Although solar power is becoming much more mainstream today, solar watches have been around for a long time, using the same technology you find in old, solar calculators. Of course, the tech has vastly improved, but who makes solar powered watches and are they worth it?
SEIKO and Citizen are two of the biggest names associated with solar watches, but Bering also makes them, along with Maserati, Timex, Orient, Casio, Garmin, Tissot, and many more. In fact, it’s projected that the global wearable solar technology market will reach $158 million by 2025.
After the above list, you start getting into some of the upstart watchmakers, generic brands, and some of the successful but lesser known brands as well. Most watch manufacturers have a line or two of solar watches and they are far more common than most people realize.
What’s the History Behind Solar Watches?
The solar-powered watch that we know and understand today was kickstarted by Roger W. Riehl, who introduced the world to the first solar watch in 1972. It was known as the Synchronar 2100.
The 2100 in the name was an interesting choice, as Riehl claimed that the solar watch would be able to run all the way to the year 2100. That means Riehl’s original Synchronar 2100 would still be going long after everyone reading this is gone.
Reihl used a series of photovoltaic cells located in the space where you would normally expect to see the dial. This original watch wasn’t only known for its solar-powered capabilities either, as it had some impressive tech back in the 70’s:
- 5,000G Shock Resistance
- Accurate to within one minute per year
- Water resistance up to 750’
- First LED-lit display
- Excellent temperature tolerance
Those are things that you would normally consider in a modern-day watch, not something that was designed and manufactured in 1972! But thanks to that watch, solar technology in watches took off and has only improved over time.
While solar watches haven’t reached the point where they can power a smartwatch, they are still very popular in their own right, especially when it comes to some of the more traditional, premium brands who make solar powered watches like SEIKO and Citizen.
Are Solar Powered Watches Worth It?
It’s ironic that the very same sun that people used to gauge the time for thousands of years is now powering devices that tell time. Solar watches are definitely worth the money because of their durability, longevity, eco-friendly design, and overall reliability.
Solar watches are also known for keeping a more accurate time than quartz, mechanical, and automatic watches since they constantly recharge their batteries while other watch batteries slowly degrade over time. At some point, you will have to replace a standard watch battery while its solar counterpart is still ticking.
The rechargeable cells in a solar-powered watch have a solid lifespan, which is why a solar watch will go on ticking long after the sun has gone down and you’ve turned out all of the lights. In fact, if you removed all of the light from around a solar watch, it would probably last a solid week before dying.
How Do Solar Power Watches Work?
Much like a solar powered generator or power bank, a solar-powered watch makes use of a solar cell that converts light energy into electrical energy. The electrical energy that is captured is then stored in a rechargeable battery within the watch. As a result, a solar-powered watch can create enough power to run itself not only from sunlight, but also from fluorescent lights.
Why Are Solar Watches So Durable?
Solar watches owe their durability to the fact that they are one, solid device, the inner guts encapsulated and sealed forever. A standard watch has a back that is removable. No matter how well it’s built, a watch with a removable back is going to be less durable than a solar watch with a solid shell.
Plus, there is a tiny degree of wear and tear that takes place every time you remove the back from a traditional watch and replace the battery. It may take time, but eventually, it will take a toll.
Do Solar Watches Last Forever?
Unfortunately, a solar watch isn’t going to last forever. A well-made, sold solar watch will last anywhere between 7 and 10 years, however. One thing is for sure, you will get a lot of use out of it before it’s completely finished.
The problem with the solar watch is not an issue with the solar cells, but an issue with the battery. All rechargeable batteries have a finite number of cycles (the number of times they can be recharged before they start to lose their efficiency).
Eventually, your solar watch battery will reach that point and begin the downward slope towards complete failure to recharge. That’s one of the reasons that standard watches have an advantage over solar watches. When it comes to solar, you can’t replace the battery. When it’s done, it’s done.
Though a traditional watch may be more fragile, as long as its inner workings are running smoothly, you can replace the battery once every 2 or 3 years and it will just keep going.
There are a lot of watch brands that manufacture solar watches, especially when it comes to a line or a series of them. The most popular, traditionally watch manufacturers all include solar watches in their lineups as well. No matter what brand you choose to go with, it’s very likely that they will have solar-powered watches to choose from.