Monday, July 24, 2017

Analog versus digital wrist watches

There are two basic kinds of watches. Analog watches display the time through a dial with an hour hand, minute hand, and sometimes a second hand, on a dial usually divided into 12 hours, often marked by numbers or roman numerals.

A digital watch on the other hand displays the time by hour and minutes or even seconds on an LCD or LED screen in terns of numbers or digits. The Japan Watch and Clock Association describes the two types as follows:
Analogue watches/clocks have a mechanism to indicate time by means of mechanical structures a dial and hands (hand indication type), while digital watches have a mechanism to indicate time by means of electronic structures, such as a liquid crystal and LED (number display type)."Digital" ("digit" as a noun), representing a finger, implies a thing that can be counted on fingers, which indicates a number. On the other hand, "analogue" originally means resemblance or similarity, which indicates a continuous quantity, as the antonym of "digital."
The wristwatch was first developed in the second half of the 19th century but did not really catch on until after the first world war when many of the troops were issued wrist watches. These wrist watches were simply small pocket watches embedded in a strap on the wrist. The analog watch itself has a long history with the first accurate analog clock being developed by Christiaan Huygens who in 1656 invented the balance wheel or hair spring. The balance wheel successfully absorbed the energy of the main-spring and released it back so that the beats were constant and did not vary. There is a controversy over who first developed the hair spring as Robert Hooke also discovered it independently.
The first wrist watch was apparently designed for Countess Koscowics of Hungary in 1868. It was simply a small pocket watch embedded in a bracelet. However, as mentioned, wristwatches failed to become fashionable until after World War I. All the early watches were mechanical wind up watches. Often they contained jewels among the mechanical parts and were exquisitely crafted. If properly maintained they kept accurate time for many years. An important advance in the technology of the mechanical watch was the invention of the automatic or self-winding watch.
Self-winding mechanisms have a long history but interest in self-winding became more prevalent after wristwatches became common in the 1920's. In the automatic watch, the mainspring is wound automatically as a result of the natural motion of the wearer thus providing the energy to run the watch without having to wind it by hand. John Harwood in the UK took out a patent for a self-winding watch in 1923. The Rolex Company improved on the design in 1930. By the 1960's most quality mechanical watches were automatic although the self-winding mechanism made the watch rather thick. Some quality watchmakers continued with the conventional wind-up watches that could be much thinner. In 2007 Carl Bucherer introduced a self-winding device that was less thick and allowed the automatic watch to be quite thin as well.
The next important development of the analogue wrist watch was the electric watch in which the mechanism of the watch is powered by electricity from a battery. The Elgin Watch Company displayed examples in March of 1952 but Hamilton watches first produced them for retail sale in 1957. However, it was with the introduction of the quartz wristwatch in 1969 by Seiko that the battery powered watch became the norm. About ninety percent of the watch market is now of analog or digital quartz watches.
Indeed, probably the most common wristwatches one sees today are analog quartz wristwatches with hour and minute hands or even second hands and variations on the traditional watch face. Even mass-produced analogue watches of this type that one can buy for a few dollars will often keep excellent time. Surprisingly perhaps even the makers of the most expensive watches such as Rolex concentrate on analogue watches rather than digital.
Quartz digital watches represent the time through a display of numbers representing hours, minutes or seconds. An explanation of how digital watches work can be found here. Unlike mechanical analogue watches, digital watches have no moving parts. Many are waterproof and can stand a considerable amount of vigorous activity. They can also have many features such as stop watches, calendar and GPS functions, pedometers, heart rate monitors and so on. In fact they have developed into what is now called the smart watch.
The smart watch is more of a small computer worn on the wrist rather than a timepiece. As Wikipedia describes it:A smartwatch is a computerized wristwatch with functionality that goes beyond timekeeping. While early models can perform basic tasks, such as calculations, translations, and game-playing, 2010s smartwatches are effectively wearable computers. Many run mobile apps, using a mobile operating system. Some smartwatches function as portable media players, with FM radio and playback of digital audio and video files via a Bluetooth or USB headset. Some models, also called 'watch phones', feature full mobile phone capability, and can make or answer phone calls[1][2][3] or text messages.
Perhaps, one might think that the smart watch will replace both the traditional analog wrist watch and the digital wrist watch since it is so versatile and does so many more things. However many people already have smartphones and tablets that they carry around. Why do they need a computer on their wrist? Perhaps they just want an attractive-looking cheap or ridiculously expensive fashion statement analog watch on their wrist that they can read to tell the time.

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