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How Watches Work

by Maegan Crandall


Watches usually appear simple, but they are actually very complex. Even basic watches contain over 130 parts and more complex watches can have over 1,000 essential pieces. There are also many different kinds of men's watches and women's watches. If you are shopping for a new watch, knowing how watches work can be helpful in choosing the right one. When you know how your watch works, you will also have a new appreciation for these handy timepieces.

How Watches Work:

  1. Power: There are several different methods used to power a watch. Traditional mechanical watches use a mainspring to provide power. When these watches are wound, the mainspring slowly uncoils, powering the watch. Most modern watches use a battery for power, and while many of these watches will require that the battery be replaced regularly, there are also watches with rechargeable batteries that can last for decades. A kinetic watch, for example, uses oscillating weights that recharge the battery with every movement of the wearer, and solar watches use sunlight to recharge their batteries.

  2. Power transfer:Different types of watches get their power to the other parts of the watch differently. Manual watches, for example, use a balance wheel and hairspring. When the power from the mainspring coil is released, the balance wheel and hairspring work together, causing the hands to move at a steady rate. Quartz watches, on the other hand, have a piece of quartz crystal inside that is shaped like a small bar or a tiny tuning fork. These watches utilize the power from a battery, causing the quartz crystal within the watch to vibrate, which powers the gears inside the watch. Many types of watches today are quartz watches, including a variety of kinetic and solar watches.

  3. Keeping and displaying time: Most watches are the same when it comes to keeping and displaying time. If you have a watch with traditional moving hands, then your watch keeps time through the use of a gear train. Gear trains have a set of toothed gears that work with the dial train to move the hour, minute and second hands. Gear trains and dial trains are conventional watch parts that have survived the electronic watch revolution because the traditional moving hands on a dial are preferred by a large number of shoppers.

  4. Modern watches:Digital watches were first introduced in the 1970s and have become a strong presence in the world of timepieces. These watches use a tiny computer and a digital display to keep and exhibit time. They can also have a myriad of other functions, including calendars, organizers and advanced sport-training features, such as heart-rate monitors and exercise software. These exciting timepieces are especially popular in men's watches, although they are available in women's watches as well. In addition to digital watches, there have been many advances in electronic watches in the past few decades. Some watches may appear as though they have been around for centuries, but they actually contain a radio transmitter which receives the correct time and date from an atomic clock or GPS signal. These advances in keeping time have made watches easier to use than ever before and have created many new watch shoppers and collectors.

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