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Power reserves - A major gap

Power reserves A major gap

From 36 hours for the ‘bare minimum’ right the way up to 50 days for the record, movements’ running time has never been quite so disparate. We cast a glance at the ranking of the currently available autonomy levels.

The vast majority of mechanical movements have a 46-hour power reserve. Once off the wrist and without any energy supply, watches thus equipped run for barely two days before stopping. This figure largely determines the relationship we have with our watch and its daily reality.
This de facto standard is however being shaken up by two types of advancements. The first is the appearance of a new minimum of around 60 hours that has been adopted for a dozen or so brands that have launched a new movement in recent years. 60 hours is a time span that enables a wearer to take his or her watch off on a Friday evening and slip it back on again on the following Monday morning when returning to the office.

The second breakthrough is a large wave of innovations in the field of running time. For a long time, the only choice was between two days or eight days – the latter option being a symbolic figure inherited from carriage clocks. Within the space of a decade, models covering the entire spectrum of durations ranging from 2 to 14 days have emerged and autonomy records have been successively shattered. Images are more eloquent than texts when it comes to consulting the power-reserve rankings, and our photo gallery is provided here as a means of presenting them by order and in the (metal) flesh (click on the large image at the top of the page to open the photo gallery).

Nonetheless, this extremely palpable performance that proves so useful to the wearer is based on a mechanical approach. There is no one single solution for extending movements’ autonomy. As a first option, sometimes all that is required is to rework the geometry of an escapement in order to reduce its energy consumption and to thereby – literally mechanically – extend its running time from two to three days.

Zenith Elite 6150

Other brands adopt the most obvious choice: playing with the size of the ‘storage tank’, meaning the barrel. The latter cylinder-shaped component houses a long coiled spring – the mainspring – that is tautened by winding and releases the energy thus accumulated according to the movement’s needs. All it takes to make the energy last longer is a longer spring contained within a larger barrel. This effective solution is used by Oris to achieve a ten-day power reserve and by A. Lange & Söhne to reach 31 days – albeit such feats can lead to other issues relating to the enormous power that has to be harnessed.

The third approach taken by some is to multiply the number of barrels. Two in many cases, four for Chopard, seven for Jacob & Co. and a current maximum of 11 with the MP-05 LaFerrari by Hublot. This particular means is formidably efficient, since the latter models respectively achieve 30 and 50-day running times. In return, one has to be prepared for a generously sized watch, since housing that many barrels takes space and can beef up watches to a quite outrageous extent. But the best way of sugar-coating the pill of such admittedly large cases is to accompany them with an original and powerful design – which incidentally works out pretty well, since such watches are intended to attract attention…

jacob& co quenttin

Click on the large image at the top of the page to open the photo gallery.

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