What Is a Manual Watch Movement?

Also known as a hand-wound movement, manual watches date back as far as the 16th century making them the oldest type of movement around. The traditional movement requires daily winding to keep ticking and in good condition. Many watch collectors admire the complexity of the craftsmanship required to manufacture manual mechanical movements in comparison to the battery-powered watches. Traditional watchmaking is still in high demand, as the love for the art has not been overshadowed by digital technology. 

Find out more about the world of manual watchmaking before you make that all important purchase.


How Do Manual Movements Work?

Manual watches are powered from winding the stem, which tightens the mainspring. The energy is slowly released as the mainspring unwinds causing for the barrel to rotate (the spring is coiled inside the barrel), which rotates the rest of the gears, known as the geartrain. The balance wheel, which swings back and forth interacting with the escapement, controls the speed in which the gears rotate and ensures that the movement keeps regular time. We said it was complex.

How to Wind a Manual Watch Movement? 

Wearer’s have to be careful to not overwind the movement. To avoid damage simply wind the crown until you feel tension. Do not go past this point as the tightness implies the movement is fully wound. Always unfasten your watch before winding or setting the time. If you keep it on your wrist you could risk damaging the movement, crown or stem. The power reserve indicator is a great tool to see how much energy your watch has left before needing to be wound. Typically, most watches have a reserve of 40 hours but could be more depending on the watch. 


The Cost of Manual Watches 

Manual watches tend to be more expensive due to the complex craftsmanship involved in making the movement. It takes specialist skills to be able to assemble each component successfully, which takes a lot of time to handcraft each movement.

Also, the cost of the service is much more expensive as the gears, springs and screws need a specialist who is trained in working with such an intricate movement. The maintenance is much more costly than say a quartz watch as the complex structure takes a lot more time and skill to service.

Who Makes Manual Movements?

Many luxury brands are proud of their manual movements especially if made in house. The likes of Bremont, Nomos Glashutte, Grand Seiko and Corum to name a few, sell watches with manual movements showcasing their commitment to traditional watchmaking skills. To cater to a wide audience many brands sell manual, automatic and quartz watches, which appeal to different personal preferences.