Editor's Choice

Time follows function

Third Quarter 2023 Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components

What would a mechanical watch look like if it was reimagined and redeveloped from the bottom up? Master watchmaker Benoît Mintiens asked himself this question. He came up with a unique mechanism in the world of mechanical timepieces, a wristwatch that ‘sleeps’ when you take it off and wakes up when you put it back on, setting the correct time automatically. This fascinating animation is powered by the smallest series motor from Faulhaber.

Innovative functionality and revolutionary product design

The basis of his success is a series of unique features that can be found only in watches from Ressence. It is not the hands that move on the dial but instead the dial itself. To be precise, there are multiple dials – a different one for each hand. The smaller hands are integrated in the large hand, circling one another like a planetary gearhead, and are constantly seen in new constellations. In spite of the unusual picture that forms as a result, one intuitively recognises the big and small ‘hands’ as the markers for minutes and hours.

Also missing is the crown, the small dial on the side which, on other mechanical watches, is pulled out and used to set the time. Its function is performed by a hinged lever on the bottom of the watch. The initial winding is also performed with the mechanical movement for the setting of the time. From then on, an automatic movement ensures spring tension and accuracy.

Time signal plus motor drive

With the help of an accelerometer, the Type 2 also recognises whether it is currently being worn or if it has been set down. In the latter case, the spring energy is conserved and the movement paused − the dials stop moving. In addition to the mechanical movement, this model also has onboard electronics called the e-Crown. When first set, it saves the time and continues to measure the time during the rest phases. The sensor registers when the watch is again put on, and the electronics release the spring. The movement is started by double-tapping the bezel, and the correct time is then automatically set – even if the watch has not been worn for months.

“With the e-Crown, we expand the concept of the mechanical watch with a new dimension,” says Mintiens. “The correct time is always available, and a person can also select a second time zone that the watch then likewise automatically sets. For the selection of the zone, the electronics communicate via Bluetooth with an app developed specifically for this purpose. Nevertheless, the watch remains an independent unit thanks to its automatic movement; the electronics do not interfere with its actual function. The electronics are used only for the adjustment steps that are otherwise performed with the crown.”

The e-Crown consists of 87 components; its flexible PCB with four layers is just a quarter of a millimetre thick. All parts are of the smallest dimensions and optimised for minimum energy consumption. As a result, the watch gets by on just 1,8 joules of energy per day. The electronics check the position of the dials at least once per day and make a correction if necessary. When putting the watch on again, or when switching between the time zones, an automatic adjustment process is triggered.


During this process, the large and small dials are turned to the appropriate positions. The power for the mechanical work of the e-Crown comes from the smallest series motor from Faulhaber, the 0308…B brushless DC-servomotor, in combination with the 03A micro planetary gearhead. With a diameter of just three millimetres, the drive unit fits into the extremely small installation space present in the watch. The available electric power is also quite limited there. It flows from six micro lithium-ion batteries, which are charged by very small solar cells. They supply just 1,2 V. “This is actually not enough to overcome the intrinsic inertia and friction of the system,” explains sales engineer Hein Vos from Faulhaber Benelux. “We therefore made a number of changes to the gearhead. These include a modified shaft, an adapted gear ratio, and a special lubricant.”

There may have been other products small enough for his watch, but for Mintiens the choice was clear. “One expects that a mechanical watch will function flawlessly for decades. The technology from Faulhaber guarantees the high quality and reliability of the drive that I need,” he concludes.


Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

WEG partners with Panaco in the DRC
Zest WEG Group Africa Editor's Choice News & events
The strengthened presence of WEG in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), through its strategic alliance with ts value-added reseller (VAR) Panaco, has proved to be highly successful.

Execution of the massive Azmet Reactor project DRC
Editor's Choice News & events
The Azmet Reactor project, a collaborative effort led by Viva Engineering, involved fabricating six massive reactors that were over three stories high in Gauteng, and then transporting these more than 2500 kilometres to a mine in the DRC - where all 3265 parts fitted perfectly, with not even one of the 26 900 bolts out of place. This was a massive achievement.

The time is now to implement a motor management strategy
Schneider Electric South Africa Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components
Motor management plays an all-important role in controlling motor energy costs in various industries, segments and applications. Research and practical experience have consistently shown that effective motor management practices can result in significant energy savings, reduced operational costs, and improved overall system reliability.

SKF’s successful raid action in Cape Town
SKF South Africa Editor's Choice Shaft power components
Authorities, with collaborative support from SKF, recently conducted a large and highly effective raid on a very well-known bearing seller of SKF bearings in Cape Town.

Case study on automotive quality control
Motion Tronic Editor's Choice
Motion Tronic selected high-performance PLCs and HMIs from Inovance Technology to engineer a smart catalytic converter quality control solution for the exhaust facility at Toyota South Africa Motors.

PC-based motion control on a labelling machine
Beckhoff Automation Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components
For 50 years, Bausch+Ströbel in Germany has been developing packaging and production systems for the pharmaceutical industries. The company’s goal is to offer the best technical and economical solutions for the challenges of modern industry. Its new ESA1025 labelling machine shows how this is achieved with PC-based control from Beckhoff as the central motion controller.

Thrust for hybrid electric flying
Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components
Several leading academic institutes in Germany are collaborating on the future of hybrid electric flying. The partners are researching an entirely new propulsion system for medium-range aircraft with up to 35 passengers.

Tough couplings for tough industries
Bearing Man Group T/A BMG Editor's Choice
BMG’s extensive range of power transmission components encompasses robust products from Regal Rexnord, a leading manufacturer of critical system components that perform efficiently under rigorous demands in diverse applications.

Hydraulic connectors with residual pressure
Editor's Choice Hydraulic systems & components
Hydraulic connections are vital in both outdoor and indoor industrial machinery. However, the hydraulics lines frequently require connecting and disconnecting for maintenance or changeover. The goal is to enable quick, easy swaps to enhance machine flexibility and productivity.

Inovance brings advanced motion control to South Africa
Motion Tronic Editor's Choice
Inovance and its South African distributor, Motion Tronic are launching the Easy Series PLC in this country, bringing its flexible, high-performance motion control solution to customers across South Africa in a wide range of industry sectors.