IT IS AN interesting fact that in a world that buys mostly quartz watches, most news about men's watches focuses on mechanical timepieces. Perhaps this is because quartz watches tend to be mass produced, almost utilitarian. Most of the features that can be achieved with a quartz movement have already been created and it is difficult to produce headline-catching new quartz watches every year. The changes that are made tend to be mostly cosmetic. Mechanical watches, conversely, provide endless scope for the imagination and ingenuity of watchmakers who dream up new ways of making them work and innovative ways to display not only the time, but also days, weeks and months. Some double up as stopwatches (chronographs) while others chime the time on demand (minute repeaters). Watchmakers have devised countless ways to show us the time in two or more places at once and to show us what phase the moon will be in tonight (moon phase). The most advanced even portray maps of the heavens that change - accurately - from day to day. It is this seemingly endless ingenuity that appeals so strongly to watch collectors and accounts for the rising popularity of watch collecting all over the world. Watchmakers are working harder than ever to create wonderful new timepieces. Some of them will become the collectable watches of tomorrow, fuelling the interest of collectors. As the number of collectors increases and the number of vintage watches is finite, prices are only likely to move in one direction - upwards. Some watchmakers find innovative ways of using traditional techniques and tools. Others turn their attention to ways of using modern materials and technology to make components that are better than any that can be made traditionally. Companies introducing technological advances include Seiko, with its Spring Drive watches; Ulysse Nardin, which has made the main plate of the movement of its Royal Blue Tourbillon watch in sapphire instead of metal; and Chanel, which has used optical glass for the cage of the J12 Tourbillon and black sapphire for the watch's case back. In January, Patek Philippe announced one of the most important technical advances for centuries. It is about to start using single crystal silicon for the manufacture of an escape wheel. The single crystal silicon wheel is lightweight, hard, anti-magnetic, highly corrosion-resistant and truer to shape than any steel version. Most importantly, the locking tooth faces need never to be lubricated, overcoming one of the biggest problems faced by watchmakers since the first watch was made. The escape wheel will be incorporated in the new Patek Philippe Advanced Research Concept and a limited edition of a watch fitted with the new component will be offered to a small circle of connoisseurs and collectors of rare technical features. In the traditional watch technology category, the remarkable Occhio Ripetizione Minuti watch by de Grisogono has stunned many people with its originality. This is a minute repeater which, like others of its kind, strikes the hours, minutes and seconds on tiny gongs. But unlike any watch before, its black 'dial' is similar to the shutter of a camera. When closed - for most of the time - it forms a black dial against which the hands can be seen, but while the minute repeater is chiming the dial opens, like a shutter, to reveal the complex movement in operation as it makes the time clearly heard. As soon as the striking finishes, the shutter closes to conceal the mysterious workings of the complicated movement. Fawaz Gruosi is the owner of de Grisogono and the company's designer. He invited some of the world's specialist press to a preview in Geneva at the beginning of this year, together with two stockists and two collectors. He thought he might sell two or three of the strictly limited edition of 50 Occhio watches. They are priced at 350,000 Swiss francs ($2.3 million) each. Imagine his surprise and delight when he realised the next morning that, in one evening alone, he had sold 28 watches. By selling 28 of 50 limited edition watches in one evening, including many to people who had never even seen a picture of one, Mr Gruosi has ensured that the Occhio watch will be in demand among collectors in the future. The response also clearly demonstrated the high level of interest that exists for timepieces of outstanding craftsmanship, quality and originality.