Watches help us track the time while complementing our fashion choices. Solar technology have been applied in the manufacture of timepieces. Solar technology found an application. in the making of watches in the earliest stages of its development.
A Brief History of the Evolution of The Timepiece
First developed in the 17th century, watches evolved as miniature versions of the spring-powered clocks to mechanical devices driven by a clockwork powered by the winding of a spring and later, the working of an oscillating balance wheel. The 1960s to the 1980s brought about the advent of watches that kept time with an electronic oscillator regulated by a vibrating quartz crystal. Known as the 'quartz revolution', the new and more efficient technology brought about the decline of the Swiss watchmaking industry and its shift to Asia and particularly Japan.
The 2010s brought smartwatches like the Apple Watch that perform highly sophisticated functions. But before then, in 1976, Japanese watchmakers, Citizen, created the world's first solar-powered quartz watch, the Crystron Solar Cell. They named the new technology Eco-Drive in acknowledgement of its eco-friendly origins. Watches built from the Eco-Drive technology work using an inbuilt solar cell to capture not only sunlight but ordinary everyday indoor light sources like indoor fluorescent lightning and desk lights, and convert it into electricity that powers the moving parts of the watch.
The Eco-Drive was, in fact, an improvement of existing solar-powered watchmaking technologies. Typically solar-powered cells had their solar cells visible on the front of the watches and sometimes on the dial. In this way, manufacturers were limited in the ways they can style their watches. With its 'Eco-Drive caliber 7878 movement', Citizen found a way to mount their solar panels under the dial and thus, expand the design possibilities available to manufacturers of solar watches initially constrained by space taken up by the solar cells.
This innovation was enabled by improvements in the efficiencies of thin film solar cells. Enough power can be captured from the solar cells from very little surface area. Dials became translucent allowing enough light to reach the solar cells.
This innovation was inspired by the desire to eliminate the need of constantly replacing the batteries that power the watches. The product are watches with batteries that last up to a decade with minimal charge. Other companies have developed their own variants of this technology.
In comparison to automatic watches, solar watches are, in a technical sense, maintenance-free. They do not require any winding or regular visits to technicians to have their batteries changed.
Other top brands beside Citizen that make solar watches include Casio, Tissot, Seiko, G-Shock, Garmin, and Junghans. The well-known luxury brands, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega, Michael Kors, Jacquez Droz, Brequet, et al. do not offer solar-powered watches. This does not mean that solar watches are inferior. On the contrary, they are better and more reliable time-keepers and long-lasting. They add to the options available to users.
Many of us have used solar watches without knowing. However, for most watch enthusiasts, technology is hardly a consideration. Brand, style, fashion tastes, affordability and how it fits one's wardrobe are the capital considerations. But solar watches can be great options if not above those other considerations but besides them.
Eco-Drive watches are widely available in Nigerian markets. For those who care for the environment, solar watches are the best option because they are gentler on the environment.