Clever clip keeps time on luxury watches

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The Analytics Clip monitors the accuracy of a mechanical watch movement(Credit: Frederique Constant)

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One of the problems of owning a luxury mechanical wrist watch is making sure it's keeping proper time. You could check it against radio time signals over a period of weeks, or you could take it to an upmarket watch repair shop to be hooked up to some very large and expensive equipment, but the Geneva-based watchmaker Frederique Constant has an inexpensive alternative. The Frederique Constant Analytics is an accuracy measuring clip that works with a smartphone app to measure the performance of watches and make sure they're properly maintained.

Keeping an upmarket mechanical watch is accurate is about more than a minor obsession with making sure it's synced with the pips on the World Service. According to Frederique Constant, accuracy is a major indicator of a watch's overall health. Timepieces can lose their accuracy over time due to wear – especially micro-stresses on the spring of the balance wheel that cause it to lose strength. In addition, the lubricants can oxidize and degrade over time, so they turn gummy and need replacing.

By keeping a running record of a watch's accuracy, owners can determine when to have it serviced – much in the way that car owners can measure the vehicle's health by noting its performance. In the case of the Frederique Constant Analytics, the watch accuracy is diagnosed by looking at the oscillations of the balance wheel.

A wrist watch's balance wheel is like the pendulum of a larger clock, but instead of a weight swinging back and forth, a balance wheel spins clockwise and anticlockwise against a spring. An oscillation is a full turn back and forth to the starting point and a vibration is a half a turn. This is expresses as a "frequency," which is measured in oscillations per second called Hertz (Hz) or vibrations per hour (vph). If balance wheel is out by a few degrees, it will be reflected by changes in the frequency.

The key component of the Frederique Constant Analytics is the Analytics Clip, which clamps over the watch and uses a sophisticated microphone to study the timepiece's frequency. This links with the iOS or Android SwissConnect Analytics smartphone app to measure the accuracy of a watch in a matter of seconds, with an accuracy of ±0.2 s/day.

After the analysis, the results are displayed in real time as an audio waveform . The app creates charts that can be saved for later study as either a snapshot or measurements taken over many hours for greater precision. In addition, the measurements can be stored automatically in a private cloud account and compared over a period of months, or even years, to determine how well the watch is working and whether it needs servicing.

The company says the Frederique Constant Analytics can handle a range of frequencies for almost all watches on the market, and the app can even auto-detect a watch's specified frequency for the owner. However, since the device is an audio analyzer, it may have trouble with unorthodox movements.

The Frederique Constant Analytics is priced at €99.00 (US$105.00)

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