Solar watches and kinetic watches are both forms of rechargeable quartz watches with long lifespans that use unique mechanisms that keep them operating and allow them to serve as some of the best timekeepers. But how do each of them operate, and what’s the difference? In this article, I will examine some of the details.
A solar watch is a watch that is powered by a rechargeable battery that is powered by sunlight and other forms of light. In contrast, arm motions power a kinetic watch’s rechargeable battery. However, they also share many characteristics, such as the lifespan of their batteries.
Suppose you’re considering buying yourself a solar or kinetic watch and are struggling to decide. In that case, I will break down how solar and kinetic watches work and the notable differences between them so that you can make a better-informed decision when you decide which type of watch will suit your preferences best.
Solar Vs. Kinetic Watches: Which Is Better?
Naturally, deciding which watch suits you best will boil down to personal preference, so I can only speak from my perspective.
I’ve found both to be excellent for wearing daily and, after several years, neither has run out of battery while I wear them. However, when I’m not wearing them and leave them in a drawer for a few months, they run flat, and it becomes incredibly inconvenient if you want to switch between them.
After all, I may have outfits that suit a watch with a leather strap better and others that are better suited to a steel/silver watch. So I tend to choose the watch that looks best.
However, I prefer the solar watch, because you can simply leave it on the window sill the day before using it. But there’s no way to use motion to charge a kinetic watch if you’re not wearing it.
Nonetheless, the pros and cons of solar and kinetic watches are very similar, and if you wear a watch all the time, they both have everything you could ask for in a watch.
What Is A Solar Watch?
As its name suggests, a solar watch is a watch that is powered by the sun. Or, more specifically, it is powered by a storage capacitor charged by exposure to sunlight.
The first version of a solar watch was created in 1968, although it was only released to mass markets in 1972. They are not only powered by the sun but can also be recharged by incandescent or fluorescent lightbulbs. But at a slower rate.
This is made possible by incorporating a solar cell in the watch’s dial, which converts the light that the watch is exposed to into electricity to charge the rechargeable battery or storage capacity underneath the cell.
You may also be curious about which forms of light can charge your solar watch the fastest. So it’s best to show this by looking at the various forms of light exposure that you could be exposed to throughout the day.
Consider the following table, which measures light by Lx (lux), which is equal to one lumen (the measurement for light) per square meter:
|Direct summer sunlight||100,000Lx|
|2 inches away from a 30W fluoro lamp||10,000Lx|
|8 inches away from a 30W fluoro lamp||3,000Lx|
As you can see, solar watches charge the fastest when exposed to direct sunlight, so it may seem like solar watches can be useless if you live in colder climates. Still, I can assure you that even artificial light, which falls somewhere on the same light spectrum as the sun, will be sufficient to recharge your storage capacitor.
And a single battery charge can last for up to six months. Alternatively, you can place your solar watch face-down on a solar charger.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a solar watch?
- It charges through any source of light.
- Charges continuously, except when it’s dark.
- Typically a single charge lasts up to six months.
- It has a total battery life of up to 10 years.
- The battery will eventually need to be replaced.
- It cannot be charged by hand if a quick charge is needed.
- It won’t charge if you’re wearing long sleeves.
What Is A Kinetic Watch?
Like solar watches, kinetic watches are powered by rechargeable batteries. However, these batteries or storage capacitors are not recharged with sunlight but rather by motion. As the arm that you wear the watch on moves, it charges the storage capacitor.
First released to mass markets in 1986, kinetic watches use a mechanical weight at the bottom of the watch that applies energy to a small motor, which charges the capacitor. Like a solar watch, a fully charged kinetic watch’s battery can last for up to six months, depending on the make.
However, the main issue I’ve found with kinetic watches is that they need to be worn regularly. So if you want a watch that you’d only wear on special occasions, the battery will run flat when not worn for extended periods. So, let’s break down some of these features to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of buying a kinetic watch.
- It is powered by the motion of the wearer’s arm.
- A fully charged battery can last for up to six months.
- It can’t be hand-wound in the case of a flat battery when a quick charge is needed.
- It runs flat if not worn regularly.
Other Watch Mechanisms
If you’re not sold on either a solar or a kinetic watch, there are other watch types that you may find are more suitable preferences. So let’s break down the three other watch types:
Firstly, you have the quartz watch, which uses an electronic oscillator that regulates a quartz crystal to keep time – kinetic and solar watches are variations of quartz watches, but disposable batteries typically power them.
Secondly, you have the automatic watch (also known as a self-winding watch). The wearer’s natural motion provides energy to wind a mainspring – It is closely related to a kinetic watch.
Spring Dive Watch
Finally, there is the spring dive watch, which is the gold standard of watches. It generates energy like any other watch but also uses an electronic regulator that tells time more accurately than any of the variations of watches we’ve discussed.
So, now that we’ve identified the main differences between solar and kinetic watches, you have a better understanding of the mechanisms behind them and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Now, you can ask yourself what you’re looking for in a watch and can decide which will suit you better.