Smartwatches are a dime a dozen these days. More than 100 million people sport an Apple Watch on their wrist each day, with countless others wearing watches from similar brands.
And while these digital watches, with Bluetooth and wifi, make certain activities more convenient, they’ve lost the magic present inside a mechanical watch.
Mechanical watches are complex little machines, with a lot of inner parts that keep a consistent time for years, even decades. And they were once technological masterpieces.
But how do these watches work, and why should you wear one instead of a more advanced smartwatch? Keep reading below to learn all about the watches of the past.
What Is a Mechanical Watch?
Mechanical watches date back hundreds of years. For centuries, they have been the primary time-keeping devices for people around the world.
They rely on movement. A physical cog spins inside the watch, causing the hour and minute hands to move at regular intervals to track minutes, hours, and seconds.
They use springs and cogs to generate and store power, which causes the other components to move on a constant basis. No batteries or electronics are required in a mechanical watch.
They aren’t quite as reliable as an electronic watch. And they do require human intervention and maintenance from time to time. But they add a bit of eloquence to your life, should you keep one on your wrist.
Not quite ready for the effort required to maintain an old-school mechanical watch? Look here for more information on the latest watches from the most well-known manufacturers.
How Does a Mechanical Watch Work?
So how do these watches work without a power source? It starts with a spring.
The spring winds up tightly in a coil and then unwinds, which generates power and moves the hands of the watch.
But a coiled-up spring wants to unwind very quickly. If you wanted your watch to keep the time all day, you would need to spend a lot of time coiling up the spring.
To solve this, and make the watch last a long time before rewinding, gears were introduced. One large gear is attached to the barrel, which is what you twist on the watch.
That larger gear is connected to a smaller gear, which is connected to a smaller gear, and so on. In total, there are four main gears inside the watch.
As you twist the barrel, the gears ensure the last gear rotates many, many more times, leveraging your minimal effort for big results.
However, the spring would naturally unwind quickly, rather than in one-second intervals. To slow the unwind down, an escapement is in place.
The escapement wheel is made up of another wheel, this time connected to a fork. The fork moves out of the way to let the wheel spin one notch, before stopping the wheel again.
This process repeats continuously, providing the magical “tick” that is unique to mechanical watches.
Appreciating Mechcanial Genius
The mechanical watch is truly an engineering masterpiece. While they aren’t nearly as common today, those who wear them typically understand their historical and mechanical significance.
If you’ve found our mechanical watch guide helpful, then make sure to visit the rest of our blog to continue reading.