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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know why I had this daydream once, let alone twice, but since I guess it's coming back because I want to know the answer.

Have Seiko ever made a watch that exploited the quartz in a Spring Drive to make it do more than regulate the mechanical movement? Theoretically would there be a problem in using it to drive a digital chronograph, for example? Does Seiko still have its appetite for making strange creatures like this?
 

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Why on earth would a respectable company bastardize a Spring Drive like that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Lots of people like mechanical movements.

Lots of people like digital chronographs.

Some people like both.

Seiko have a history of producing weird and wonderful products.

No one ever posts on f2 for the charm of the experience, that's for sure.
 

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I'm not sure there is any demand for such a watch at the price point Seiko markets the spring drive at.
Also, such a hybrid would be fairly thick.

Why a digital chronograph when you can have a Spring Drive chrono though?
 

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I would hope that the thought would never cross their minds. For me, any digital additions would ruin the watch completely.
 

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Well, the answer is yes and maybe. It's actually rather philosophical.

So the spring drive is a spring drive because it regulates three forms of energy--the tri-synchro regulator is the only part of a spring drive that is functionally unique from both mechanical and quartz movements. Virtually all other components are, for all intents and purposes, ordinary mechanical parts, and a tiny number of remaining ones are fairly ordinary quartz parts.

We know that the mainspring of a spring drive provides all the energy for time keeping, but the mainspring is providing both the electrical power to run the quartz subsystem and it's directly turning the hands. No electrical energy is used to advance the hands ever in a spring drive, only to slow them down (via the glide wheel).

We now must turn to a digital component. Digital components, at least the electronic ones (as opposed to something like the Lange Zeitwerk) require electrical power. Well, we've got that already, we're just going to need some more to run the display. The quartz subsystem doesn't really need alteration although the more sophisticated a digital you get, the bigger that system will need to be (i.e. do you want a countdown timer, perpetual calendar, etc).

So if the question is can we use a mainspring to power a quartz digital watch, the answer is simply yes. If the question is can we use a mainspring to power a quartz digital watch and analog hands simultaneously, the answer is yes, although we'll need to produce a little more energy, but that's just an engineering problem.

We can use the same time base for both the analog and digital aspects, so the seconds hand and digital part can, in theory, always be in perfect sync, although this will require a little more work because, although their accuracy will be identical, the movement doesn't "know" where the seconds hand is--you can set it for 30 seconds fast, for instance, and the digital component, as it stands, will not know to be 30 seconds fast, but again, this is something that can be addressed with time, money and engineering.

The more interesting question is two fold: what about a pure digital watch powered by a mainspring (as opposed to a kinetic or direct drive, where the rotor is more directly producing electrical power) and what about more advanced time keeping technology like radio or GPS syncing.

Well, to answer the first one, it'll be a matter of definition. It won't be a spring drive in the way we know it for sure since the spring will not "drive" hands in a literal sense, and there won't be a tri-synchro regulator as there won't be any hands to slow down. It'd be a much simpler mechanism, but would it be a spring drive? Well, that's for the community to come together and agree on a definition to decide.

With regard to the latter, time syncing technology, there's no reason in principle that a spring drive, digital or analog, could not be synced. We don't need a mechanism to zero the hand, we would just need to slow it down or stop it until the time tables matched up correctly, and then let the watch/glide wheel go on its merry way again. It may need to be able to either zero the seconds hand or to know where the seconds hand is while time is being synced though.
 

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It won't happen for three reasons:

1) While the patent lasts, spring drive is an important part of Seiko's push to be recognised as a luxury watch manufacturer. Seiko is clearly rapt with the mechanical-ness of their SD system (ever wondered why you can't see a single electrical component from the back of a SD calibre? The coil for instance could easily be exposed but it is hidden by an oversized plate which holds no purpose whatsoever) so I doubt they'll be wanting to 'cheapen' the image of the calibre with LCD screens.

2) The SD is an amazingly efficient system of power generation and consumption, in a constant feedback loop with no power stored whatsoever. This, even according to Seiko, was their greatest challenge, and the reason why it took 20 years to bring to market. Power reserve. The extra energy demands of an LCD screen would necessitate a larger generator, a larger mainspring, a more power-hungry electromagnetic brake, a more robust winding system, etc etc.

3) Synchronising the two displays: CitizenM mentions this, and there are pretty bug hurdles here actually. All the quartz oscillator in a SD does is provide a reference frequency that is compared to the frequency generated by voltage controlled oscillator via the stator coil that also acts as the electromagnetic brake when the circuit is run in reverse. So at best, all this signal could accomplish for the LCD screen (after processing by an intermediate microchip of some sort) is to instruct it every second (or fraction of a second for the chrono mode) to advance one digit. This won't be a perfect system however because the method of which the glide wheel is slowed down (and hence the position of the hands) will be susceptible to variables like temperature and movement of the wearer that wouldn't come into play for feeding a quartz reference signal straight into a microchip to process the display output (an entirely electrical process). So eventually, the hands will drift out of sync of the time on the display. You would then need a sensor of some sort to recognise the position of the hands relative to the LCD display time. More electrical consumption. Eventually, I think you'd end up with a much more electrical watch than a mechanical one, and also the running seconds on an ana-digi are usually displayed by the LCD with the actual seconds hand for the chrono, so in that light, the main calling card of the SD (the smooth sweep) won't even be fully realised.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Just a little reminder that Seiko do put Spring Drives into watches that aren't subscribing to the restrained elegant aesthetic of GSs:

sp ch.JPG

And if this is possible in the world, so's my little daydream:

br ad.JPG
 

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It's just crazy enough that it might work! I'd like to see some "prototypes" for this product. Don't think I'd buy into it, but I'd still like to check it out none the less.


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