The Guide to Different Types of Watch Movements

The Guide to Different Types of Watch Movements

Updated July 2022

In order to understand what really makes your watch tick, you’ll first need to learn about the various mechanisms by which a watch can be powered.

These mechanisms are referred to as “watch movements,” and they are a defining characteristic in the artistry of watchmaking.

We’ve created an in-depth guide that covers each different type of watch movements, exploring the inner workings of this complex topic – both literally and figuratively. Whether you are a longtime collector or a new arrival to the world of fine watches, this is a practical resource you won’t want to be without.

Exploring the Different Watch Movement Mechanisms

Watch movement is just one of the many carefully-considered decisions involved in the watchmaking process. Even the smallest details of a timepiece have a part to play in its aesthetic and function. Each of the different watch movements can be appreciated for the unique quality it contributes to the finished piece.

Watch Movements Vs. Watch Types

There is often confusion surrounding watch movements vs. watch types, but each is its own distinct subject.

  • Watch movement is the mechanism that allows a watch to continue ticking and thus, accurately telling time.
  • Watch type refers to a watch’s categorization based on features, design, and other factors.

Popular watch types include those such as racing, dress, nautical, field, and aviation watches. Each of these types has distinguishing functional and aesthetic features. All three types of watch movement can be found across the various categories of watch types. The actual movement that powers a watch is unrelated (and independent to) the type of watch.

How Watch Movements Evolved Over Time

During the 1800s, watches emerged as both a fashion trend and a staple of convenience. The earliest designs were intended to be carried in a pocket (hence the name, “pocket watches”), and were usually attached to a chain of some sort. Pocket watches of this era relied on mechanical movement, so the wearer had to periodically wind their watch so that it would continue ticking.

It wasn’t long before the first versions of wristwatches began to appear. These were also powered by mechanical watch movement, but technological advancements soon made automatic movement an option. However, an automatic movement was initially reserved for pocket watches, and it wasn’t until post-WWI that it was used in wristwatches as well.

In the 1960s, revolutionary watch brand Seiko debuted the world’s first quartz-powered watch. Their Quartz Astron 350SQ was unlike anything that had been seen before. The Japanese-based brand transformed the industry with this new innovation, raising the bar for accuracy and convenience.

Each of the three types of watch movement represents major milestones in the history of watchmaking, and all are still very present in the market today.

Mechanical Watch Movements

In the beginning, watchmakers crafted incredibly intricate networks of gears, miniaturized to fit inside of a mechanical pocket watch. Mechanical movement requires every single gear to adhere to its precise pace for timekeeping accuracy.

In order to keep a mechanical watch ticking, the wearer must regularly wind it.

As automatic and quartz watches become increasingly popular, mechanical watches are growing rarer. This, combined with the craftsmanship required to devise their complicated inner workings, makes mechanical watches a highly desirable collectors’ item.

Automatic Watch Movements

The automatic movement operates by similar principles to mechanical movement, but they are completely self-winding. With the capability to collect the energy produced by the natural movements of the wearer’s wrist (using a weighted rotor mechanism), the watch can wind itself.

The rotor mechanism adds a certain weight to an automatic watch, lending a sense of durability and comfort for many wearers. For fans of automatic watches, it is this uniquely tangible reminder of the watch’s quality – not to mention its convenience – that makes it their movement type of choice.

Quartz Movement

Despite being the most recently-developed movement type, quartz movement is also the simplest. An internal battery creates a subtle vibration in a minuscule piece of quartz, and the highly specific frequency of this movement is what maintains the watch’s accurate ticking.

Quartz watches are lightweight, incomparably accurate, and easy to maintain. As such, they have become a dominant presence on the watch market.

Which Movement Is Best for You?

Of the three watch movement types, there isn’t necessarily one that is “better” than the other. Instead, it is a matter of personal preference.

Factors to consider include:

  • How much maintenance/upkeep do you want to do
  • The physical feel of the watch
  • Your feelings about tradition vs. modern convenience
  • Lifestyle

Shop Unique Microbrand Watches from Serket Watch Company

Although there are many opinions on the best type of watch movement, one thing is for certain: quality craftsmanship, reliable performance, and sophisticated design are the foundation of any well-rounded watch collection. Serket Watch crafts limited-edition collections featuring a range of original designs, presenting a modern take on the time-honored tradition of watchmaking.

Explore our currently available designs to discover your next wardrobe staple today.

Image Source: Nor Gal / Shutterstock

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