It is astonishing to see the artful and precise technical system that makes a watch work. For most people, the fact that a watch displays the precise time is a matter of course, even banal. But if you take a look inside a watch, you’ll gain a fascinating insight into the clever and complex construction that enables it to display the correct time.
How does a mechanical watch work?
Mechanical watches and clocks can be found in pretty much all sizes and variations, from wristwatches and pocket watches to tower clocks. They function on the basis of mechanical energy, which is generated through the winding of the crown and transmitted by a sophisticated gear train. When the crown is wound, the winding stem, winding wheels and ratchet wheel in the mainspring barrel all move. This ratchet wheel contains the barrel arbor, which transmits mechanical energy to the mainspring in the barrel. This spring stores the energy that powers the mechanical watch.
It then transfers this energy to the minute wheel, the third wheel and the fourth wheel via a series of gears. To prevent the second hand in particular from moving forward too quickly, there’s also the escape wheel, which uses pallets and a balance wheel to slow down the movement. Incidentally, the interaction between the pallets and the balance wheel also produces the characteristic ticking sound we hear from the watch.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a mechanical watch compared to other types of watches?
One clear advantage of mechanical watches is of course the fact that, unlike other types, such as quartz watches, they do not require electrical energy from batteries, making them much better for the environment. However, if you really want to be sure that your watch is always displaying the 100% exact and precise time, a quartz watch or another model may be a better fit for you, as mechanical watches always fall a few seconds behind each day.
Some people may find it annoying to have to wind up the mechanical watch every day. But this isn’t an issue with an automatic watch, for example, which winds itself. However, unlike with mechanical watches, buying an automatic watch will often mean compromising on aesthetics. This is because an additional rotor has to be installed on automatic watches, making it impossible to achieve a very slimline design. The aesthetics of a mechanical watch are also enhanced by the fact that it has a certain retro charm – the appeal of technology that has worked for centuries.
So, each type of watch has its advantages and disadvantages; in the end, choosing the right watch comes down to the personal, individual preferences of the wearer and the intentions they have in buying the watch.