Watch Movements Explained – Mechanical vs. Automatic vs. Quartz Watches

Welcome back to the Gentleman's Gazette!
In today's video, we'll be discussing the different types of wristwatch assemblies
known as movements, their construction, and history, and which type might be
right for you. While many men will consider or purchase
a new wristwatch based solely on the looks of its exterior, the true
connoisseur will give equal attention to its internal mechanisms. Such internal
workings are collectively referred to as the movement or caliber of a wristwatch
and they're the subject of today's video.

The movement drives the hands on the
face of a wristwatch and also powers its other features, known in the trade as
complications. These would include such things as the calendar, chronograph, or
alternate time zones. There are two overall categories and three individual
types of watch movements. The two categories are mechanical and quartz and
within the mechanical category, the two individual types there are manual and

But before we get into these specifics about what those terms mean,
here's a bit of general information on what movements look like. Watch movements can come in many different shapes and sizes in order to fit into the different
shapes and sizes of watch cases that are available. As such, a watch movement could be round, rectangular, oblong, elliptical, and so on. The thickness of a watch
movement is measured either in millimeters or in an old French unit
called Linea in the case of French and Swiss watchmakers. One linea is equal to
about two point two five six millimeters.

The individual parts of a watch movement
are situated between two plates; the front plate which sits just behind the
face of the watch has the same shape as the movement overall as well as the case
in general. The back plate, however, can have a few different shapes. It can be a
full plate to match the front one, a 3/4 plate or a series of smaller plates
referred to as bridges. In the case of these latter two, it's so that the
individual parts of the movement can be more easily accessed when the watch
needs to be repaired.

Now that you know what a movement is in general, let's get
into the discussion proper starting by discussing the general category of
mechanical watch movements. Speaking broadly, the mechanical category simply
means that the watch in question isn't powered by a battery. All mechanical
watches, meaning both of the types we're about to cover, will contain the
following types of parts. The crown is the wheel on the side of the watch that
is used to set the time, it can also be turned to wind the watch to run it.

mainspring is the power source of the movement and the kinetic energy from
winding the crown is transferred to the coil shaped mainspring which stores the
energy by getting tighter and tighter. The gear train transmits the stored
energy from the mainspring to the escapement through a series of small
gears. The escapement, also referred to as the escape wheel, is responsible for
taking the energy from the mainspring and transferring it to the balance wheel
in equally apportioned amounts. The balance wheel is essentially the heart
of the watch movement; receiving the energy that it needs to run from the
escapement. The balance wheel beats or oscillates in a circular motion between
five and ten times per second. A watchmaker can make the balance wheel
oscillate faster or slower which in turn makes the watch run faster or slower.
Also of note here are the jewels, these are usually synthetic rubies that
are set at points of high friction within the movement to reduce wear and
improve performance.

Rubies are used because they absorb heat well and
they're also extremely hard and therefore durable. Why are mechanical
movement watches so prized by style aficionados then? Simply put, the
intricate small parts inside of the movements as well as the craftsmanship
that goes into assembling them makes these movements pieces of art. Many European produced mechanical movement watches will sell for hundreds of
thousands or even millions of dollars at auction. Though as with anything else,
some of that price is due to brand name value. Aside from just the considerations
of artistry though, there are also practical benefits to mechanical
movement watches. For one thing, with proper care, watches like this can last a
lifetime and you won't have to worry about constantly replacing batteries. On
the other hand though, mechanical watch movements can get dirty and the
lubricants inside can dry up so they should be maintained by disassembling
them and cleaning them every three to five years or so. So that's the
mechanical movement category broadly defined. Now we can jump into the
specifics of the two kinds of mechanical movements starting with the manual watch

A manual movement, also frequently referred to as a hand wound
movement, is the oldest type of watch movement made. It dates back to the 16th
century. Most manual movements will need daily winding in order to keep time
accurately but some higher-end models can store energy efficiently enough to
only need winding every few days. Some watches will feature a complication
known as a power reserve indicator which tells the wearer how long they can go
before they actually need to wind the watch again. With this said though, men
who prefer to wear manual movement watches generally get into the habit of
winding them daily often at a set time, usually before they go to bed, for
example. Because manual movements are the most traditional type of movement
available, they're typically found in conservatively styled expensive and
collectible watch models. Here are some important aspects to consider when
purchasing a manual movement watch. First of all, you will need to get into the
habit of winding your watch regularly. If you don't do this, the watch will wind
down and it won't keep time accurately.

With that said though, if a manual watch
is wound too tightly or wound at an improper angle, say for example, if you try to wind it while it's already on your wrist, this can do damage to the
movement over time. Along with manual movement watches, the other type of
mechanical movement is the automatic movement, also known as the self-winding
movement. This type debuted in the early 20th century. An automatic movement
harnesses kinetic energy from the natural motion of the wearer's wrist. In
other words, moving your arm around while you're wearing the watch throughout the
day will wind the mainspring. How is this accomplished then? It's because an
automatic movement contains all of the components we covered earlier plus an
additional component that's referred to as the rotor.

