Four Letters Re: Solar-Powered Versus Self-Winding Watches

With all the discussion of wristwatch options, your readers who know that it is relatively easy to learn watch making skills. Your manual or automatic watch will need cleaning and lubrication after a few years, after all.
There is an online watch school that does not appear to be a big-profit operation, but devoted to sharing the craft. They make purchasing the necessary tools and parts easy, and for about $250, you get tuition, quality tools (screwdrivers, magnifiers, etc.) a Swiss manual movement to work on, and a case to put it in on
your wrist. The second course covers lubrication, and gets you another Swiss watch for about $250 total. (The movements arrive in perfect working order, so you have a watch to start with.) And the movements aren’t junk. One is the exact movement used in $4,000 Panerai watches (it only costs $80 without the fancy logos and finishing they add to
Maybe the best preparedness approach is to buy or make a quality watch you like, and then buy several extra movements, knowing how to clean and lubricate them over the years. That is lifetime time-keeping. – Mr. Bravo


Mr. Bravo has a very good point in his letter about expensive watches. When I started in golf course maintenance in 1992, one of the first things I bought was a Timex “Ironman” digital watch. I wore that watch every working day (12 days out of every 14) and most of my off days for 13 years. YEARS. I replaced the band several times (stock up on extra bands or you’ll end up with a pocket watch) but never, not even once that I can remember bought a new battery. When it finally died last year, I just retired the watch with it’s missing buttons and all.It certainly cost me a whole lot less than a “good” watch would.
Just something to think about. – DD


My Friend,
With regard to the discussion of Solar Powered watches, I have a bit more to add. I purchased a Citizen Eco-Drive solar powered watch in 1999, just in case. Seven years later I’m still wearing that watch on a daily basis. It has never been in for repairs and has not required a new battery. It is accurate. I’ve never had a watch hold up this well.

If there is a more reliable watch of this type out there, show me. I would not hesitate to acquire another Eco-Drive watch, given my experience. – J.H.



Dear Jim:
What time is it anyway? Since we’re on the topic of time, visit this web site and look at the sections on the history and science of sundials both permanent and portable. BTW they also sell them. See:
Keep in mind that the portable units only work in relatively strong sunlight. Since you must have clear visual access to the sun, they are not useful in a wooded areas and early and late times of the day when the horizon is occluded by the local geography. For nighttime use, there is a unit that uses the date and the position of the big dipper relative to the north star to give you the time, but you can do a quick mental calculation and get the same results without the tool. Again, clouds can be a problem as well as light pollution in cities.
Yes, mechanical watches need to be cleaned and can be problematic (I also had one, a Tag [Heuer], that could never be fixed), solar watches and most modern watches require batteries that will wear our or are EMP susceptible. The original spring action watches (such as Timex) many of us grew up with, (if you can find them any more) will also have a lifetime (does anybody know the lifetime of these watches?) but may be the best option. If they last a year, then get 20 of them, Unlike battery watches, they won’t go bad if unused. When their time (no pun intended) is up, toss them and get the next one. Portable timepieces were invented to allow sailors to know their position on the sea (in conjunction with the stars). They are also required for the coordination of military strikes. If you’re not out on the open sea without a functional GPS, and not concerned about (para?) military coordination, ask yourself, do you really need to know what time it is? You should be able to get within an hour on dead reckoning the sun’s location in the sky. It’s not like in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, we’ll have to get to work on time. – SF in Hawaii

JWR Replies: I foresee the greatest utility for wristwatches in a post-TEOTWAWKI environment will be tasks such as :

1.) Coordinating tactical movement and rendezvous

2.) Coordinating guard duty shifts.

3.) Monitoring the pulse and respiration rates of medical patients (Via a sweep second hand or digital readout of seconds.)

4.) Various elapsed time/distance measurements. (Such as “metering” the gallons per minute output of a spring, again via a sweep second hand or digital readout of seconds.)

5.) 330 meters per second speed of sound “Flash to bang” range estimation. (Again via a sweep second hand or digital readout of seconds.)

6.) The old standby Bradford Angier “analog watch as compass” trick. (Don’t forget to compensate seasonally for Daylight Savings Time.)