Most people may wonder what is a watch movement? Simply put, a movement is what makes a watch go or “tick.” Also known as a caliber, a movement is considered the heart of the watch; it is the mechanism that drives the hands on the dial and powers any complications the watch may have. Watchmakers spend a ton of time on the intricate designs of the interior of a watch, but most people base their watch purchases from how the exterior of the watch looks. That’s fine, however, it wouldn’t hurt to get an understanding of what is going on inside the watch. In this post, I’m going to explain the three types of watch movements.

Quartz Movement

In the late 1960’s, Seiko, the Japanese watchmakers introduced the first quartz wrist watch, the Astron. It was a limited-edition release of 100 gold-case watches and it was priced equivalent to, at the time, a Toyota Corolla. This kicked off the quartz movement and in response to Seiko, watchmakers all over began releasing their own version of quartz timepieces. Quartz movement uses a battery for its power source and does not need to wound like a mechanical watch. It is currently the most accurate type of movement in watchmaking production.

To find out about each individual part in a quartz movement, please see below.

Quartz Movement Components:

Battery

This is the power source of the watch. The typical life span of a battery on a quartz watch will last between 12 to 24 months before needing to be replaced. Once the battery dies, it is very important to replace it as soon as possible. The reason for this is because the battery could leak acid and cause damage to the movement.

Because the battery is the power source, a quartz watch does not need to be wound like a mechanical watch. It is also, the most accurate type of movement available.

Quartz Crystal

This applies electricity from the battery to the quartz crystal in a constant stream; it is similar to the balance wheel on a mechanical watch. Quartz vibrates when electricity is applied to it and when it generates voltage, it will vibrate.

Integrated Circuit

This is what carries the electrical charge between each of the parts of the quartz movement.

Stepping Motor

This transforms the electrical impulses into mechanical power.

Dial Train

Similar functions to the dial train found on a mechanical movement.

How it works

An integrated circuit carries electricity from the battery to the quartz crystal. The quartz crystal will then vibrate at a rate of 32,768 per second and the electrical pulses are sent to the stepping motor from the integrated circuit. From the stepping motor, the 32,678th electrical pulse is sent to the dial train. Lastly, the dial train advances the hands on the watch.

Pros of a Quartz Movement

There a several reasons to buy a quartz movement watch. They provide superior time telling accuracy, barely veering from the exact time. Because they rely on battery power, they do not require the wearer to wind it.

They are typically lower maintenance and lower priced due to the lower number of moving parts and time needed to construct it. Lastly, because they have fewer moving parts that may need to be repaired, they are more durable in comparison to a mechanical watch.

Automatic Movement

First marketed in the beginning of the 20th
century, the automatic movement is referred to as self-winding. It is a mechanical watch the uses kinetic energy from the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. When this type of watch is not worn for a while, the watch will stop and require the wearer to manually wind it.

See below for the components of the automatic movement.

Automatic Movement Components

Crown

The crown is a knob found on the side of the case, usually the right side. It is used to set the time and can also be turned to wind the watch to make it run.

Mainspring

The mainspring is the power source of the automatic movement. Winding the crown creates kinetic energy, which is then transferred to the mainspring. The mainspring is coil-shaped and it gets tighter and tighter as it stores energy.

Gear Train

Used to transmit the stored energy from the mainspring to the escapement through a series of small gears.

Balance Wheel

This is the heart of the movement; It runs off the energy from the escapement. The balance wheel oscillates in a circular motion between five and ten times per second. It can be created to oscillate faster or slower making the watch run faster or slower, respectively.

Escapement

The escapement acts like a brake, it takes the energy transmitted from the mainspring through the gear train and pushes it out into equal parts.

Dial Train

A series of gears that transmit the equally metered energy from the balance wheel to the hands of the watch, which in turn, makes them move.

Rotor

The rotor is shaped like a half circle and is a metal weight that is attached to the movement. It can swing freely in 360-degree motion as the wrist of the wearer moves. It is connected by a series of gears to the mainspring and it winds the mainspring as it turns; this gives the watch energy. It is equipped with a clutch that will disengage it from winding when the mainspring is fully wound.

Jewels

Synthetic rubies that are set at high friction points. They are used as bearings to reduce metal to metal friction and wear and improve accuracy and performance. They are used due to their exceptional ability to absorb heat and extreme durability.

How Automatic Movements Work

The movement from the wrist turns the rotor, which then winds the mainspring. In addition, the crown can also be turned to wind the mainspring. The gear train then transfers the energy to the escapement, which sends out that energy into regulated parts. The balance wheel uses the energy to beat back and forth at a steady rate. After specific number of beats, the dial train sends the energy to the hands of the watch, which causes them to advance.

Pros of an Automatic Movement

Automatic movement watches eliminate the need to wind the watch daily and even with regular wear, the watch will continue to be functional.

Mechanical Movement

Also known as a manual movement or hand-wound movement. The beginnings of this type of movement dates back to the 16th century, making this the oldest type of watch movement made. In order to tell time, it requires the wearer to wind it daily. This movement is typically found in watches that are expensive, conservative and considered collectibles.

See below for the components of the mechanical movement.

Components of the Mechanical Movement:

Crown

The knob on the side of the watch case. It is used to set the time and to wind the watch to make it run.

Mainspring

This is the power source of the movement. As the crown is wound it creates kinetic energy which is transferred to the mainspring. The mainspring is coil-shaped and will get tighter and tighter as it stores energy.

Gear Train

Using a series of small gears, the gear train transmits stored energy from the mainspring to the escapement

Escapement

This part takes the energy from the mainspring through the gear train and sends it out in equal parts

Balance Wheel

The balance wheel receives the energy to run from the escapement; it is considered the heart of the movement. The balance wheel oscillates in a circular motion between five and ten times per second. Depending on how fast the watchmaker makes the balance wheel oscillate, the watch could run faster or slower.

Dial Train

A series of gears that transmit the equally metered energy from the balance wheel to the hands of the watch, which in turn, makes them move.

Jewels

Synthetic rubies that are set at high friction points. They are used as bearings to reduce metal to metal friction and wear and improve accuracy and performance. They are used due to their exceptional ability to absorb heat and extreme durability.

How Mechanical Movements Work

When a wearer turns the crown, it winds the mainspring causing it to store energy. The gear train transfers that stored energy to the escapement, which then meters out the energy into regulated parts. The balance wheel then uses this regulated energy to oscillate back and forth at a constant rate. After every specific number of beats, the dial train will transfer the energy to the hands of the watch, which will cause them to advance.

Pros of a Mechanical Movement

Mechanical watches that are well-built and properly taken care of can last a lifetime. There are no batteries needed to make the watch run. Lastly, mechanical movement watches are very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The intricate designs of the rotations and oscillations are considered works of art.

Conclusion

While there are other kinds of watch movements available on the market, the most common watch movements were explained in this post. Knowing the difference between the types and the features of their movements will help you when considering your next timepiece purchase.

 

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