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New Technology – Zenith Defy Lab changes how watches work

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In the 1670s, Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens each developed a balance spring – a mechanism used for measuring the time until today. While there have been tweaks since then, our watches use the same basic mechanism for centuries.

This might soon change, however. Swiss watchmaker Zenith has announced the Zenith Defy Lab, a watch that doesn’t use a balance spring. Instead, the timepiece uses the Zenith Oscillator, which the watchmaker claims is more efficient than a balance spring.

How the Zenith Defy Lab works

Based on this slow-motion video of the wristwatch in action, the oscillator works by compression. In other words, parts of the oscillator are stretched and squeezed in precise quantities to measure the time.

This isn’t just accuracy, however. Using an oscillator instead of a balance spring means a watch will use fewer moving parts, which also means less wear and no lubrication. Ultimately, these watches will last longer and need less maintenance.

Right now, the Zenith Defy Lab has a retail price of CHF29,900, which costs roughly $31,000, give or take a few hundred dollars. Hopefully, the oscillator will eventually show up in other more affordable timepieces in the future.