American Invents Self-Powered Mechanical Watch Movement

The world’s first self-powered mechanical watch movement has been invented by American master watchmaker Steven Phillips. The mechanism, which he has trademarked as the “Eternal Winding System” (EWS), is continually powered by a temperature-sensitive bi-metallic coil.

“You can lay an EWS watch down on a table, leave it alone and come back in two years, and it will still be running,” Phillips told JCK.

An international patent for the movement, almost three years in development, was issued by the U.S. patent office to Phillips in October. The horological breakthrough was first reported in the November issue of the consumer magazine International Wristwatch.

Phillips’s achievement has generated interest among the international watch community. In an interview with JCK, Phillips said that he has been contacted by “a whole bunch of watch companies, including all the major watch manufacturers in Switzerland [and] watch companies in the Orient.”

Phillips told JCK he will officially debut the EWS mechanism in April at the 2003 international watch and clock trade show in Basel, Switzerland. He plans to either sell or license the EWS patent at the trade fair.

The EWS mechanism uses a bi-metallic coil that reacts to a temperature change of one degree up or down. That motion is transferred to the mainspring, which keeps the watch wound and running without the need for manual winding, batteries, or other stimuli.

Phillips’s new movement is simpler than traditional mechanical movements. There is no rotor, no need for a wind-set mechanism—and no need for a winding crown on the case.

At press time, Phillips had made only a prototype timepiece using the EWS movement, but he told JCK that he had already received seven orders for EWS watches, which will take eight to 12 months to produce. He plans to limit total production of the handmade EWS watches to “50 or less.”

The Eternal Winding System is available in three versions of increasing complexity (to give Phillips complete patent coverage). He says the mechanism is best suited for high-end luxury mechanical watches. His three EWS watch models sell for $62,000, $79,000, and $109,000.

Phillips, 64, is a lifelong watchmaker. Born in Hungary, he came to the United States in 1956 following the Hungarian Revolution. He opened his business, The Budapest Watch Co., in Guilford, Conn., in 1964.

Phillips is also the first and only American member of the prestigious and exclusive Swiss Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (AHCI), which promotes the tradition of handcrafted timepieces.

Phillips also created his own automatic winding movement and a series of handmade watches called “Guardian,” including the skeletonized and enameled “Guardian II.” He has worked on the EWS project since early 2001, he told JCK, spending “probably 4,000 to 6,000 hours” designing the EWS mechanism. He’s working on two more patents: one for an “eternal calendar clock” using EWS, and one for “a special escapement.”

For more information about the EWS, contact Phillips at the Budapest Watch Co., 1250 Boston Post Road #10, Guilford, CT 06437; (877) 496-0653, www.budapestwatch.com.