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R.2 Watch Batteries and Other Power Suppliers


The batteries used in watches can be divided into two groups: the primary or non rechargeable cells and the secondary or rechargeable cells. Batteries cause a tremendous amount of environmental problems. Every year about 200 million are thrown away. Perhaps the invention in 1978 of the rechargeable supercapacitors, the 'Supercap' of Matsushita and the 'Goldcap' of NEC, may resolve the situation.

In the 18th century, the Italian anatomist and physicist Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) discovers by coincidence that the muscles of a dissected frog contracted by using a galvanic element of two wires, made of copper and zinc. His explanation for this phenomenon was based on the remaining animalian magnetism of the frog.
1799The Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) manufactures the 'pile de Volta', a battery of small copper and zinc discs. Volta succeeded in giving a correct explanation of the experiments of Luigi Galvani.
1859Gaston Planté makes the first lead-accumulator, nowadays the most used battery. This was the first secondary cell.
1866M. Leclanché manufactures his first commercial zinc-manganese battery of 1.5 V. They are still used, mainly due to the low cost of production and the possibility of size-reduction.
1950An alcalic version of the Leclanché is marketed: the alkaline battery of 1.6 V. The electrolyte of alkali increases the maximum discharge current and a small amount of mercury protects the battery against self-discharging.
1957The first useful batteries applied on a large scale in wrist watches are the carbon-zinc cells, Eveready 201 or Ucar 201. They were used in the Hamilton 500, the Epperlein 100, the first Seiko watches and the Lip R27. These were low drain, 1.53 V batteries with a gold-plated case. In 1913 a subsidiary company of Eveready USA in Great Britain became independent of Eveready but kept operating under the same name. In 1967, Eveready started to sell watch batteries in Europe, but because of its former subsidiary using the same name, could not use the same name anymore and started selling the batteries under the name UCAR; a name based on the name of Eveready's parent company Union Carbide. In 1986, the battery division of Union Carbide was sold to Ralston Energy Systems.
1965The development of different kinds of lithium batteries takes place at an unexpected rapid pace. The lithium battery offers better quality compared to the batteries produced previously. The battery can produce a voltage between 2.8 and 3.6 V, has a high energy density and maintains stable voltage during discharge.
1980The silver-oxide battery is launched at the Basle fair by Renata, part of the ASUAG group. Nowadays about 95 % of the batteries are silver-oxide.
1981Renata SA takes over Sanyo's licence for production of lithium batteries with low self-discharge in Switzerland.
1992TCC Microelectronics of Germany, invents a lithium-iodine battery which is claimed to be capable of delivering enough energy to power a quartz watch for at least twenty years. This system is known under the name 'TCC Longlife' and is sold by Iseco, Germany.

Nuclear batteries

These batteries are equipped with radio-active material which emits alpha or bèta particles, or gamma radiation.

1913Mosekey manufactures the first nuclear battery. The alpha or bèta particles charge a metal plate until a voltage of 150.000 Volts is reached. The maximum current is 10 -12 Ampère.
1949RCA USA manufactures the first germanium and silicium batteries with strontium-90 as a power supplier. The velocity of the emitted particles or radiation generates a voltage of about 0.2 Volt between the p-n junction.
1951The batteries of the Ohmart Corporation USA generate a voltage between two different metal electrodes by ionisation of the gas-atoms inside the electrodes.
1956The 'Nuclear Watch', produced by Patek Philippe of Geneva, Switzerland, fitted with a movement with lever escapement is powered by strontium-90 isotopes.
1970MC Donnel Douglas manufactures the commercial 'Bètacel', a battery with a maximum current of 45 micro-ampères and a voltage of 1.7 Volts. A few years later, radiation danger causes production to stop.

Special features

11961Baehni & Co.S.A. of Bienne, Switzerland, files a patent of a watch with galvanic batteries attached to the back of a watch, which generate, through contact with and because of the moisture of the skin, a difference in voltage. Patent 371998 Switzerland, March 8th 1961. No commercial production.
21977The waterwatch is activated by a few drops of water. In 1977, it is invented, independently, at the same time by both Ventu Research, of El Paso, Texas, USA and by M. Patric Chau of the Ching Cheong Electronics Limited of Aberdeen, Hong Kong. Millions of these watches have been sold.
31960Les Etablissements Leon Hatot S.A of Paris, France, file an application for a patent 1.092.411 on December 19th 1960. The patent was filed for a watch that needed to be placed on a transformer one night per week, in order for the battery to recharge. The battery is recharged by the induction which is generated in a coil inside the watch by the alternating magnetic field of the transformer.
4Citizen 'Seven' equipped with a battery, which runs for seven years.
5The first batteries Ucar 201, RW 4 and Leclanché ISP 3.5.

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Copyright © by Pieter Doensen

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