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A Beginner’s Guide To Watch Movements


A Beginner's Guide To Watch Movements
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The most important part in all watches is the watch movement. A watch is nothing without its movement. Many great watch brands use movements sourced from somewhere else, yet some brands, especially luxury watch brands, tend to make their own in-house watch movements, which is a little bit more expensive than buying a movement from other makers.

To name a few brands that have their own in-house made movements, one is Seiko, a well-known brand from Japan. In fact, Seiko was the company that first made an automatic quartz movement on a wristwatch in the late 1980s. 

Now, people think of great quartz watches when they think of  Seiko. Besides Seiko, there are other brands that have acknowledged to produce their own movements as well. These brands include Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Rolex.

Next, let’s dig deeper and talk about how many movements there are and what makes a watch movement.

Types of Watch Movements

There are 3 types of watch movements: manual, automatic, and quartz. 

A simple way of differentiating watches with different watch movements is: “mechanical watches” stands for watches with a manual movement or an automatic movement, and “quartz watches” means watches with a quartz movement.

Generally, the quartz movement is less expensive to make than that of a mechanical watch movement. Quartz movement is powered by a battery and electrical circuit inside, but mechanical watches contain delicate internal mechanisms that take time and intensive labor to build.

Also,  quartz watches are made using fewer components, and they can be lighter and thinner than most mechanical watches. (However, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin automatic watches are an exception. These watches can be as thin as 5 mm.)

The Overview of 3 Types of Watch Movements:

  • Mechanical Manual Movement
  • Mechanical Automatic Movement
  • Quartz movement

Manual Movement: Components

Mainspring

It is the source of power for the clock movement. With the help of winding, it gets kinetic energy, which will help store energy to the coil-shaped mainspring.

Crown

It is a wheel that can be found usually on the side of the watch. By using the crown, you can change the time or date, wind the watch, or stop the watch.

Escapement

It is like a brake, which takes the energy that was transmitted through the gear from the mainspring.

Gear Train

It is where the energy stored from the mainspring through the use of the small gears, which will transfer to the escapement.

Balance Wheel

The balance wheel receives the energy from the escapement, which makes this the main component for the watch to move.

Dial Train

Dial train is also called a hand-setting train. It is a set of small gears that receive energy from the balance wheel and use the energy to move the hands of the watch. The hands can therefore move and show accurate time.

Jewels

It reduces friction from metal to metal to improve accuracy and performance. Jewels are located at the center of the gear.

How Does It Work?

When the crown winds start to turn to the mainspring, energy is generated. After gathering energy, the gear train will start to transfer the stored energy to the escapement, which its meter out into the regulated parts. The regulated energy will be used by the balance wheel going back and forth for a constant rate. Every beat counts.

Automatic Movement: Components

The components of the automatic movement are similar to that of the manual movement. It also has a crown, escapement, mainspring, gear train, balance wheel, dial train, and jewel. The additional component is the rotor.

Rotor

The rotor is a metal that is like a half-circle that pivots for a self-winding watch. It functions when the wearer is moving. It has a clutch that makes the other gear to disengage from winding when it is fully wound.

How Does It Work?

When the wearer moves his/her wrist, the rotor starts to wind the mainspring and turn the crown on. The next move would be the same as that of the manual movement.

Quartz Movement: Components

Battery

The battery is the source of power for a quartz watch. Usually, the battery has a life span between 12 to 24 months and will keep the watch going for such a period of time. After the battery is dead, the wearer needs to have it replaced.

Quartz Crystal

The quartz crystal on a quartz watch is like the balance wheel on a mechanical watch. It gets electricity the circuit applied from the battery. When it gets electricity, the quartz will vibrate.

Integrated Circuit

It is like a bridge that carries the electrical flow to transfer energy to the different parts of the quartz watch.

Stepping Motor

Stepping motor is a small electric motor that transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy.

Dial Train

It functions like that in the mechanical movement. (The dial train receives energy from the balance wheel, transfer it to the hands of the watch, and make hands move.)

How Does It Work?

Quartz movement gets power from the battery. The quartz crystal vibrates 32,768/s with the help of electricity. These pulses will be sent to the stepping motor via the integrated circuit. Then, the dial train will receive the 32,768 pulses via the stepping motor and use these pulses to make the watch move.

Takeaway

Watches come in different types of movements and designs. Some people appreciate the quality and craftsmanship behind mechanical watches (they are beautiful creations composed of tiny, sophisticated components that work perfectly together), whereas some people enjoy the advantages of wearing quartz watches (they are easier to be taken care of, do not ask you to wind the watch from time to time, and are lighter in weight). 

When choosing a new watch, it is important that you take some factors into consideration beforehand, like style, the price you are comfortable with, how the watch feels on your wrist, weight, functions, and watch movements. These factors will help you find your ideal watch and prevent you from wasting money. 

So, are you team “mechanical” or team “quartz”?

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