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Researchers have created an oscillator that could silence the mechanical watch

Sean Buckley, @seaniccus
September 19, 2014
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You're running late to a meeting, glaring at your wrist in disbelief that it's fifteen minutes past the hour. Are you really that late? Lifting the watch to your ear you hear the all-too familiar tick of its internal mechanisms. Yes, it works -- and you are indeed late. This scenario could soon be a thing of the past, mostly because the mechanical watches of tomorrow may not tick at all. Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have created a new, silent oscillator that could potentially be used to make watches with fewer mechanical parts.

It's not a digital conversion -- watches built on EPFL's new technology would still very much be mechanical timepieces, they would just operate on different principals. The new oscillator, which is called IsoSpring, turns continuously in one direction instead of using gears and a balance wheel to alternate between oscillations. Right now, the team is working on miniaturizing the technology to fit in clocks and watches. If successful, it'll mean more than just silent time pieces, but perhaps longer lived ones, too: traditional watches lose 60% of their energy to mechanical parts. Hate ticking, but can't wait for the new technology? Well, there's always smart watches.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]

In this article: EPFL, science, time, timepiece, watch
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