
2) Automatic clocks
The automatic watch could be said to be the new generation of engineer. In fact, automatic watches are mechanical watches with the only difference that they do not need tuning. An automatic winding mechanism had been invented since 1770 but the first real automatic wristwatch was invented in 1929 by the British John Harwood. An automatic watch, instead of tuning, "takes" the required energy from the movement of the wearer. It has a mechanism that rotates the main spring using the natural movements of the user's body.
Such a mechanism changed the global watchmaking market forever as its benefits are enormous. However, a big disadvantage of these watches is that they are more easily affected by altitude and pressure factors so there are some small deviations and inaccuracies in the time they show.
In addition, such a watch if not worn for some time, due to lack of kinetic energy stops working and will "get ahead" after being worn for some time.
However, the charm of the automatic mechanisms, the attention to detail and the excellent aesthetics of many automatic watches, have dominated them for many decades.
3) Battery-quartz watches
The latter category belongs to watches that are powered by a battery. Quartz watches first appeared in 1969 with the Seiko Quartz-Astron 35SQ and in 1970 with Omega Electroquartz. Unlike the other two categories, these watches do not use gears and a spring, do not have a complicated mechanical mechanism inside and do not need tuning to work. They use an electronic oscillator adjusted by a quartz crystal to hold time. This crystal oscillator generates a signal with a very accurate frequency.
For this reason quartz watches are much more expensive compared to the rest and their deviations are, in general, a few seconds per month while they are not affected by different altitudes (although they can be affected by very low temperatures). Also, due to their simpler mechanism, they are more durable.
One downside, however, is the fact that the battery is disposable and will need to be changed from time to time.
ΣIn short, these are the three basic mechanisms of watches that we all encounter in our daily lives. Of course, there are other (sub) categories such as smartwatches and sundials.
The world of watches is a magical world, full of innovations, special designs, great materials and a passion for precision. All 3 mechanisms have their disadvantages and advantages and although the classic mechanical watches that need tuning are no longer produced, they were the beginning of watches.