Watch styles can be categorised into five different forms: Classic, Dress, Sports, Fashion, and High-Tech:
Classic watches are versatile as they can be worn on almost any occasion, and rarely go out of style. Their simple designs are characterised by round cases, leather straps, and gold, silver-toned, or stainless steel bracelets.
Dress watches often come with jewel accents on the bezel or dial, and thus have a more elegant look than classic styles.
Sports watches come with durable straps made from materials such as polyurethane, lightweight fabric, or water-resistant leather. They are designed for athletes and people with an active outdoor lifestyle. Sports watches have specific functional features (e.g. stopwatch timers, high water-resistance) that don’t compromise style.
Fashion watches appeal to a diverse range of tastes and styles. These designer-styled and branded watches are reflective of current fads, and serve mainly as personal accessories. Fashion watches are often bought and sold as collectibles as well.
High-tech watches utilise state-of-the-art technology to deliver functions normally reserved for dedicated devices. Some of the digital technologies that are equipped in such watches are Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) capabilities, digital cameras, bluetooth connectivity, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT).
Watches tell time through the integration of three main components: an energy source, a time regulating mechanism, and a display.
The watch’s energy source can be electronic (as in battery-powered) or mechanical (as in spring-wound).
The main timekeeping mechanism is called “movement”, while the display can show time in two different ways: digitally, in which the watch uses a liquid crystal display to show the time in numbers, and analogue, in which the watch uses the traditional dial and hands.
Today’s watches fall into four major types of movements: mechanical/automatic, quartz, solar, and kinetic.
Mechanical and Automatic Watches
Mechanical watches are made up of gears and springs that work together to tell time. They are powered by manual winding. Automatic mechanical movements mark the passage of time through a series of gear mechanisms that are wound by the movement of the wrist. These watches are often quite beautiful and designed with precise craftsmanship.
A quartz watch works with a series of tiny electronic components fitted together behind the face. Rather than a wound spring, it is powered by a battery. The battery on a quartz crystal watch sends an electrical current to a tiny quartz crystal, which in turn vibrates at a very high frequency (32,768 times a second) to keep extremely accurate time. Quartz technology accounts for more than 90% of the world’s watch production.
The quartz accuracy in these watches is powered by electricity converted from natural and artificial light. They are made with solar panels and sometimes come with rechargeable batteries, such as lithium ion polymer batteries. This technology was developed by Japanese watchmaker, Citizen.
Batteries are not required for these advanced watches. Kinetic watches utilise an innovative movement of micro-electronics that responds to the movements of the wrist, maintaining quartz accuracy. The watch “sleeps” if not worn for 72 hours, but wakes up when shaken and immediately returns to the correct time. The kinetic movement was developed by Japanese watchmaker, Seiko.
Aside from the basic function of telling accurate time through the second, minute, and hour hands, some watches are packaged with additional features – also known as complications – that cater to the wearer’s particular lifestyle, profession, or interests.
A basic complication would have a calendar showing the day, while calendars that are more complicated display the day, date, and month. Some watches feature a perpetual calendar which takes into account the varying number of days in a month, and even leap years.
Among the more specialised complications are the chronograph, which acts as a stopwatch and can measure anything from miles-per-hour to pulse rate. The tachymeter or tachometer enables the wearer to measure his speed over a known distance, while a watch with moon phase functionality displays the lunar phases. An avid pilot would benefit from owning a watch with an altimeter, which provides altitude measurements by responding to changes in barometric pressure. A diver will look for a watch with at least 200 metres water resistance. A person engaged in boat races (regattas) would use a sailing timer to correct his navigation and synchronise his watch with the official race timer.