Timex has just announced a new partnership with SilMach, a French company that specializes in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology. The new partnership will allow the two companies to develop a new type of analog quartz movement that promises to be smaller and more efficient than existing quartz technology.
For nearly 50 years, quartz wristwatches have relied on small, magnetic “Lavet type stepping motors” which advance in jumps, rather than moving continuously. This, in addition to their relatively small size, allows for the years-long battery lives of quartz-regulated watches. Timex, however, sees MEMS technology as a potential advancement. SilMach’s micromechanical motors are comprised of “silicon devices [that] come in the form of electrodes equipped with interdigital combs, which, when they are electrically powered, make an alternating movement generated by electrostatic forces.”
Here’s the upshot: Because they’re smaller and more efficient than Lavet type motors, a MEMS motor would require less energy to function, increasing the overall battery life of a quartz movement. Because of the motor’s microscopic size, it would decrease the overall size of a movement in a quartz watch which could theoretically allow for smaller or more creatively-shaped quartz watches. Further, the smaller size of the mechanism driving analog hands could mean more space for smartwatch tech to be accommodated in a hybrid analog smartwatch.
According to the press release, Timex expects its first MEMS-powered watches to become available in 2019. Assuming no other company releases a MEMS-powered watch before then, it’d be a first for the industry.
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