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How Do Timepieces Work?

The mainspring stores mechanical energy and, as it tightens or loosens, powers the watch. An escapement (a series of wheels with “teeth”) and a pallet stimulate the balance wheel to oscillate, adding up each swing to get units of seconds, minutes and hours.

Luminous hands and hour markers indicate the time in dim lighting. A smaller dial inside the watch shows other information, such as dates or moon phases.


An analog timewatch uses hands moving across a dial to indicate the time. One hand shows the hours (usually short and thick) while another displays the minutes or seconds (longer and thinner).

For an ultra-cool look, this Casio G-Shock model features a custom vortex shaped lens that creates the illusion of swirling water with its brushed stainless steel ring and bright EL backlight. This unique watch also comes with a barometer, altimeter and thermometer.

Analog watches have a classic, sophisticated appearance that often doubles as a stylish accessory for formal occasions or dress-up. They also hold a higher resale value and tend to be perceived as more of a status symbol than digital watches. However, ana-digi (analog + digital) watches are gaining popularity for their cool techy looks and hybrid functionality. This is especially true for solar-powered and eco-drive models. These watches can run for months without needing a battery replacement.


A digital timewatch shows the time by a series of LED lights. It works by sending a binary number to a microchip that converts it into the seven numbers that make up the hours, minutes and seconds of the current time. The chip then controls a group of LED lights to display those numbers on the watch’s face.

Unlike analog watches, most digital watches are battery or AC power operated. The battery powered ones use a quartz crystal oscillator while AC powered ones work on an electric frequency generated by the mains.

For the nomad on a trip around the world, there’s nothing more useful than a digital timewatch that can show the time in multiple time zones at once. This Casio model [PS1995] can do just that. It also has a stopwatch function and fitness tracking capabilities. It can even pick up a GPS signal (as long as it has access to the sky)..


A quartz watch uses a crystal oscillator that generates a tiny pulse of electricity 32,768 times per second. This pulse is translated into signals that either turn on the display or move the hands.

While the quartz movement is not a fan favorite in the horological world, household Swiss names like Longines and Citizen have been investing their R&D francs into improving it for decades now. Quartz movements are incredibly reliable and cost much less than mechanical or automatic watches to produce.

Despite being so accurate, there are still 3 conditions that can cause a quartz watch to lose time. First, shock can knock the crystal oscillator out of its normal operating range. To counter this, some quartz watches use a special technology called inhibition compensation to reduce the effect. Secondly, varying temperatures can affect the speed at which the crystal oscillator vibrates. This can be mitigated by wearing the watch more often (as many brands recommend) or by using a feature known as thermocompensation.

Dual Time

A popular variation on the GMT watch, dual time watches display a second time zone in a different dial or window. Typically, this second time zone is shown using a 12-hour scale, similar to a GMT watch.

From a technical perspective, a dual-time watch works just like a GMT when it comes to its movement. The difference is that a dual-time watch does not have a bezel, and the second time zone displayed is shown using a subdial with a 12-hour time frame.

This watch format is particularly useful for those who travel frequently or who work with clients across several time zones. By displaying the local time of their destination, as well as their home time, these watches help to eliminate the confusion that can arise when changing from one time zone to another. The Baume et Mercier Clifton Club GMT is an example of a dual time watch that combines useful functions with a refined and sophisticated design.

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