Combining both analog and digital displays into a single watch is nothing new. After all, no one wants to be seen with a calculator watch in a tuxedo… but reading time off quickly and setting alarms can come in handy now and then, too. Manufacturers caught on to this dilemma years ago, and started developing hybrid watches with analog and digital displays to offer the best of both worlds.
But Swiss watchmaker De Grisogono has taken the concept to a new extreme with its latest watch, the Meccanico dG. Rather than heading down the easy route and using modern electronic quartz movements and LCDs to put both types of time displays into a watch, the company actually reverted to traditional mechanical movements, and developed a digital-style display that works completely on wind-up power.
From the outside, the watch appears every bit as strange as you might expect such a contraption to look. The top half of the watch face features half of a conventional analog display, with exposed gears showing through from beneath, while the bottom half actually spells out the time as a digital display does, but with miniscule colored pieces that change position to look lit or unlit. Essentially, the company took the same basic grid of lines that form the numeral 8 in a normal LCD display, and converted them to solid pieces that change mechanically.
Image Courtesy of De Grisogono
As one might expect, this was no easy task. The “digital” display contains 23 individual micro-segments, which are basically four-sided pillars laid out flat in the face. Two sides are black, while the other two sides have color. They rotate on tiny spindles, allowing the color of each spindle to change from “lit” to “unlit” with every 90-degree rotation, which is controlled by a complex series of cams and gears.
The entire movement contains an amazing 631 individual components, working together in a mechanical dance to drive both the analog and digital displays with no battery power to speak of. Instead, a full winding of the watch lasts for 35 hours. Each display can be set individually with knobs on the side, allowing the analog clock to display one time zone while the digital version displays another.
De Grisogono wrapped the complex movement in a 2.2-inch-long rectangular watchcase that comes in a handful of different rare material choices. It’s also water resistant to 30 meters. The watchband, like the watchband on the traditional digital watches the Meccanico emulates, is made of black vulcanized rubber, and embossed with the De Grisogono name.
As you might expect, the Meccanico dG won’t exactly be cropping up at the watch kiosk in your local mall. It’s been designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of De Grisogono, so only 354 will be made: 177 in titanium and 177 in white gold. The company hasn’t yet announced pricing on the extremely scarce timepieces, but with the company producing conventional watches that run into the tens of thousands of dollars, you can bet it won’t come cheap.
The Meccanico’s backwards approach to building a faux-digital display with yesterday’s technology may confound the practical-minded, but as an example of engineering that’s downright elegant in its complexity, the Meccanico is sure to impress. More information can be found in De Grisogono’s press release.