Seiko Spring Drive

Seiko Spring Drive

I always fantasy about mechanical watch. I think mechanical watch is a more true art form than many other so-called arts, such as meaningless fine arts. Watch making originate from the quest of making an accurate time piece to calculate the longitude in high seas. Today, we can find a better accuracy in quartz watch or even atomic watch, but they can never replace the unique charm of the craftsmanship and clever design in mechanical watch.

The basic design of mechanical watch did not change for the past 500 years. The main spring store the power and push the gears train. The movement of the hands is regulated by the escapement and balance wheel. In 1960s, engineers in Seiko dream up a revolutionary design. But this new design was so advance that the technology is not ready until 21st century. The spring drive mechanism use electromagnetic energy to regulate how fast the spring can unwind. This result of this ground breaking design is second hand not longer jumps from one second to the next second or in a fraction of a second, instead the second hand has a smooth continuous analog gliding motion.

The spring drive design is very clear, but it is really a quartz watch in disguise. The watch steal nano-watts current from the glide wheel to drive an ultra low power quartz control circuit that generate the electromagnetic force to regulate the glide wheel. The watch took half a century from idea to become reality is the wait of a ultra low power silicon design that make this design possible. On the surface, the spring drive seems like an useless idea simply combining a mechanical watch with a quartz. However deep down inside, I really admire this genius solution for the gliding second hand problem. It’s a classic engineering challenge. The ultimate answer to why the second hand of a watch always jumps.

10 thoughts on “Seiko Spring Drive”

  1. Interesting in thinking “mechanical watch is a more true art”. I suppose art is a subjective thing at the end.

    For me, anything that can be mass produced in a precision manner has lost its claim to be an “art”.

    There are those really expensive hand-made mechanical watches wear by the stars and riches. They mean nothing to me and I don’t see them as “art”. True, they may be beautiful and ingenious, but they are very far from art.

    We can debate if Voice of Fire is art or not but it is intriguing for people to question themselves.

  2. Art ouch to have an objective definition, or the the word “art” cease to be meaningful. There are 3 theories of art: representational, formalism and expressionism. Maybe I should write a more serious article to argue mechanical watch is an art form.

    Actually mass produced can still be art, film, songs. Walter Benjamen has an article about arts in the era of mechanical production.

    Mechanical watch is more an art than some painting, dance or play no one understand or performing art that is pure nuisance.

  3. Horace,

    You and I are similar in some sense. You seem to have a theory (right or wrong) on almost anything and I seem to have an opinion (right or wrong) on almost anything. 🙂 The trouble we kind of people get into is thinking we are almost always right on our opinions.

    I am sure your wife Pat is nice but I don’t know how nice is she and will she calls out your bullshit quickly and automatically? For me, I am “lucky”. My better half is wonderful in calling out my silly opinions as bullshit quickly, in fact she smiles at all of my opinions and considers them bullshit automatically (unless I said them on radio or when some other friends or experts said the exact same thing I said 5 minutes ago).

    Let me be clear, things from mechanical reproduction can still be greatly enjoyed (like a watch, like a printed posters, like a piece of music) but that particular piece of mechanical reproduced “object” isn’t really art in my mind (it can be art in YOUR mind, and it is perfectly fine with me).

    Now, did you write this just to piss people off? — “Mechanical watch is more an art than some painting, dance or play no one understand or performing art that is pure nuisance.” Sometimes your extreme views puzzle me. You seemed smart at other times but then you wrote …

    I used to consider arts that I dont’ appreciate as rubbish. But I have long since changed my views and put arts into things that I appreciate and enjoy and things that I don’t enjoy. I have no strong desire to trash things I don’t enjoy. Just don’t force me to see or watch things that I don’t enjoy.

  4. Opinion is not facts nor truth, so it is irreverent. Unless a person is a relativist, who deny there is any objective for right or wrong, it is our moral duty to figure out what’s actually right and wrong out there. For arts that is rubbish, it’s rubbish regardless my or your opinion. I may choose not to comment their lack of value in real life in order not to offend my friends, but it won’t change the underlining fact that those arts are still rubbish. To determine whether a piece of art is rubbish or not. One should defend his position with all his brain muscle. If he can’t rationally justify his position, he should give it up. Although one proclaiming his position or not is a total different question.

    Why mechanical reproduction of an art is not an art? Is uniqueness a quality of art? The answer is a simple no. If we invent a cloning machine that can clone object with the exact atom details. Is a clone of Mona Lisa has less artistic value than the original given that no one can tell the difference between the two? The clone of Mona Lisa still represent the form of the eternal smile. (representationalism) It still captures all the beak through in painting techniques pioneered by De Vinci. (formalism) It can still definite strike the court of the viewer’s heart. (expressionalism)

    In indeed, there is a theory of art claiming art are merely taste and purely subjective. However, just like any other pure subjective theories, it has the self-contradictory problem. If you believe something is art (to you) and not an art (to me) at the same time, there is something wrong with meaning of “art”. I encourage you to keep thinking about the question “What is art”. Try to come up with your own definition of art, a theory that is plausible, not a collection of mutually contradictory opinions.