This is most often a semi
circular metal weight that can swing freely 360 degrees as the wrist moves.
The rotor is connected by another series of gears to the mainspring which gets
wound as the rotor swings. From there, the mechanisms of the automatic movement are the same as the manual and yes, it can also be wound from the crown, if you so
choose. Some considerations for wearing an automatic movement watch starting
with the fact that the ritual of daily winding isn't necessary. As long as you
wear the watch often and keep your wrist moving naturally, the watch will continue
to get wound on the opposite side of the coin, however, if you go a long time
without wearing an automatic movement watch, the lack of movement will probably
mean that the watch will run down over time.

Also, automatic movements are
usually just a little bit thicker than manual movements because of the room
that needs to be made for the rotor and additional gears. With that said, some
gentlemen do appreciate the extra bit of heft that this brings to the watch. The
final type of movement we'll discuss today is the quartz movement, also known
as a battery-powered movement. It was introduced to the public by the Seiko
corporation in 1969. Unlike the mechanical movements we just covered, the inner workings of a quartz movement are made up by very different components.
Firstly, the power source of a quartz movement is a battery.

It takes the place
of a mainspring. A watch battery will typically last
between one and two years at which time it should be promptly replaced to
prevent any leakage of battery acid. Next up is the integrated circuit which
carries the electrical charge from the battery to the quartz crystal and from
the crystal to the stepping motor. The quartz crystal acts in a similar fashion
to the escapement on a mechanical watch. Quartz vibrates when electricity is
applied to it and this generates voltage. The stepping motor transforms the
electrical impulses into mechanical power and the dial train functions just
like the dial train that's found on a mechanical movement.

In other words,
here's a brief overview of how quartz movements work. First, the battery sends
electricity through the integrated circuit to the quartz crystal.
The electric charge makes the crystal vibrate at a rate of 32,768 pulses per
second. These pulses are sent through the integrated circuit to the stepping motor
which sends every 32,768 electrical pulse to the dial train. Ergo, this comes
out to one pulse sent to the dial train per second.

Finally of course, the dial
train, as it did with the mechanical movements, moves the hands of the watch.
What are the benefits of a quartz movement watch as compared to a
mechanical movement then? Firstly, because quartz watches feature a circuit board
instead of lots of individual parts which have the potential to run down,
they are the most accurate type of watch movement currently available. And because of this, quartz movements are generally less expensive as well and that's why
you'll find them in a lot of typical watches sold at department stores. So the
essential question for today then, what type of watch movement is right for you?
In short, it really does depend on what specifically you're looking for. If
you're a true watch connoisseur and you value the tradition and the
craftsmanship that go into the construction of mechanical watches, then
a manual or an automatic movement is probably going to be a good choice for
you. Remember though that you will probably
need to be willing to spend a bit more and that you'll have to take the
additional time to make sure that the watch is wound and running properly.

you'd rather not deal with these additional factors, you're just getting
into the watch collecting hobby, or you just want one watch to use on a
consistent basis, a quartz movement might be a better choice for you. You don't
have to feel that a quartz movement is inferior to a mechanical movement either.
After all, they are the most accurate type of movement in the long run and
there are still plenty of handsome styles of watch that contain quartz
movements. As a side note here, if you've got an old or broken watch with a
mechanical movement, say for example a timepiece you inherited, you do have
options when taking it to a watchmaker. You can try to get the original
mechanical movement restored depending on its condition or you could also have
a new mechanical movement installed or go a different route and have the watch
retrofitted with a quartz movement which is available, in some cases, pardon the
pun. So then, that's our overview of the three different types of watch movements.
We'd like to know what were you most surprised by in today's video? You can
share with us in the comments section below and as always don't forget to
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My outfit in today's video is centered
around my wristwatch it's a Timex watch with a quartz movement and it features
complications for the hour of the day in military time as well as for the day of
the week and the day of the month it has a simple silver case and a plain black
leather band nothing flashy but that's because I wear it often and it goes with
a great many different outfits to echo it's simple color scheme then I'm
wearing a black cardigan sweater over a button-up shirt that features fine gray
and white stripes the shirt does have French cuffs but I'm wearing them
configured in a barrel style today to accommodate the sleeves of the sweater
and as such the cufflinks I'm wearing are simple and unobtrusive black links
my trousers are grey and they feature a subtle pattern in
their weave as do my simple charcoal socks the outfit is capped off by my
plane cap toe black derby as is typical with these more casual types of
outfits I'm not wearing a great many accessories today but I could wear
something like the sterling silver platinum plated Eagle Claw cufflinks
from Fort Belvedere featuring onyx as the stone for a great selection of
cufflinks and other accessories you can check out the Fort Belvedere shop here

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