Your unassuming wristwatch carries tons of history. Delve into its past, and you just might see your timepiece in a whole new light.
The wristwatch is the quintessential men’s fashion accessory. And today there are seemingly endless watch options. But how much do you really know about your watch?
I don’t leave the house without a watch on. I would feel naked, awkward, exposed… a wristwatch is just a must.
What’s great about an understated, simple watch is that it can go with everything – from a casual I’m-just-running-errands look to a dressier gotta-nail-this-business-meeting style.
So while you may just throw on your watch and go, do you know the history of that classic accessory? What are the differences between quartz, automatic, and manual movements? Does it matter?
Spoiler: Yeah, it definitely matters. So let’s get into these 5 surprising watch facts.
1 – Mechanical and Quartz Movements Are Very Different
Sure, they both keep the time. But under the watch face, these are totally different animals in just about every other way.
Manual Mechanical Movement
A manual movement mechanical watch is the oldest and most traditional of watch designs. (More on automatic mechanical watches later.) Many display the beautiful, intricate gears of the watch through the rear casing of the watch.
An easy way to spot a mechanical watch is the sweeping motion of the second hand. It moves smoothly around the face instead of ticking in quick, jerking movements.
Mechanical movement watches use a set of tiny, intricate gears to release the energy from a wound spring and calculate time based on that energy release.
They don’t use batteries – but manual watches do require re-winding. You have wind the crown in order to keep the mainspring wound. That ensures there’s enough potential energy stored to keep the movement going. Otherwise, time will literally stop. (Well, at least in your little world.)
How often you have to wind a mechanical movement watch varies based on its design – some need to be wound daily, others can last more than a week. It all depends on the manufacturer and how they’ve crafted the movement.
With proper care, mechanical movement watches will last a lifetime… and then some.
Automatic Mechanical Movement
An automatic watch – or self winding watch – is a mechanical watch that, instead of being wound by hand, automatically winds itself. It uses the energy created by the wearer’s wrist motion throughout the day.
This design includes a rotor – a small metal weight that rotates with the motion of the wrist. As it spins, the mainspring is wound and potential energy is stored. They only have to be wound by hand if they’ve gone several days without being worn.
An automatic watch is an investment-worthy accessory for any guy. So whether you want to up your own style or you’re looking for a gift that someone on your list will never forget, this is an excellent option.
You already know we love Linjer watches at EG – Barron broke down their clean, minimalist design in this post a few months back.
Well, now Linjer’s upped their game with their new automatic watches. The design is still on point, and now the intricate internal workings are just as eye catching – thanks to the Sapphire crystal on the back of the watch that exposes the movement.
The Automatic in both Classic and Minimalist designs is a no-brainer if you want a handsome timepiece that will last a lifetime. Right now The Automatic is launching on Kickstarter with early bird pricing, so the time is right… (the puns are hard to resist.)
Quartz watch movement uses a battery to send an electric current through a small piece of quartz crystal. That produces vibrations which power the movement of the watch and measure time. You can spot a quartz movement watch easily by the jerky tick of the second hand.
This was the latest, greatest, and most expensive technology when it hit the market in the 1960’s. Since then, quartz movement watches have become the most common around the world thanks to mass manufacturing.
Quartz watches have a much simpler design than their mechanical counterparts. They have few moving parts, relying instead on the battery to function. They also require little to no maintenance – just a battery replacement every now and then.
For true timepiece aficionados, quartz watches tend to be less appealing. They don’t feature the advanced craftsmanship and technical skill that the design of a mechanical or automatic watch demands.
2 – Automatic Watches Were Invented Because of Dusty World War I Trenches
The earliest efforts to make a self winding watch were pocket watches from the late 1700’s. The designs were either impractical, overly costly, or unreliable.
Self winding wristwatches were first invented in the 1920’s, but they weren’t always so effective.
The first modern attempt at wristwatch automation came in 1926 by John Harwood. He had seen wristwatches get gunked up with dust and mud during his time in the trenches during World War I. Sick of that nonsense, his goal was to remove the winding stem and eliminate the entry point for all that gear-clogging debris.
So he got rid of the winding stem, added a swinging lever reminiscent of a see-saw on the interior, and used it to tighten the mainspring. A novel idea and a good start, but this design ultimately failed due to its unreliable and overly complex nature.
Still, it got the ball rolling for innovators who would come later and improve on his concept.
3 – Quartz Watches Used to Be Crazy Expensive
The first quartz watch was produced by Japanese brand Seiko and released on December 25, 1969 – the Astron. It was a symbol of progress, innovation, and technology – but it was incredibly expensive. It sold for 450,000 yen – which was the same price as a new Toyota Corolla at the time.
The high price trend continued with the first digital quartz watch was released in April 1972 by the Hamilton Watch Co. for $2,100 – the Pulsar. But it was good enough for James Bond, debuting in 1973’s Live and Let Die.
4 – Switzerland and Japan Had a Watch War in the 1970’s
It was all about who could produce the thinnest possible watch. In 1978, Switzerland came out with the Citizen Exceed Gold, 4.1mm thick, the thinnest the the time.
Not to be outdone, Japanese brand Seiko released a 2.5mm watch the same year. Then the world got the 1.98mm Delirium from Swiss brand ETA – and finally three more versions of the Delirium with the thinnest ever made measuring 0.98mm. That’s thinner than a penny. And it still holds the record.
5 – Only 3% of Watches Produced in 2015 Were Mechanical
The Japan Watch & Clock Association reports that, in 2015, 1.46 billion watches were produced. An incredible 97% of them used quartz movements. And 81% of the total were analog quartz watches.
So if you rock a mechanical watch, you’re in the 3%. (Not quite the 1%, but pretty close.)
Appreciate Your Watch, It’s Got a Rich History
Timepieces have been one of man’s best style allies for centuries. And choosing a mechanical, automatic watch clearly sets you out from the crowd.
You’re in the small, discerning class of gentlemen who appreciate the value of beautiful engineering, seamless timekeeping, and classic design.
And if you want to snag a handsome automatic watch from our friends at Linjer, now’s the time. Check out their Kickstarter campaign and take advantage of the early bird pledge to save 30% off the future retail price.
What design elements do you look for in your go-to watch?
I’d love to hear in the comments down below. Also, thanks to our friends at Linjer for being a part of this article, and thanks to you, dear reader, for supporting the brands that make EG possible.
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