One Second a Day

My twenty-three year old mechanical wrist watch is running fast. That should be expected since it is used. It is an outdoor or sports watch, too, and it has had numerous owners. It is not a dress watch.

It is also self-winding which means it has no battery, no integrated circuit, no radio waves  from space to correct it. It runs on wrist power, the back and forth made while walking around.  Or you can wind it manually using the crown. In all aspects, the watch is totally on its own.

What we have is a collection of tiny gears and levers and springs all fighting to keep time 23 years after someone patiently pieced it together. With the now dated technology of the era.

No doubt age has caught up to it, but the proposition was strange to begin with: accurate time kept only by steel and brass parts of miniature proportions, all aligned in a way most hoped to report 1:30 a.m. and not 1:31 a.m.

Yes, it is off. By one second a day! There are 86,400 seconds in a day.

Seiko only achieved this accuracy in a self-winding mechanical watch by producing what they called a spring drive, a mechanism regulated by a quartz crystal and an integrated circuit. Yet, some boffin at Rolex designed a way to match that with their own methods.

This is extreme analog engineering, the parts assembled by some meticulous watchmaker  in the Alps. No doubt snacking on excellent local cheese and fine chocolates.

I have turned into a Watch Guy. I bought this used Rolex a few months ago, because, well, every Watch Guy wants a Rolex, even if it is 23 years old.

The Timegrapher shown is a standard bit of kit used to measure watch performance and to tell a fake without taking the watch apart. No fooling the readings. I got it a few days ago.

My first test of my Explorer II (Reference 16570) was too low to be believed. I tested  other watches and came back later to the Rolex. The Timegrapher produced the same results after a fresh restart. Watchmakers usually test for three minutes. I let it run for five.

Many think Rolex is just marketing hype and indeed, Rolex does a huge amount of marketing. But there is something beyond hype when it comes to this Swiss company. There’s a reason for their reputation which I now fully understand. Rolex guarantees a brand new Explorer II to be accurate within two seconds a day; they are probably being conservative.

One second a day. Completely analog and purely mechanical. No battery. 23 years old. I am still in awe.


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About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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