Let's Start a Movement

Let's Start a Movement

From time to time, you may hear people ask; What type of movement does your watch have? You would be forgiven to think this was the beginning of a joke to the upcoming punchline, ‘tick-tock’. But you’d be left red-faced, and the other person puzzled with your response. So, what does this mean? Well, the movement, also known as calibre, is the engine of the watch and acts as the powerhouse to make the watch and its functions operate.

Basically, this internal mechanism moves the hands and powers any complications. There’s another word, complications. We will dive further into complications in an upcoming newsletter, but for for now, when you hear watch complications, this mainly references any additional movement function that goes beyond displaying the hours, minutes, seconds and date. Functions such as calendars, moon phases indicators, multiple time zones, chronographs, and chiming mechanisms.

The movement drives all timekeeping functions and is essential to keeping accurate time. There are numerous different movements created by watch manufacturers, some are generic and others are proprietary.

Movements fall into one of two categories: Quartz or Mechanical. The easiest way to differentiate a Quartz from a Mechanical movement is by looking at the second hand. A Quartz watch’s second hand has a tick-tock motion that moves once per second while Mechanical watches have a smooth, sweeping seconds motion.

Quartz movements are very accurate and require minimal maintenance besides replacing the battery now and again. By having only a few moving parts they are generally not desired by most watch enthusiasts, who enjoy the art, engineering and technical craftmanship of a mechanical timepiece.

1. Battery powered watches create power using a battery which sends an electrical current through a small quartz crystal, electrifying the crystal which creates vibrations. These vibrations keep the movement oscillating and drive the motor to move the watch hands.

2. Kinetic powered are quartz-powered movements that absorb motion energy and transfer it to an onboard battery. That battery, of course, goes on to keep the watch ticking. This watch is probably the closest thing to a hybridization of both automatic and quartz watches. The battery will still eventually degrade and require replacement, even though it can be recharged many times.

3. Solar powered watches are not entirely dissimilar to kinetic movements. They use the same principle, by being a quartz-driven watch that also functions to utilize the power of the sun to recharge the onboard battery. In another similarity to kinetics, these watches have a battery that will degrade over time and repeated recharges and eventually require replacement.

Mechanical movements use energy from a wound spring to power the watch. A spring stores energy and transfers it through a series of gears and springs, regulating the release of this spent up energy to power the watch.

These movements are often chosen over Quartz movements for luxury watches due to their high level of quality craftmanship. Skilfully created by expert watchmakers, these movements contain an intricate series of tiny components working together to power the timepiece.

With Mechanical movement being preferred, the type of movement, i.e., Manual or Automatic, comes down to personal preference.

1. Manual is considered the most traditional. Manual-wind watches are loved for their beautiful display, usually seen through the case back. These are often referred to as Hand-Wound Movements because they must be manually wound by hand to create energy in the watch’s mainspring. To power the watch, the user would turn the crown multiple times to wind the mainspring and store potential energy. The mainspring unwinds slowly and release energy through a series of gears and springs. The winding interval depends on the power reserve capacity of the movement, which is mainly between every 1-5+ days.

2. Automatic is often referred to as Self Winding Movement. This is created by the movement harnessing the energy through the natural motion of the owner’s wrist. These are very popular because the owner does not need to remember winding their watch daily. If they wear their watch regularly, it will maintain power without winding required. Functioning much the same way as a Manual Movement, the Automatic Movement works using an internal weight called a rotor. This rotor is connected to the movement and rotates freely, and with each movement of the wrist, the rotor spins and transfers energy and automatically winds the mainspring.

So next time when you are asked about the type of watch movement your timepiece has, you won’t be left red-faced not knowing what they are talking about, instead feel confident when explaining how your watch works and why you chose your special model.

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