  5. 我覺得疑惑, 談藝術需要客觀定義嗎?(我覺得hevangel很沉迷客觀定義呢~:P)
    (在我心目中一件事情是極其美麗且timeless, 當我欣賞它/牠/她/他的時候, 我正在欣賞藝術。 我覺得藝術的價值在於那些奇妙的構想。)
    我會分開藝術和設計。 一個good design會令我覺得很有趣也會很enjoy, 就像我喜歡mac機。 但在我心目中這不是藝術。 許多設計都美麗但未必timeless。 一些設計經過時間考驗, 但未必美麗。(像4隻腳的椅子。) 我也喜歡mechanical watch, 因為精密機械很吸引我, 但它是否表現得美麗?
    配合大量生產的設計會令一些東西流失(我不知道怎樣說), 因為在設計上要遷就機械生產。
    我唸過一點graphic和jewelry design, 許多形式的藝術都不太認識。 但每個人理解的範圍都不同。 正如我不理解某些現代舞, 但它未必是meaningless, 只我掌握不到。 或許是因為我還未接觸到你說的meaningless fine arts。

  6. Horace,

    Wow, another one of those shocked-Hoarce-quote “Opinion is not facts nor truth, so it is irreverent.”
    You are really self-assured and have strong views and very comfortable in being a decider of truth, what is right or wrong, and what is beautiful or ugly, the list goes on.


    You are so right. Horace seems locked into his views here (ah, also). I agree “談藝術需要客觀定義嗎?(我覺得hevangel很沉迷客觀定義.”

    To me, I enjoy beauty of all sorts. Timeless beauty in rare occasions. But I will be as happy to see something beautiful that I feel happy at that moment in time.

    Ultimately, one key difference is Horace’s desire to imprint or even impose his views on almost everything I’ve seen Horace written about (including about arts) And my lack of desire to impose my views (for example my views on arts) and then discount and discredit others’ personal views on things.


    As an aside and something outside of arts. Godel’s work has affected my thinking in things some what. Have you studied the following in your Phil class? Does it shape your views in things at all?

    As a blog “friend” who just get to know you a little. May I say even if you are the smartest man in the world, too much self-assured can be a fatal flaw in your path to grow and learn.

    If you wish and just for fun, have a scan of this,


  7. 小貓三四: 除非是約定俗成的東西﹐如足球比賽規則。任何事物也有客觀的標準﹐除非你是個相對主義者吧。藝術當然要有客觀的定義了﹐不然什麼狗屎垃圾也可以稱為藝術﹐豈不是對藝術的侮辱。

    Good design會apply to our aesthetic taste﹐理應有藝術成分。若果為mass production而改動設計﹐那是外在因素的limitation﹐同藝術家唔夠錢畫100×100呎大油畫﹐只能夠畫細油畫的性質一樣。

    要分辨現代舞是否藝術﹐那我們先要找出客觀藝術的定義﹐再套用在現代舞上﹐看看是乎合所有條件。大部份正常的現代舞應是藝術﹐不過有些不知所謂的現代舞﹐恐怕不能通過藝術的檢定。你有興趣可以看看這篇舊文﹐講通用的三大藝術論理﹐ 具像主義﹐形式主義﹐表現主義。

  8. Kempton: Unjustified opinions are irrelevant is the first thing we learn in philosophy class. I am not the decider of true or false, beauty or ugly, I just learn the second-order truth discovered by great thinkers in history and use it guide my judgment. The answer itself is less of concern, what is more important is how we arrive in that answer. In another word, why is something true or false, beauty or ugly.

    I am not really imposing my view on anyone. I am just describing the truth and try my best to enlighten other people to see the reality. Does Galileo impose his view that the earth is a sphere on anyone? Does Newton impose his view of the law of gravity on anyone?

    Godel’s incompleteness theory is on mathematics, unless you hold the view that everything is merely maths, I can’t see how you can extend his theory to the reality.

    Merely flip-flop your view is not grow and learn. My idea of grow and learn is more alone the line of Hegel’s thesis-antithesis-synthesis. The manifesto is more like a practical guideline, it does not address the underlining problem of the nature of grow and learn.

  9. hevangel:

    我覺得某些情況下需要分辨甚麼能稱為藝術, 好像政府考慮批藝術資助的時候。 但許多情況下我們欣賞藝術或談論作品的時候, 不一定要有清晰的客觀定義。 好像交朋友不一定要清楚知道我和此人算不算朋友。 反而, 我覺得越清楚介定人際關係的人, 越難交朋友。

    如果定義能幫助我們欣賞藝術, 那是有益處的。 好像教授藝術時會提到theories. 我也會為藝術下些標準(timeless beauty), 藝術一詞也有個約略的使用範圍。 謝謝你”藝術哲學”那篇文章, 我對這方面很有興趣。

    我覺得design是功能性優先。 例如, 藥丸盒的layout。 字體排列清晰優先, 清楚顯示成分, 食用日期, 注意事項。 人類能良好地從盒上取得必要的資訊最重要, 其次兼顧美觀。 許多時不足以稱為藝術。 配合大量生產的設計要考慮成本效益, 不是為了追求美。 所以縱使畫家沒錢買大畫布, 但他也是盡力追求一幅美麗的畫面。

    總括而言, 我有個疑問。 如果一個精密的mechanical watch是art, 那麼, 穿梭機和電腦一類精密科技也是art嗎? mechanical watch可以設計成一件藝術品, 不過因為精密的watch drive而稱為藝術品就有點疑惑。

  10. 小貓﹕大部份時間我們不需要清晰的客觀定義﹐是因為我們很多時候不關心或根本不需要關心。好像玩大富翁﹐有幾多人會跟足官方規則玩﹖ 交朋友不需要很清楚關係﹐除非那個朋友問你借錢的時候。

    Mechnical watch是more than a design。我認為藝術性與功能性是兩個不同的axis﹐精密本身不是藝術的條件﹐但mechnical watch無實用性的那部份則可以成為是藝術的條件之一。


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