A microminiature timer having an optical readout is disclosed. The timer can be formed by surface micromachining or LIGA processes on a silicon substrate. The timer includes an integral motor (e.g. an electrostatic motor) that can intermittently wind a mainspring to store mechanical energy for driving a train of meshed timing gears at a rate that is regulated by a verge escapement. Each timing gear contains an optical encoder that can be read out with one or more light beams (e.g. from a laser or light-emitting diode) to recover timing information. In the event that electrical power to the timer is temporarily interrupted, the mechanical clock formed by the meshed timing gears and verge escapement can continue to operate, generating accurate timing information that can be read out when the power is restored.