Watch movements. What lies in the heart of a wristwatch?


Watch movement is probably the last thing most of us think of when purchasing a wristwatch. Usually the outer design and material is what catches our attention, but what about the inside? Actually, it is really important what lies in the heart of a watch, because it determines the upkeeping, precision, the price and other qualities of your timepiece.

The most common watch mechanisms you need to keep in mind are Quartz, Mechanical, Automatic and Manual. It can get a little confusing, if you are not a watch expert or a watch collector. This article is exactly what you need to really know what you are buying and why.

Quartz movement

Quartz movements are very accurate and they are easy to maintain as you will have to replace the battery every year or two. They don’t have the complicated engineering and technicalities so these movements come to a lower price than mechanical timepieces. But how do they work? Well, to create power, a battery sends an electrical current through a small quartz crystal. This electrifies the crystal, which creates vibrations to keep the movement oscillating and driving the stepping motor that sends an electrical pulse at rate of 32,768 per second to the dial train to move the watch hands. Important to mention that this mechanism ticks and is one of the most accurate types of movement currently being produced.

So, if you are considering of purchasing a wristwatch with Quartz mechanism, here are some of the main benefits for it:

Low Maintenance: The low number of moving parts and the presence of a battery ensures that quartz watches are lower maintenance. Just exchange the battery to get your wristwatch ticking again and you are good to go.

Less Expensive: Mechanical and automatic watches require more watchmaking hours and skill than Quartz watches hence they are cheaper. Also, the cost of fixing a Quartz mechanism is significantly lower than other watch mechanisms.

Durability: A Quartz timepiece has fewer moving parts that may require repairing, making it more durable than a mechanical or automatic watch.

Swiss Quartz or Japanese Quartz?

There are two choices of movement that can fit within a Quartz watch - Swiss or Japanese. Both are used by many watchmakers around the world to power watches of all different kinds. But what is the difference between them? Which one is better?

Quartz Watch Mechanism

Swiss made watches are some of the most highly regarded watches around the world due to their precision and elegant workmanship. They cannot be called a Swiss watch if they do not adhere to the provisions of the law passed in August 1992. These watches stand for the best quality, aesthetic details, luxury and, for the most part, hand assembly for calibre models. A Swiss watch can only be considered Swiss made if they have undergone the following:

  • Its movement is made or assembled in Switzerland
  • The manufacturer carries out the final inspection of the watch in Switzerland
  • At least 60% of the components of the watch are originated from Switzerland

In 1969, Japanese watchmakers developed the quartz movement, and it’s been used in thousands of watches ever since. Japanese movement watches contain watch movements made in Japan. They are mostly assembled in automated robotic lines, which makes them lower in price, but are quite precise and efficient and have been working on small case sizes and low power consumption. Practical and functional are the two words that describe this type of movement the best.

It’s difficult to directly compare Swiss vs Japanese movements due to the number of variables in the design, manufacturing process, assembly, decoration, and style of each piece. The difference is not in the quality, but in who makes them. There are cheap low quality Japanese movements similarly there are also cheap low quality Swiss movements. It means that great manufacturers from Switzerland or Japan will produce a timepiece of the best quality and precision.

Quartz movements are more simplistic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not good quality as fine Swiss watch brands are designed to comply with their strict quality standards. Watches with this type of movement are preferred for regular use given their superior accuracy and reliability, so if you are looking for something for everyday wear that will serve you well and won’t break your bank, go for Quartz.

Mechanical movement

Mechanical movements are eye-candy for watch collectors. These movements make wristwatches move into the luxury category. It is no wonder to find this type of movement in luxury watches because they are more labor intensive to build. Expert watchmakers combine intricate series of tiny components to power the timepiece. This craftsmanship comes with a price, so purchasing one could be quite an investment.

Mechanical Movement

So, how the tiny details make this movement tick? Unlike quartz movements, a Mechanical movement uses energy from a wound spring rather than a battery to power the watch. This spring stores energy and transfers it through a number of gears and springs, regulating the release of energy an powering the function of the watch hands and complications. The movement will cause the second hand to move in a smooth sweeping motion, which means that it will run very silently. Mechanical movement does require manual winding to operate, so as a wearer of this watch you would need to fall into the habit of kicking the gears once in a while.

Longevity: With proper care a well-built mechanical watch will last a lifetime.

Batteries: A Mechanical movement doesn’t require battery replacements. Instead you have to do manual rewinding from time to time to keep the mechanism going.

Aesthetics: The general design hasn’t changed much in centuries although many mechanical timepieces have a clear sapphire casing on the back, which gives a clear view of the rotations of the minute working parts.

Automatic movement

The second form of mechanical movements are Automatic watch movements. They are often referred to as “self-winding”, which means that it harnesses energy through the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. This movement is a popular choice because the wearer doesn’t have to replace batteries or wind the watch to ensure constant operation. As long as the watch is worn regularly, it will maintain power without requiring manual winding. So, how does this self-winding happen? Every Automatic movement has a metal weight called a rotor which is turned with each movement of the wrist. The spinning rotor transfers energy to the mainspring, which is automatically wound as a result of this energy transfer. Simply speaking the kinetic energy from the wearer’s wrist drives the mechanism inside the watch.

Longevity: With regular wear the watch will continue to function for years to come.

Low Maintenance: The ritual of daily winding your watch is not required with an automatic watch.

Luxury feel: While mechanic watches tend to be comparatively delicate and slim in shape, automatic models are usually thicker because of the additional rotors. A sign of a high quality mechanical watch lies in the weight – it feels hefty in your palm.

When it comes to wrist watches with Mechanical and Automatic movements, purchasing one is considered a luxury. The craftsmanship required in creating a watch with these movements asks for great precision as much as it would be in case of repairing. These movements are not as durable as tiny details tend to break more, but if you truly appreciate the complexity, it is worth the experience.

Manual movement

A manual movement will most likely be at the heart of an antique watch. This watch movement called a hand-wound movement is the oldest type of them all, dating back to the 16th century. It is quite traditional and usually found in collectable, more expensive and more traditional looking watches. This movement requires daily winding in order to work. So there are some important aspects you need to consider before purchasing a manual watch. If you are not a person of habit, this type of watch is not meant for you as you would need to wind it regularly for it to work properly. Some watches can have a power reserve indicator, which shows when it’s time to wind the watch again.

Manual Movement Watch

Another thing is that you have to do it in a certain way. Wound it too tightly or wound it at an improper angle, for example, while it’s already on your wrist, some damage will be done to the movement over time. Seems like a bit of a hassle, but some manual watch aficionados might find this as an enjoyable part of their daily routine. This type of movement gives a certain level of responsibility and feeling that you are the one who keeps things going.

Aesthetics: Manual movement is mostly found in antique watches, which have a unique look and history behind them.

Batteries: No batteries are required, though daily winding is necessary to keep the movement going.

Special care: A manual watch needs extra care, but some will find it an enjoyable part of their routine to keep their timepiece running.

It is important to know the different characteristics of watch movements. Whether it’s the price, quality, details, simplicity or maintenance, everything depends on your preferences. Hopefully, this article gave you a good insight about what lies in the hearts of different wristwatches, so you can make better choices when purchasing a timepiece for yourself or loved ones.

Maybe in the near future other watch movements will be added to the wooden watch collections made by Ovi Watch.


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