Watchmaker Timex will integrate a cutting-edge new microtechnology into its watches in 2019, which has the potential to change the way watches function, how they’re designed, and how long the battery inside lasts. In a world first, Timex will use Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, or MEMS, technology from French company SilMach to power a watch, instead of the magnetic system (known as Lavet) used to power current quartz watches.
What does this mean? Timex says the watch world is limited by the size and shape of traditional magnetic motors used today; but MEMS devices are really small, with components only able to be seen using a microscope. The two companies will use the technology in a new way, which they call PowerMEMS, to replace the old motor with nano-scale gears and a direct drive that’s smaller, more efficient, more accurate, and easier to make than the Lavet. Additionally, because MEMS drives are built using silicone and not metal, they don’t require ongoing maintenance like metal does, making the movement more reliable and with no need for future servicing.
This will result in Timex being able to experiment with new watch designs using batteries that last longer than ever before, with a smaller and less complex movement, that’s of higher quality and more durable than the one it replaces. Timex CEO Tobias Reiss-Schmidt is very confident that introducing PowerMEMS will have a massive impact on the industry. “With this development, we are taking revolutionary steps that will dramatically enhance design and function in watchmaking that were previously not thought possible,” he said.
While Timex and SilMach’s PowerMEMS technology is for quartz watches, and not for replacing spring-based watch movements, it also has the potential to be used in connected watches. Hybrid smartwatches — which combine traditional timepiece looks with smart functionality — are becoming more popular, and would equally benefit from increased accuracy, design freedom, and longer battery life. Timex has dabbled in connected watches already, but hasn’t followed in Fossil’s footsteps with a full hybrid yet.
There’s still a little while to go before we see the first PowerMEMS watch though, as the first example will arrive as part of Timex’s collection in 2019. Timex has been making timepieces since 1854, and produces its own quartz movements, while SilMach was founded in 2003. It previously hit the headlines with a MEMS powered micro drone shaped like a dragonfly.