What is a Mechanical Timepiece and How Does it Work?

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Time plays the most crucial role in human life as all our deeds and duties are interspersed with time. We cannot do anything without keeping an account of the current date and time. It is now considered as more than just a universal fact that we have become slaves of time and cannot exist without its restraints.

However, how can we keep an account of time? Of course, we can do that with watches and timekeepers. Timepiece, in particular, is still considered as a great way of keeping time, as it is handy as well as cheap. Mechanical timepieces are still very popular and many people, both in the developing as well as developed world, are fond of using them as the best way of keeping time. Some enthusiasts even do not go for wrist watches and do not care about the time displayed on their cellular phones.

So what is a mechanical timepiece and how does it work? Simply put, a mechanical timepiece is a device to keep time and educate a person about the exact seconds, even milliseconds in some instances. A simple mechanical timepiece is essentially a wall or table clock that has a simple operating structure.

Older mechanical timepieces used to run on a key and winding principle. These clocks used special keys that were used to wind the machinery inside and set the time. Once operational, these clocks used to run for weeks or even months on end without any need for another keying of the clock. These clocks used a system of pulley and springs. The pulley clocks had a weight suspended over them and the motion of the pulley powered the clock. In spring clocks, a spiral spring called mainspring performed this function.

Newer models of mechanical clocks have adopted the use of typical dry cell batteries as a cheap and effective alternative to old style of keying. Some more modern mechanical timepieces can also operate on solar or wind energy.

Whatsoever maybe the mode of operation, all mechanical timepieces have an almost similar structure. In most cases, they have a small sized mechanical movers and rotators that are attached to the hour and minutes’ hands. However, the basic function remains that of a harmonic oscillator that moves at regular intervals and is the basic source of time.

Earlier mechanical clocks used pendulum as the main source. Newer versions, on the other hand, use quartz crystal, balance springs, and even atomic particles (in the case of atomic mechanical clocks).

A controller is the main unit of a clock that regulates the oscillator and converts its vibrations to pulses that are used to measure the time. A wheel train is then used in typical mechanical clocks to transform these pulses into the equivalent of seconds, minutes and hours. The pulses are also linked with the oscillator to keep it moving and to keep an accurate time. The exact time generated through this procedure is then displayed on the indicator.

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