Friday, October 11, 2013
Fast forward a few decades we see a ton of new version and improvements to the wrist watch. They made them better, smaller, more accurate and durable. First we saw the invention of the "automatic". This was the the same basic principal as the first mechanical watches but added a weighted pendulum that would rotate inside the watch case as the owner wore the watch. The rotation of the weight would "automatically" wind the main spring and keep the watch constantly running as long as the wearer remained active. This proved to be a major improvement in the overall design and remains the standard for mechanical watches even to this day. Almost all modern mechanical watches are automatic mechanical watches of some form or another and even the term "automatic" is often used to describe any mechanical watch by the uninitiated.
But soon came the dark days of mechanical watches with the invention of the modern battery powered quartz watch. These watches were no longer powered by a constantly unwinding spring but rather by a small replaceable battery. This provided a constant power supply for longer periods of time and even opened the door to more possibilities then would ever be possible in an "old fashioned" wind up watch. The technology increased almost as fast as companies could make watches. 1/100th stop watches, multi-time zones, multi-alarms, calculators, altimeters, depth gauges, atomic time, etc... Greater accuracy and dependability then was ever possible before. Watch would run better and longer without any required maintenance AND have more features than ever possible.
The automatic mechanical watch was in big trouble. Companies went out of business and factories shut down. The modern quartz watch was the future and the older antiquated technology was being left behind. But it wasn't the only thing left behind. Something was actually lost in the transition that no one at the time was considering. Everyone was so concentrated on making a better, stronger, more advanced watch that they lost sight of something very special. The heart of the watch itself. Modern quartz watches and very impressive things but they lack... should I say souls? As impressive as they are technologically speaking, on the inside they have very few moving parts and are controlled by circuit boards and micro computers. They are boring, dull and lifeless. No thought to beauty or design. All function and no form.
Fortunately people eventually started to notice. Watch collectors and watchmakers at first but eventually the general public as a whole. The automatic watch movement was helped by some big key player as well. People like Rolex and Breitling were heavily invested in high-end mechanical watches. They started to sell the beauty of the movement, the romance. The precision manufacturing and multi-jeweled movements. Hand crafted parts and exhibition cases to show off the raw beauty of the mechanical hearts.
Mechanical watches soon became seen more as wearable art. Beautiful pieces of functional precision. Something that was to be admired for it's achievement in engineering. They were elevated to a whole new level that they continue to enjoy even today. as even today, with all the advances made, an automatic mechanical watch will never be as accurate or dependable as a quartz watch. But owning an automatic mechanical watch is about so much more. It's about owning a piece of history, a piece of art. A precision instrument which can draw direction lines of history back to the very first personal timepieces. Modern mechanical automatic are better than ever before. More accurate and dependable but that is not what owning one is all about.
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