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Charming story about...

July 2 2010 at 12:20 PM
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Response to I Concur, TG, Mel & Ed...with Additional Observations

the waiter and your generous gift to him. Couldn't afford a battery change in his watch? Those guys need bigger tips!

I'll be the first to admit that there is a kind of fascination to be offered by mechanical watches not to be found in their more technically advanced quartz descendants; namely, the actual visual motion of the low torque / high speed end of their gear trains. This traditional aspect of mechanical movements became a major selling point a few years ago and, no doubt, was responsible for all of the "exhibition window" back covers that appeared on these watches...even Rolex came out with such a cover on one of its newer models.

In addition, mechanical movements tend to be easier to understand than quartz movements. Basically, they are just a means of controlling the rate at which a coiled spring unwinds and attaching some hands so that this unwinding process can be visually indicated on a dial. Of course, the unwinding is synchronized with the movement of the Sun through our planet's sky and used to keep track of the time of day. However, being mechanical and involving meshing gear teeth, such a system will be prone to continuous wear despite the presence of lubrication.

Quartz movements, on the other hand, are a bit mysterious. Yes, they have a small mechanical gear train with the traditional gears, but the torque of a wound mainspring has been replaced with electronically controlled magnetic pulses that activate a tiny motor to advance the gears of that drive train. These types of movements have virtually no torque in them and, consequently, experience MUCH less wear as the years pass and the movement continues to run. There's not much motion to be seen and, of course, there is the issue of battery replacement.

However, the fact remains that replacing an analog quartz watch's battery is ALOT easier and quicker than removing a mechanical watch's movement and then cleaning, lubing, and regulating it. Ultimately, it is this difference which I think will doom the mechanical wristwatch.

Everyone is in a rush today and routine maintenance is a real turn off when it comes time to decide what items you will be "voting" for with your purchases.


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