What is the movement of a watch?
And why is it so important?
The movement or caliber is what makes a watch tick.
Described as the heart of a watch, movement refers to the mechanism that drives the hands on a watch face and powers its complications such as calendar, chronograph or a dual time zone.
While most watch purchases are based solely on the exterior, a man who has an eye for detail will appreciate the mechanism on the inside of a watch.
A watchmaker spends a majority of his time meticulously designing the interior of a watch. Those aware of watchmaking intricacies insist that carefully crafted mechanisms define a masterpiece and separate it from a mediocre watch.
There are three types of movement:
- Quartz – the movement causes the second hand to move in individual ticks. Powered by a battery.
- Mechanical – the movement will cause the second hand to move in a smooth sweeping motion. The watch requires manual winding to operate.
- Automatic – kinetic energy from the wearer’s wrist is transferred automatically to drive the mechanism inside the watch.
In 1969, Seiko, the Japanese watchmakers introduced the quartz movement. The launch of this new technology challenged the traditional timepiece houses who relied on mechanical movement to power their watches.
In response, most of the established watch companies released their own versions of quartz timepieces, kick-starting an era of battery-operated wristwatches.
How Quartz Movement Works
- A quartz timepiece is powered by a battery that sends an electrical signal through a piece of crystal quartz.
- The quartz vibrates 32768 times per second, creating a signal with a precise frequency.
- The vibrations are measured by the circuit and converted into a single pulse every second.
- The consistent movement of the watch hands is a result of this pulse.
Benefits Of Quartz Movement
- Accurate Time: A quartz mechanism barely veers from the exact time, ensuring superior accuracy.
- Ease Of Use: Quartz watches are battery-powered and do not require human intervention to keep ticking.
- Low Maintenance: The low number of moving parts and the presence of a battery ensure that quartz watches are lower maintenance.
- Less Expensive: Mechanical and automatic watches require more watchmaking hours and skill. Quartz watches are hence cheaper.
- Durability: A quartz timepiece has fewer moving parts that may require repairing, making it more durable than a mechanical watch.
Luxury watch collectors prefer watches with mechanical movement, while quartz watches are preferred for regular use given their superior accuracy and reliability.
My favorite watch company that uses a quartz movement? The Fifth Watches.
2. Mechanical Movement
The passage of time on a mechanical movement watch is measured by a spring-driven mechanism. The spring (also called a mainspring), needs to be wound periodically.
Mechanical or manual timepieces perform virtually the same function as those powered by quartz movement. Apart from the lack of a batter, closer inspection reveals something extra – an added emotion that has caught the fancy of many a horologist. A mechanical world of complex spiraling springs and moving gears that fuel the movement of the watch hands with elegant accuracy.
Some of the rotor mechanisms on these watches work in conjunction with the earth’s gravitations pull – compressing the mainspring during wrist movement and creating kinetic energy that fuels the automatic winding mechanism.
The intricate mechanism in these watches can often only be described as art. In fact, with some manual movement watches – reading time becomes an afterthought as these classic wristwatches transpire into something else. They are more appropriately termed timepieces, collector’s items and accessories.
How Mechanical Movement Works
- Unlike quartz movements, a mechanical movement uses energy from the wound mainspring to power a watch, rather than a battery.
- This spring transfers energy through a number of springs and gears, powering the function of the watch hands and the complications.
Benefits Of Mechanical Movement
- Longevity: A well-built mechanical watch will last a lifetime with proper care.
- Batteries: You don’t need to worry about any battery replacements, which are always an inconvenience.
- many consider manual rewinding of a simple mechanic wristwatch to be a strongly desirable ritual.
- Aesthetics: Many mechanical timepieces have a clear sapphire casing on the back which gives a clear view of the fascinating rotations and oscillations of the minute working parts.
Often referred to as self-winding, an automatic watch is a mechanical watch that harnesses kinetic energy from the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. The mainspring is automatically wound from the natural movements of the wearer’s wrist. Manual winding is not required.
How Automatic Movement Works
The internal mechanism is similar to a mechanical movement.
- A metal weight called a rotor is added to the manual parts.
- The rotor can rotate freely and is connected to the movement.
- The rotor spins with each movement of the wrist, transferring the energy to the mainspring.
- The mainspring is automatically wound as a result of this energy transfer.
Benefits of An Automatic Watch:
- The ritual of daily winding your watch is not required with an automatic watch.
- With regular wear, the watch continues to function.
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.