A Closer Look at Automatic, Manual Wind, and Quartz Movements
While the physical appearance of a high-performance time piece is undeniably a major draw, many enthusiasts are often just as interested in what’s going on inside the watch.
Here, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the fundamental differences in watch mechanics, specifically, the three types of movements.
By “movement,” we of course mean the mechanism by which the watch components move and interact.
Automatic, manual, or quartz movement – what is the difference and which is right for you?
Let’s dive into it so you can make the most informed decision for your next precision time piece.
Manual Wind (Mechanical) Watch Movement
The mechanical (or manual) watch movement is the oldest of them all, and, over the centuries, it has become an amazing mix of art and engineering.
There are no batteries required to power this movement. It is completely driven by the mainspring, which is wound by hand. Then, because of the series of gears and other components, this tension is slowly released, driving the tiny gears that are responsible for the watch’s movement.
This movement is a smooth, sweeping motion that is a direct result of special gears that are designed to maintain a steady and constant flow of energy.
This spring needs to be wound up on a daily basis, though, and you may have to set the time again if it goes too long without being wound.
Also, it’s important to be aware that the constant winding and unwinding will eventually cause wear and tear on the components and require some watch repair or maintenance.
Automatic Watch Movement
For those who don’t want to keep winding their watch every day – but do appreciate the effortless motion and craftsmanship of a mechanical watch – then automatic movement may be the answer.
Rather than requiring manual winding every day, an automatic (or self-winding) watch uses a special rotor that is attached the watch’s movement to keep the mainspring wound tight.
The addition of a set of weighted gears and ball bearings can wind the spring with nothing more than your natural arm and wrist movements.
This requires some incredibly fine gears to work effectively, and they too will require some maintenance and repair work over time. Also, be aware that the weighted rotor system does tend to add more wight and thickness compared to most mechanical watches.
Some other things to keep in mind is that automatic (and mechanical) watches can sometimes be slightly less accurate than quartz watches since environmental changes can affect the movement. And, if you don’t wear the watch for a few days, you’ll need to reset the time when you put it back on.
Quartz Watch Movement
Quartz movement is battery powered. It uses the vibrations of the quartz inside it to move watch’s components.
This movement is a little different than what you would find on mechanical watches because the vibrations cause the second hand to move in individual ticks, rather than a constant, fluid motion.
Quartz vibrates tens of thousands of times per second, which creates a signal with a very precise frequency. When you run an electrical current through that, a constant frequency can be measured by a circuit and converted into one pulse per second.
This is what makes the movement so accurate.
These watches have fewer moving parts which makes them great a great choice for regular use since there’s less chance of them being damaged during regular activities.
Which Is Right for You?
So, which option should you choose? There are certainly a number of characteristics to consider before making your final decision.
If you’re most interested in the aesthetic appeal of serious craftsmanship, then mechanical or automatic are the way to go.
If you’re looking for exact precision in a watch you can wear every day, then quartz movement may be the better choice.