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The Watch Buying Guide: A different movement

If you have been looking to become a watch wearer yourself, or already are, but know almost nothing about the timepiece you wear around on your wrist, then this article is for you. Weighing the pros and cons of different types of mechanisms, we’ll cover the basics of everything you’ve always wanted to know about how different clocks work.

Watch Movements

Movement encompasses not only the sweeps of a watch’s hands around its face, but the way its inner mechanisms produce that desired effect. A watch’s movement is fundamental in how it works and keeps time — think of it as the “heart” of the watch.

Watch movements come in three types: mechanical, automatic, and quartz, which are explained below:


A mechanical watch’s movementis powered by a mainspring — a coiled wire of metal wound by hand. Once the mainspring is wound, it slowly and evenly unwinds, causing the second hand to move in a sweeping motion around the watch’s face. Most mainsprings are about 9 inches in length. A longer mainspring results in a longer power reserve for the mechanical watch. The engineering that goes into a mechanical watch is surely breathtaking. Inside the watchcase are tiny gears and springs that work together to give the time.

All mechanical movements are not created equal. Attention to detail and craftsmanship goes into the watch to determine its smoothness and accuracy.A well-crafted mechanical watch can keep time to 99.999% accuracy (which is about +/- 1 second a day); with age and use the accuracy starts to taper off.

  • Pros of Mechanical Watches
  • No battery needed. 
  • Smooth hand movement. 
  • Character
  • Tactile
  • Cons of Mechanical Watches
  • Requires regular winding
  • Sensitive to the environment
  • Not as accurate
  • Expensive


Automatic watches are very similar to mechanical watches— they’re too powered by a mainspring and use many intricate gears to move the watch hands — but they don’t require the user to hand-wind the watch to keep it tickingevery day. Instead, the movement throughout the day winds up in the mainspring while you wear the watch. Hence, the name “automatic movement”.

  • Pros of Automatic Watches
  • No battery needed
  • Don’t have to wind it by hand
  • Smooth movement
  • Character
  • Cons of AutomaticWatches
  • Sensitive to the environment
  • Needs to be stored in a watch winder when not in use 
  • Less accurate
  • Expensive


If you’re like most average people, the watch on your wrist right now is most probably a quartz watch. The reason for that is that quartz watches are incredibly accurate and very affordable.

Instead of being powered by a mainspring, a quartz movement uses a small battery. The battery sends electricity through a small quartz crystal, causing the crystal to vibrate 32,768 times per second. The vibrations are measured by a circuit, which converts the vibration into a pulse, which moves the second hand on the face of the watch. Because aquartz watch uses electrical pulses to move the second hand, it has the distinctive “tick ticktick” movement. It is not as smooth as mechanical and automatic watches.

Because quartz movements rely on electric pulses and few moving parts, they are much more accurate and can withstand more of a beating than mechanical or automatic watches. It is for this reason that most “sport” and “field” watches use quartz movement.

  • Pros of Quartz Watches
  • Accurate time
  • Less maintenance
  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Cons of Quartz Watches
  • No smooth movement
  • Less romantic