Eco-Drive and Kinetic are two of the most popular mechanisms using in manufacturing eco-friendly watches. They are very similar in features and functions and the main difference between them is the way of converting energy into power running a watch. You can choose either Kinetic or Eco-Drive technologies by your preferring or your lifestyle.
A kinetic watch uses energy that is generated from movement for its power. There are oscillating weights inside the watch swing with movement that create energy transformed into a magnetic charge which is then converted into electricity by the capacitor. The watch can go into a power-saving mode if it is not used thanks to a sensor indicating low power. So these type of watches can be in suspended mode for years without recharging.
Eco-Drive watches use sun light (or from any other source) for creating its power. The watch dial has a small solar cell that absorbs the light and it’s later converted by the capacitor into power the mechanism uses. Similar to kinetic watches, Eco-Drive watches have power save or hibernation feature, too. This function is very useful for conserving energy when the watch is not in use. Usually, there is a titanium lithium-ion battery for accumulating energy and it remains intact for a long period of time, even a decade.
The first kinetic watch was created in the ’80s in the Seiko Watch Corporation. It was first presented to the public in 1986 at a European watch fair. At that time, it was sold and marketed under the name AGM. From that period Seiko has been working on improving the platform adding new features and styles.
Eco-Drive is common name for the solar-powered watches manufactured by Citizen Watch Company and was unveiled first time in 1995. Today, these type of watches make up 80% of Citizen’s sale. Citizen also experimented with some other “green” designs making Eco-Drive Duo (1998), powered by solar and mechanical power and the Eco-Drive Thermal (1999), using the difference between the air temperature and the body for generating energy. Both technologies have been less reliable and popular compared to Eco-Drive.
There are reported problems with kinetic watches related to premature failures of capacitors inside. This device stores power replaces the acu-battery and provide possibility to produce “battery-less” watches. However, it seems that Seiko has had some problems with these capacitors had to replace them with a titanium lithium-ion power cell. So, basically the power cell is in fact a rechargeable battery and claims that the watch is a battery-less are simple not true. Despite this fact, kinetic watches are still maintenance free because these cells should last up to 10 years.
Kinetic watches need constant movement in order to produce the energy and keep the cells charged. This could be a problem for people who have several watches or wear it occasionally. The owner has to constantly wear a watch to keep it fully charged. One solution for this situation is using watch-winding cases that keep a watch in motion when it’s not used, but the cases could be very expensive.
Eco-Drive watches should not be expose to sun directly. The sun can produce extreme heat that could overheat the solar panel cells causing shortage of their life span. Also, the sunlight could fade the watch dial over time.
Both of these watch types use titanium lithium-ion batteries for energy storing. These batteries are less caustic than regular batteries but still are toxic to the environment.
What’s next in eco-friendly watches
Watch companies are more and more focused on creating “green” and environment-friendly models that run without batteries. Solar, kinetic, thermal technologies are used for replacing batteries as power source.
Some manufacturers make watches made completely from naturally sustainable materials so they are 100% recyclable. They are also produced manually (handmade) so this also cuts down toxic emissions. Even their packages are made from recycled materials.