What are the different types of watch movement?

Choosing a luxury watch is as simple or as complicated as you make it. Some people are able to swiftly select a timepiece that complements their style. Others want to know every small detail about a watch before making their final choice.

 

For the latter type of watch lover, a key factor to consider is a watch's movement. The movement of a watch, as implied in the name, is responsible for the watch's motion. Take the movement out of a watch, and all you have left is an ornament. Creating a movement requires intricate craftsmanship, painstaking hand control, and an eye for tiny details.

 

For anyone choosing their first watch, or who's decided to learn more about watches, we've put together an overview of the main types of watch movement. This will give you an idea of what's going on inside timepieces that you're considering for purchase, or that you already own.

 

Mechanical Movement. Luxury watches typically have a mechanical movement, meaning that they are powered by a mainspring that must be wound to keep the watch moving. Mechanical watches have been around since the 17th century, but they've got a lot more accurate since then.

 

As the mainspring slowly unwinds, energy is released, moving the gears inside the watch. Mechanical watches usually need rewinding every 36-40 hours.

 

Jewelled Movement. Almost all mechanical wristwatches use a jewelled movement. In these watches, jewels are used as bearings. The more functions a watch has (telling the time, calendar, rattrapante chronograph, etc.), the more jewels it needs. Typically, the jewel of choice for watch makers is ruby, as it is hard wearing with a slick surface.

 

Automatic or Self-Winding. Self-winding mechanical watches are powered kinetically by the movement of the wearer's wrist. As long as the watch is worn, the mainspring will be wound tight, and the watch will keep telling the time.

 

Chronograph Movement. A watch with chronograph movement has a stopwatch function. This is often built into three separate dials for hours, minutes and seconds.

 

Tourbillon Movement. Tourbillon (French for "whirlwind") movements mount certain parts of the watch inside a rotating cage to counter the effects of gravity and improve the accuracy of watches. They were developed in the late 18th century. Although no longer required to produce an accurate timepiece, some watch designs include tourbillon movements as a novelty.

 

Quartz Movement. Inexpensive and extremely reliable, quartz movements are most often seen at the accessible end of the luxury watch market, and in standard, non-luxury timepieces. Watches with a Quartz movement are battery powered.

 

Quartz movements work by passing an electric current through a quartz crystal. The vibration of the crystal keeps the watch hands moving at a constant rate.