When I first saw the term EOL on the back of a Swiss Army watch that I owned, I wondered “What does Electric Light Orchestra, a staple of 1970s pop radio, have to do with my watch? I soon found out the answer was… absolutely nothing. I had misread the order of the letters and instead of ELO, it really read “EOL System”. Of course, that acronym meant something else entirely, which is battery End-of-Life indicator. It was designed to let the user of a quartz watch know that the battery is low.

Swiss Army devised a clever visual trick as a warning sign. As we all know, the normal operation of a quartz watch shows a ticking seconds hand that jumps from one position to the next on the watch dial. Sixty ticks equal sixty seconds, which equals on a minute… and so forth.

For the End-of-Life system, the second’s hand takes giant leaps every 4 seconds. It takes 15 leaps of this hand to complete a full minute. The wearer simply cannot miss this because it looks so peculiar. I said visual trick because the watch will still keep accurate time. I would be curious if skipping 3 hand positions for every 4 seconds extends the life of the already low battery. That’s a good question, but I have no information on that.

This system takes the guess work out of planning a battery change. This is helpful for watches that have batteries that can last many years. Heck, I own watches with batteries older than some of my friends’ children. If only other things gave these kinds of warnings like toilet tissue or staplers!

Andrew Hughes

Author Andrew Hughes

A graphic designer and photographer in Atlanta, Georgia who came down with a serious obsession for things that wind up, tick and tell time.

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