Seiko has been at
the forefront of precision watchmaking for many decades. Amongst
watchmakers, myself included, Seiko is known for its wonderful customer
service, excellent value, and innovative products. For many people the
name Seiko is synonymous with quartz technology, as it should be since
they are the godfather of this know-how. But unknown too many is the role
that Seiko has played in the advancement of mechanical timepieces. A prime
example is the Seiko Diverâ€™s Watch that is known for its reliability and
performance under the most demanding of conditions. Many professional
divers will wear nothing else while risking their lives in the ocean's
And so we come to
the latest Seiko innovation, the Spring Drive. Although virtually all
mechanical watches use a spring as a power source, the Spring Drive is
extremely unique in that it dispenses with the 300+ year old idea of a
mechanical escapement for the regulation of time. The result is a watch
that avoids the age-old problems associated with mechanical escapements
such as hairsprings, delicate balance wheels, pallet forks, and escape
wheels (not to mention maintenance issues).
The Seiko Spring
Drive is a true mechanical watch - there is no battery to be replaced. At
first glance you wouldnâ€™t necessarily know this watch is anything
exceptional, but after a closer look inside Iâ€™m sure you will agree that
this is a true â€śRevolution in Time.â€ť
In this article you
will be the first to see the inner workings of the Seiko Spring Drive. To
be more precise, this is the world technical premier. You may click the
images to view larger versions. Enjoy!
Please note that
all watches and
movements shown in this article are prototypes and not necessarily
indicative of finished products.
So why is it that
Seiko decided to develop a new generation of high-bred mechanical watches?
First of all Seiko is a very technology driven company, always looking for
better ideas and not afraid to try them. And let's not forget Seikoâ€™s
proud history of craftsmanship. Or maybe itâ€™s the fact that the lever
escapement, used in almost every mechanical watch for the past 200 years,
is anything but perfect even after 200 years of constant development. And
whatâ€™s wrong with the modern quartz watch? Well the quartz watch certainly
lacks the romance of the mechanical watch, there is very little
interaction between the watch and its owner other than changing the
battery every year or so and adjusting for daylight savings time twice a
year. Lets face it, quartz movements are ugly - how many times have you
seen a display back on a quartz watch?!
All in all I suppose
itâ€™s a combination of all these things and a desire to push the envelope...
How it Works
I suppose a
generality is in order to get things started. Most modern automobiles have
speed control (cruise control). In which case the wheels of the automobile
are controlled as not to spin too fast or too slow. With the Spring Drive
the same basic technology is used to regulate the rate of the watch within
1 second per day. Believe me the Spring Drive technology is far more
sophisticated than your cruise control!
A few technical
notes might also be in order. The Seiko Spring Drive is an auto-wind mechanical
watch that uses modern technology to regulate and measure time. It
incorporates an auto winding mechanism and main spring similar to that of
other mechanical movements. As mentioned earlier, a high tech system is
used to regulate the measurement of time. Letâ€™s have a closer look.
As shown above, the Spring Drive incorporates a newly
developed main spring "A." This mainspring is made from an alloy developed
by Seiko called Spron 510. This alloy makes the mainspring stronger, more
flexible, and more resistant to corrosion. Seiko also applies a highly
polish functional finishing to critical movement parts to reduce friction.
This, combined with the use of Spron 510, results in a power reserve of 72
hours, which represents a 30% or 24 hour increase over other single barrel
watches using standard mainsprings - a Seiko exclusive. This increased
efficiency also allows for a simplified auto wind mechanism, reducing the
number of components (reducing wear is always a good idea).
Main spring â€śAâ€ť is
wound into barrel â€śBâ€ť with barrel arbor â€śCâ€ť inserted and capped with the
barrel cap â€śDâ€ť. Attached to the outer end of the mainspring is the
â€śbridleâ€ť â€śEâ€ť that slips on the inner diameter of the barrel much like the
transmission of an automobile (excuse my continued reference to
automobiles). If not for the bridle, the auto wind system could break the
main spring by over winding, and/or damage the auto wind components.
â€ślookingâ€ť auto winding mechanism is used to transfer wrist motion into
mechanical energy by winding the mainspring. As shown above, eccentric
rotor â€śAâ€ť is attached to rotor platform â€śBâ€ť at the center â€śCâ€ť.
From the bottom we
can see the simplicity of the auto winding mechanismâ€¦
Unlike most modern
auto winding mechanisms there are only three moving parts, excluding the
eccentric rotor shown earlier. Seiko calls this
the "magic lever" winding system. The center axle â€śAâ€ť transmits rotational
energy from the eccentric rotor via an eccentric pin to the winding fork
â€śBâ€ť. As the winding rotor is in motion, the winding fork either grabs or
pushes the winding wheel â€śCâ€ť that is in direct connection with the main
spring barrel. Due to the increased efficiency of the main spring, the
Spring Drive auto winding system is as simple as possible, using 4 fewer
components than usual.
Continue to Part 2 of the Article