The renowned Japanese corporation Seiko deserves important place in the history of watchmaking, as one of the world’s most innovative manufacturer of watch movements. Although Seiko can be proud on many world’s firsts that came out from its factories, two products deserve the special attention. Firstly, this is the ingenious Spring Drive mechanism. Besides, we will introduce the revolutionary Kinetic technology.
Seiko Spring Drive– the Mechanical Breakthrough
The highest precision in the world of mechanical timepieces (1 +/- second per day), displayed by the glide-motion of watch hands, a long-lasting power reserve and a fast-winding system are the key elements that, joined together, separate Spring Drive movement from any other high-quality mechanism.
Back in 1977, in order to create a unique mechanical watch with a precision of quartz movements, a young Seiko’s engineer, Yoshikazu Akahane and his team started the revolution in the watchmaking industry. They had been working on their project for about two decades, getting through countless set-backs and developing over 600 prototypes, before they finally reached the remarkable goal.
Seiko announced this incredible technology in 1997 and presented the manual-winding version of the Spring Drive, in the following year in Basel. For the automatic version of this revolutionary mechanism, the world of watchmaking has waited until 2004. In the following year, the first Seiko watch with the Spring Drive self-winding movement was on the market. Two years later, the Japanese watchmaker released another technological breakthrough, the Spring Drive Chronograph.
The Spring Drive could not be possible without serious advancements in almost every single aspect of watchmaking, but the golden key for the amazing accuracy, ten times higher than any other mechanical timepiece, was the invention of the Tri-synchro regulator. This Seiko’s innovation replaces the escapement, the weakest and the most vulnerable part of the traditional mechanical movements, providing much higher stability, durability and precision.
With its one-way motion, this regulator, powered by the main spring, controls the speed of the glide wheel and the watch hands by electromagnetic braking. Its circular movement allows the central second hand to move permanently, with a unique glide-motion, without stop and tick effects.
Furthermore, the Tri-synchro regulator manages and releases the mechanical, electrical and electro-magnetic energy generated by the mainspring and transmitted by gear train to the hands and the regulator. The regulator converts a small part of this energy into electricity to power the quartz crystal. Like I have already said, the electromagnetic force is used for regulating the speed of the glide wheel.
Thanks to the new, high-elasticity and in-house developed alloy “Spron 510″ which Seiko uses for its mainspring, this durable and highly resistant element delivers extended power and accuracy, which contributes to the superb power-reserve of 72 hours, even if the chronograph functions are permanently activated. The second reason for the great power-reserve is the use of a very efficient winding system, so called Magic Lever, which uses the energy created by the bi-directional swings of the rotor.
The Japanese watchmaker uses Spring Drive movement in its basic form or combined with other great complications, in most of its collection. Besides, Seiko developed a special Spring Drive Collection to represent the brand’s trademark technology.
Seiko Kinetic Technology
Along with the Spring Drive, Kinetic movements are surely the best that Seiko can offer. The Japanese watchmaker presented its innovative Kinetic technology at the Baselworld 1986, under the trial name of ‘AGM’, as the world’s first movement that converts the kinetic energy of the body motion into electrical energy that powers a watch.
Two years later, Seiko launched the first commercially available watch that was powered by the Kinetic energy (then under the new name, AGS), announcing a great success of the brand’s highly advanced movement’s platform. That success was based on the unique concept that took over the best from both, mechanical and quartz mechanisms.
The special rotor, which is an integral part of mechanical movements, converts the energy from the wearer’s motion into the electrical power that supplies the quartz battery. That means that after initial charge by shaking the watch, any additional care about the energy is not necessary, as long as one is wearing the watch. Even if it is out of use longer than the energy storage allows, the watch will start beating at the same moment one shakes it again.
Explore the World of Kinetic Movements
With another innovation, Kinetic Auto Relay which was released in 1998, Seiko extended the ‘off use’ operating period of a watch to remarkable 4 years. This means that a power-save mode (sleep mode) automatically stops watch hands when a timepiece is not worn a certain amount of time. However, thanks to the auto relay function, the mechanism continuous to track the accurate time and date, conserving energy, until the wearer starts using the timepiece again, when the hands automatically reset to the correct time.
In 1999, Seiko presented the Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph, which nicely combined the reliability and the great precision of Kinetic technology with the traditional characteristics of mechanical chronographs (for example – the reset responsiveness of the hands).
Furthermore, the great kinetic technology has been used as the platform for the development of the Kinetic Perpetual and Kinetic Direct Drivemovements. The Kinetic Perpetual is a true masterpiece of modern watchmaking that combines the latest brand’s technologies and the stunning accuracy of quartz movements, with the charm of classic mechanical perpetual calendars. It is built of 232 parts and powered by the world’s smallest ultra-sonic motor, just 0.4 mm thick.
With the Kinetic Direct Drive, the wearer has the opportunity to generate energy by simply moving the wrist, but also by winding the crown, which is great because, with each turn of a winding crown, he/she gets direct information about the transfer of power through the display on a watch dial. This means that theKinetic Direct Drive creates an interesting interaction between a wearer and his/her watch.