Watch Movements Explained
Do you know that there are many details on a watch that need your attention other than the case, band and design of the watch? Odds are you’ve been buying wristwatches without knowing how the mechanism of the watch works together to tell the time. As a matter of fact, you probably don’t know what it means to have the word “quartz” written on the frame of your wristwatch. This is not a problem as Hass Watches Co. is providing these blogs to educate everyone from passionate horologists to purely for fashion watch wearers.
So, you shouldn’t feel bad just because you can’t tell the difference between quartz, automatic, and mechanical watch movements. Trust me you are not the only one, we’ve all been there before. In a few minutes, we’ll be teaching you all you need to know about watch movements including the types of watch movements and their benefits. Without wasting any time, let’s talk about watch movements.
What Are Watch Movements?
A watch movement is the most critical part of a watch. Much the same as the engine of a car, the watch movement is the thing in your watch responsible for making it tick. To tell the truth, your wristwatch would not be able to tell the time unless the movement powers its gear train. A typical watch movement encompasses several integrated moving parts working together as one. If any of the moving parts go missing the whole system will stop working. Bottom line is that; your watch will not work unless the moving parts of your watch movements are intact.
There are three main types of watch movements and the disparity between them come from how the mainspring of the watch movement gets its power. In a typical watch, the movement contains many moving parts and one mainspring. For any watch to work, the mainspring would have to power an escapement in the watch which would in turn power the movement of the watch. How the mainspring gets its power before it delivers it to the escapement is what brings about the difference in the watch movements. While some watches, require the user to provide power for the mainspring every once in a while, others can function on their own with the help of a battery – which is encased in the watch. To help you understand better, let’s see how the different types of watch movements operate.
Types of Watch Movements
1. Mechanical Movement
This is probably the oldest type of watch movements. This kind of watch movement operates with the help of a flat coiled spring (the mainspring). However, for the spring to deliver power to the escapement or balance wheel of the watch (which would at the long run deliver power to the gear train), the user would have to wind the spring first. By doing this, power is delivered to the mainspring while some of it is stored to keep the watch running for a few more days.
Mechanical movement watches use the power that the uncoiled mainspring delivers to the escapement to advance the gear train. Consequently, the gear train advances the hands of the watch including the second, minute and hour hands of the watch. But there is a catch; since the watch depends solely on mechanical oscillations to function, it is vulnerable to gravitational force. As a matter of fact, the precision is greatly influenced by gravity.
In the long run, users of the mechanical movement watches can expect their watch to lag within 30 seconds or more every 24 hours. On the other hand, users of the new and improved versions of the mechanical movement watches can expect their watches to be exact to at most a 15 seconds lag every 24 hours.
2. Automatic Movement or Self-Winding Mechanical Movements
An automatic movement is like the distant cousin of mechanical movements since they are both powered by the winding of a spring. The only difference is that the mainspring of automatic movement watches is powered by the movement of the carrier (or wearer) of the watch. To achieve this, a weighted rotor is attached to the back of the movement to keep the movement wound every time the wearer swings their hand. As the wearer of the automatic movement watch swings his/her hand in motion, the weighted motor spins to power the mainspring. From this point forward, you can expect the automatic movement watch to function as a mechanical movement watch. Here’s how:
Power is delivered to the mainspring, then to the gear train (just like the mechanical movement) and as a result, the gear train advances the second, minute and hour hands of the watch. On the other hand, a few designs of the self-winding movement watches come with an option that allows users to wind the movement manually.
It bodes well for the automatic movement watch to have a manual winding option since the net power stored in the spring is determined by the wearer’s movements. Which implies that the watch will stop working if the user fails to wear it for a long time. Ultimately, users of these self-winding movement watches would have to wind their watches every once in a while to keep the power up. The main upside of using this type of watch movement is that it lasts a long time since it does not require batteries to function.
3. Quartz movement
Quartz movement watches function a little differently compared to the other two types of watch movements. Unlike the automatic and mechanical movement watches, Quartz movements power their gear train with the help of small battery. Even though the quartz movement is relatively new to the world, it has gained user’s appeal for being the most accurate watch movement.
With automatic and mechanical movements, the expected accuracy is + or - 15 secs. But that is not the case for quartz movements. With Quartz movements, you can enjoy maximum precision totaling up to +1 or -1 second. Here’s how it works;
To drive the gear train, the quartz movement passes an electric current from a battery through a strategically shaped piece of quartz. When the electric current courses through the piece of quartz, it vibrates at a frequency of about 32,768Hz. The vibration of the piece of quartz in the watch produces piezoelectricity and in the end, an electric voltage is generated. Next, the generated voltage is passed back to the movement of the watch in pulses.
To keep the pulse in check, the quartz movement watch uses a device known as a trimmer. The trimmer is mounted on the movement of the quartz watch to regulate the pulses that are delivered to the movement from the vibrating quartz. As a result, every second that passes on the quartz movement watch is calculated from the numerical division of the quartz’ vibrating frequency. Therefore, the passing of one second on the quartz movement would be the direct outcome of 2 (32768 = 2^14).
As the movement of the quartz watch pulsates, power is transferred to the gear train. Consequently, the gear train advances the second, minute and hour hands of the watch. At this junction, the wearer would be able to tell the time. The main upside of using this type of watch movement is that it tells time extremely accurately.