Monday, April 2, 2012

Mechanical watches vs Quartz

This post is inspired by an article by Sidin Vudukat the famous author from India and editor of Mint here is the link http://www.livemint.com/2011/11/11221747/Hunting-down-an-HMT.html
It is not that I did not know the difference between mechanical and quartz watches, I knew it since childhood but never realized the value of rare watches my grandfather wore. I recently discovered one of his swiss watches in a pile of junk with bracelet damaged beyond repair but movement running better than a new watch's. Once fully wound the watch runs for about 3 days.
Now that is beside the point somewhat, what I wanted to tell you was when exactly did I realize that a mechanical watch is much more valuable than a quartz one, I have been trying and trying but cannot quite put a date to that. I guess like Sidin I also got to know the importance of mechanical watches from message board posts on the internet. It is there that I got to know that the world's most famous brands like Rolex, Rado are really famous for their mechanical watches .
Now for the new ones to the club mechanical watches are of two kinds - hand winding and automatic though it is not always that simple ! With handwinding watches you have to rotate the crown of the watches several times to wind the spring that gives power to the movement of the watch such watches are a bit cheaper than automatic watches ! Which brings us to automatic watches - these are the real kings of the trade. An automatic watch is powered by the movement of your hand as you move your hand an ultra sensitive semi wheel like structure rotates over a rail like metal ring and this rotation is used to wind a spring which powers the movement. Some automatic watches can be wound too like hand winding watches but I am told in Japanese watches this is definitely not the case. Nearer home HMT automatic watches can be wound a bit to give preliminary power to the movement. Now what sets apart expensive watches like Rolex and our humbler HMT. It all really depends upon sensitivity if you wear an HMT continuously for 12 hours it may keep on running for another 12 hours however I am told that if you wear a Rolex for an hour it will run for more than 10 hours when put off. Rolex is much down the line when it comes to cost . Some automatic movements are three dimensional like in the Breguet a very old watch brand which sold watches to Napoleon (hope I am accurate there). Such watches have a slit in the dial to show off this ultra complex movement the focal point of which is a tourbillon. Quartz watches are of course much simpler at first sight being largely a miniature circuit with a battery supply. The quartz movements are very cheap and I distinctly remember a road side seller in Lucknow selling quartz watches at Rs.50 per piece with one year warranty and most amazing thing was that the watches were displayed underwater in a tub, this to prove that they were waterproof. However when Seiko first made quartz watches they were as expensive as a car and even James Bond wore them in a movie before he reverted back to his Rolex.
Sidin in his Mint columns gives much more exhaustive accounts of various famous brands and their movements I advise all watch lovers to have a look at each of his articles.
Long time back I bought an automatic watch on ebay. It took nearly a week for the watch to come to my humble abode. When I opened the pack and the watch revealed itself it was with great difficulty that I was able to control my tears, I was afraid my workers would see my in that embarrassing condition, the reason I later on wept a little was that its dial was almost identical to that of a watch my grandfather used to wear, he died when I was a kid and that watch was an important part of memories I have of him.
He had many watches most of them I think he gave away to people whom he loved during his long illness only one of them is left which still ticks to remind me of a person who believed in giving away rather than hoarding.
Well I agree that was a bit beside the point - after reading Sidin's article I became aware that HMT is still making watches and checked out its huge range of models some of them now out of production. Many of these I found in old watch market in Aminabad in Lucknow. Fortunately for me most of them were prized at nearly 1000 Rs. or less. The modern HMT automatics are a bit expensive but still about one third the prize of automatic watches by Titan . HMT's Pilot watch is not world famous for nothing it is an absolute beauty and its real beauty is revealed in the dark when you can see its radium markers and hands glowing clearly. Radium is now banned for watches but it was probably more harmful for the people who painted the dials than for the wearer. Pilot watch however is not entirely HMT's invention I have a feeling it is inspired by old British Pilot watches of WWII but I am not entirely sure of it.
After reading all that stuff from Sidin and various experts on the site www.watchuseek.com I am both elated and concerned. Elated to discover a world of watches and concerned because this is very addictive and watch collective is a very very expensive hobby. I find myself ogling at rich people's wrists, shamelessly gazing at their Rolex es and Rados and thinking Lo - does he know how exactly this thing functions ! God has been kind to me till now I have limited myself to only buying Seikos, Orients and HMTs a lot of HMTs though if you are kind enough to gift me a Rolex I would not say NO!

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