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Watch this

Shopping around for watches is one of my favorite things to do while bored beyond my mind at malls or department stores while my wife looks at other things. It’s like a treasure hunt to find the one that has just the right combination of stylishness. This is harder than it seems. You have to take into acount the wrist strap, the face, the colors chosen, the casing, size and font of the numbers, the amount of doodads and gizmos, even the style of the hands. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but most watches are absolutely hideous.

This is one of my watches.

It makes for a nice dress-up watch, but is also good for everyday wear. As an added bonus, the color scheme matches my wedding ring. Well, not my original ring, but my new one. That’s a different story though. I liked this watch quite a bit, until I did a google search for it and found out, to my horror!, that it’s actually considered a women’s watch. The very thought of wearing a women’s watch made me want to go home and punch something while drinking a bottle of whiskey. You know, manly stuff. Unfortunately I had to settle for doing some dishes while chugging a bottle of white zinfandel.

I’m not really sure what makes this watch a women’s watch vs. a men’s watch. It has something to do with the band, I think that the measure for the length is rather short (I have small wrists, some might call them dainty) whereas most men’s watches have longer bands. At worst I’d consider it a unisex watch.

Now that I’ve validated my masculinity to you…

Something about watches always bothered me. I understand that they’re complex mechenisms worthy of our admiration in how they can work day in day out without breaking down and with only the slightest variance in time compared to the ALL POWERFUL atomic clock. What I never understood was what quartz had to do with anything. I mean, quartz is a mineral and minerals are boring. I mean, in the game 20 questions when asked Animal Vegetable or Mineral no one ever responds Mineral.

It turns out quartz is crazy complex. What makes it perfect is that it’s relatively consistent and cheap harmonic oscillator. A quartz crystal, when cut precisly into a wafer, will distort when an electric field is applied to it. While it might be useful to distort crystal wafers, the more useful portion of this is that when the electric field is taken away, the crystal reverts to its original shape and creates its own electric field.

So by applying an electric field, you can generate an electric field. Well, whoop-de-doo. BUT, if you cut the crystal wafer nicely enough, it’ll resonate at a specific frequency. Say to the tune of 32,768 hz. Does that number look familiar at all? Maybe only to math nerds but it’s 2^15. From there it’s a simple (if you want to call it that) couple of divisions by 2 to get a 1hz frequency, which is the what the second hand reads.

Whoever figured this out is a freakin genius. Inside my watch, there’s a battery which is applying an alternate current to a crystal. That is causing the crystal to divide thousands of times per second. There’s another device in the watch which is taking those vibrations and converting their signal down into one second, which would be driving the second hand (if I had one). That’s crazy that something I can buy for five dollars is that complex and can fit on my wrist.

As crazy as quartz watches are, the steampunk in me longs for a mechanical watch. They’re soooo sexy. I’d forget to wind it, though. Then I’d be screwed. I doubt I would care, though, I would probably just stare at the gears turning. It doesn’t take much to entertain me. While on the surface it’s not nearly as cool, a kinetic watch would be even more ideal. It’s a quartz watch, but instead of using a normal battery it uses a rechargeable battery. Rechargeable batteries in and of themselves aren’t all that interesting (I’m lying, they are) but they’re even more amazingly awesome when the batteries are charged by the movement of your body. You might even say that they power inside you is what drives the watch. It’s like Kung Fu Panda, but the power is being used to make a watch go instead of protecting a sacred scroll.

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