Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tech Column: Winding Watches

by Bill Adler

The only thing more frustrating than your watch battery petering out over the weekend is your watch battery dying when you're on a trip. There's always your phone and historic clock towers to help you find out what time it is, but the whole point of wearing a watch is to have a working one.

Which brings me to today's tech column. Who needs watches that run on batteries that have to be replaced at inconvenient times? Nobody. There are many battery-watch alternatives, including solar watches, kinetic watches, USB rechargeable watches, and even mechanical watches. The styles, designs, and functions are almost as infinite as time itself.

While mechanical watches don't keep as time as precisely as other kinds of watches, many sure are beautiful. One of my favorite places to browse mechanical or automatic watches is Watchismo, http://www.watchismo.com/mechanical.aspx?size=200. You can buy new mechanical watches for as little as $100, or spend an infinite amount of money. The HYT 1 watch, www.hytwatches.com, uses fluid mechanics to power the watch, and will set you back $45,000. The mechanical Harry Winston Opus X costs $250,000. That's not the most expensive mechanical watch you can buy, either. Step aside Rolex; there are new big boys in town.

For watches that cost more like the price of a dinner out, rather than the price of a new house, there are solar-powered watches. Solar energy usually isn't sufficient to power things like tablet computers or even smartphones, but solar works perfectly fine when it comes to watches. And there are some elegant solar timepieces. Take a look at this dress men's watch, http://amzn.to/KWpJ7k, part of the Citizen Eco-Drive series of solar-powered watches. (I have this watch and love wearing it.) Or the Skagen solar-powered watch, http://amzn.to/MyIixp, which is even more stylish. Women's watches such as this Seiko, http://amzn.to/JVXdNN, also come in solar flavors.

You can even ratchet up the technology a level and get a solar-powered atomic watch. Casio, http://amzn.to/LNtZAe, makes a line of solar-powered watches which automatically set their time through a radio signal from an atomic clock. That's right: You never have to replace your watch's battery or wonder if it's accurate. The watch automatically changes when daylight saving time comes and goes, too. I have a Casio solar-atomic watch, and except for one tiny issue, it's a great watch. The problem: I have to travel with the manual in order to be able to change time zones. Everything is automatic on this watch, except for changing time zones, which requires pressing buttons in a sequence that's harder to memorize than a list of state capitals in reverse alphabetical order. I once traveled without the manual and inadvertently set the alarm, and it took the rest of the flight to figure out how to unset it.

Tokyo Flash, a watch company you've never heard of, has a line of USB rechargable watches, including the innovative Kisai Satellite Watch, www.tokyoflash.com/en/watches/kisai/satellite_black. With its novel way of presenting time, the Kisai is not your typical hour-and-minute hand watch.

Seiko kinetic watches offer another non-battery alternative. Seiko kinetic watches, http://amzn.to/OdOdHB, are accurate, electric quartz watches that use your body's movement as an energy source. Unlike automatic watches, which use mechanical energy, Seiko's kinetic watches convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.

There you have it: No longer do you have to take a detour on the way home from work to replace your watch's battery.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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