Challenge of small: Timekeeping devices

Challenge of Small: Timekeeping Devices

ESI’s customers are continuously faced with the challenges of small in the creation of each new generation of electronic products. This involves the use of electronic engineering and technology to meet user demands for smaller and thinner devices to drive new thinking. Over the years smaller technology has had big implications for components such as flex circuits, MLCCs and ICs.

Manufacturers in the past have had to innovate and overcome similar challenges. Let’s look more closely at what they encountered when it came to not only making a device smaller, but also making it more innovative and practical to meet users demands. Take a look at the transformation of timekeeping devices.


1100 CE


Mechanical clocks begin to replace their water counterparts. After the mechanical clock was created, there were many new generations of other clocks that followed. This changed how clocks operated for years to come. First additions to this device, included as series of pulleys, counterweights, and bells. Mechanical clocks quickly began to pop up all over the world, but they faced many challenges in terms of operation. For instance, the clock itself could lose a half an hour or more on any given day when keeping track of time.


The world's first portable pocket-sized clock is created. It acquired the name “watch” from sailors who used it to replace the hourglasses that they formerly used to keep track of time. The egg-shape-designed watch eventually evolved into more common flat pocket watch.


Invention of the mainspring, which was used as a power source in mechanical watches. This tool allowed the size of watches to shrink dramatically.


The world's first reasonably accurate clock. This clock incorporated the pendulum design mechanism and this style became very popular. The size of this clock was still far too large and bulky to ever be considered portable.


Increasing accuracy even more, English polymath Robert Hooke invents the balance spring—or “hairspring”— to make timekeeping more accurate.


The spiral balance spring is made. This tool is a winding mechanism to regulate the force that drives the timekeeping of a clock.


The dead-beat escapement is built for the first time, this instrument controls the swing of a pendulum by giving it a push each swing, allowing the clock's wheels to shift, eventually moving the clock's hands forward.


The first self-winding mechanism is invented, allowing watchmakers to make even thinner clocks in the future, such as the wristwatch, which was created in 1812. This eliminated the need for the wearer to manually wind the watch to keep accurate time.


Charles-Auguste Paillard designs the palladium balance-spring, which controls the pace at which the wheels of the clock turn.


Smallest repeater watch, which allowed the clock to ring out the time through a series of chimes when is pressed on the side lever of the watch.


Battery driven watches created. This leads to the quartz battery operated watch. The battery sends electricity to the watch to keep track of time, removing the need to constantly wind the watch.


Seiko invents the first self-winding mechanical watch with an electromagnetic escapement, called the Spring Drive Kinetic. This design gives the illusion of a gliding second hand rather than the hand ticking.



The watch we use today has come along away when it comes to creating smaller and faster technology. And you thought making smaller flexible circuits was a challenge…without the progression of transforming products to be smaller and thinner and the process of miniaturization, today’s world would look very different.