Solar powered watches have been growing in popularity since the history of solar powered watches began in the 1970s. Throughout the push for more renewable energy during the 21st century so far, many people have searched for small ways that they can lessen their personal impact on the environment. Solar powered watches have become a favourable option for many as they use renewable energy, meaning that the need for battery changes is greatly reduced. These watches are also enjoyed by technology lovers due to the impressive expertise required to create them.
Solar powered watches are directly powered by light sources. This light can either come from natural or artificial sources, and the more light the watch is exposed to, the more charged the battery will be. Most solar watches work using solar cells which are imbedded into the dial or designed to be part of the bezel. These cells harvest light and convert it from light energy into electrical energy. The electrical energy is then used to charge the battery, keeping the watch running. This means that unlike in quartz watches, the batteries of solar watches do not need to be changed regularly so long as they are exposed to light.
The History of Solar Powered Watches
The world’s first solar powered watch was developed by an American engineer named Roger W. Riehl in 1972. Riehl created the watch in his own home and named it the Synchronar 2100. He gave the watch this name as an abbreviation for “SYNchronous CHRONometer calendAR”. “2100” was used to refer to the watch’s perpetual calendar that was said to be able to run until the year 2100.
Prior to the Synchronar 2100 being built, electrical clocks and solar cells did already exist, but had not yet been used in this manner. The first properly usable and efficient solar cells were produced by Bell Laboratories in the 1950s and Hamilton launched its famous Hamilton Electric 500 in 1957. This was the world’s first electric wristwatch.
The time of the invention of the Synchronar was a time of great advancement in the horological industry. A couple of years prior in 1969, Seiko had introduced the first quartz watch. This was an event that shook the industry and sparked the quartz crisis. Riehl seemed to be greatly influenced by pop culture of the time as the design of the watch appears to be inspired by the aesthetic of Star Trek.
The original Synchronar watch did not have much in common with other watches of the time. It had a very angular body and displayed the time using red LED lights on the edge of the watch. The space where a dial would normally sit was occupied by photovoltaic cells in order to maximise light absorption.
This watch was ground-breaking in many ways. The watch claimed the title of the first LED light watch display that could be clearly read in full light. It had a 5000G shock resistance and was water resistant up to 750 feet (around 230 metres). It had unusually wide temperature tolerances and claimed an accuracy to within one minute per year.
Riehl created multiple generations of the Synchronar throughout his lifetime, with each model using the latest technological advances to improve upon the last. Sadly, production of the watches ceased in 2005 when Riehl passed away. However, all was not lost as much of Riehl’s work has inspired other watchmakers to incorporate solar powered technology into their own watches. The technology we have today is much more effective that what Riehl would have had access to when creating the very first Synchronar, so modern solar powered watches are much more reliable and have a longer battery life. Perhaps if solar technology continues to advance it may be able to effectively and efficiently power smartwatches with full colour screens.
Solar Powered Watch Recommendations
This watch comes from the Seiko Prospex collection which was given its name as it is a hybrid of the words ‘professional’ and ‘specifications’. The watch lives up to the name of its collection with its elegant diver’s watch look and incredible range of functions. The dial of this watch features the PADI ‘Earth’ design with a date aperture at 3 o’clock. Dot and baton indices are used to denote hours and complement the white and blue hour, minute and second hands. A black unidirectional bezel surrounds the dial and features a minute track with blue detailing. The powerful solar movement of the calibre V147 is housed in the stainless steel case which measures 38.5mm in diameter. The watch is water resistant up to 200 metres (20 bar), making it suitable for most water-based activities. The watch is secured on the wrist using a stainless steel bracelet that will be easy to style with any outfit.
It may be incorrectly assumed by some that solar powered watches have to be chunky and practical, but this Citizen model proves that this is absolutely not the case. It is feminine and pretty and will be able to add a touch of elegance to any outfit, whilst also being eco-friendly and technologically advanced in its design. The mother-of-pearl dial features three sub dials and a date aperture at 4 o’clock, making it easy for the wearer to keep track of a variety of time periods. A gold minute track features around the edge of the dial and is protected by mineral crystal. A stainless steel case frames the dial and houses the solar powered movement. The watch is finished with an attractive two-tone silver and gold stainless steel bracelet.
This Maserati watch is perfect for those who like to make a statement with their accessories. The black chronograph dial features three sub dials and a date aperture. These are accompanied by gold baton indices and gold hour, minute and second hands. A tachymeter bezel encircles the dial and a gold PVD plated stainless steel case frames it. The case measures 45mm in diameter and 11.5mm in depth. The watch is powered by a precise and reliable solar quartz movement that omits the need for regular battery changes. The watch is water resistant up to 100 metres (10 bar), making it a perfect companion for daily wear. This model is finished with a gold PVD plated stainless steel bracelet.
Bering watches are all inspired by the beauty and colour palette of the Arctic. These stunning landscapes fascinated the founders and have influenced the designs of the brand’s creations ever since. Bering solar watches are powered by a unique rechargeable battery that allows them to be powered by any kind of light. The battery in this watch can last up to 6-12 months on a single charge. This model features a very simple grey dial with rose gold hour, minute and second hands. The dial is protected by scratch-resistant sapphire glass. A polished rose gold case frames the dial. It measures 31mm in diameter and 9mm in height. This watch is secured on the wrist using a grey stainless steel Milanese bracelet that fastens with a safety clasp.
Citizen has become internationally renowned for its Eco-Drive technology with the brand’s solar powered watches having some of the best movements on the market. The brand is passionate about environmentalism and the Eco-Drive technology showcases its dedication to better the world. This watch features a black complicated dial with a date display, chronograph, perpetual calendar, a dual time zone and a 12/24 hour format. Key features on the dial are highlighted in red and the dial is framed by a stainless steel tachymeter bezel. The Eco-Drive movement is housed in a stainless steel case that measures 43mm in diameter. The watch is finished with a black perforated leather strap that is detailed with red. This model is water resistant up to 200 metres (20 bar) making it perfect for all occasions.
What are your thoughts on the history of solar powered watches? Would you consider adding one to your collection? Let us know in the comments below!