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Types of Watch Movements: Quartz, Automatic & more

Watch movements have evolved over time and if you wonder how they ‘tick,’ then this guide is for you. There are mainly three types of watch movements, namely, mechanical, automatic, and quartz. Let’s take a look at what each movement does and which one is the best for you. 

watch movement

Different Watch Movements You Should Know About

  • Mechanical Movement
  • Automatic Movement
  • Quartz Movement

If you’re a watch-lover, then you can’t be a true fan of luxury watches without fully understanding watch movements. Here’s a brief guide to explain what mechanical, automatic, and quartz watch movements are in order of their invention.

Mechanical Movement

The earliest watches came with mechanical movement, which is made up of springs, wheels, and gears. This movement was used in intricate pocket watches where the wearer had to manually wound the watch. It was done by wounding a small metal knob on the timepiece, called the crown.

When the wearer turns the crown, the movement is stored as momentum in the mainspring, which is connected to the watch’s gears. These watches further contain a mechanism, called escapement, that works with the balance wheel. Plenty of high-end watch brands, such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Audemars Piguet, etc. use this movement in their timepieces.

These watches are high-maintenance and often their mechanism gets disturbed during servicing and restoration. However, the introduction of automatic and quartz movement has made it difficult for watch owners to get their hands on timepieces with manual movement. This has further increased the desirability of manual movement watches among wearers.

Automatic Movement

automatic movement



With time, watchmakers realized the importance of making user-friendly timepieces. It was in 1700 when the first automatic watch appeared on the market, based on a similar phenomenon. However, the movement was automatic rather than mechanical. In short, these were self-winding watches, which did not require the wearer to do wounding with a small knob.

An automatic watch stores and utilizes energy by capturing the movement through the wearer’s wrist. This energy gets stored in the mainspring, which further works with the weighted rotor mechanism.

This rotor keeps on spinning in the mainspring using the stored energy to wind itself. Wearers can manually wind them too; however, they don’t need to if they wear the automatic watch most of the time.

Quartz Movement

Lastly, the quartz movement was invented in the mid-20th century. This movement brought a revolutionary change in watchmaking where wearer no longer had to wind their timepiece.

These luxury watches use a battery generating electric current, which generates quartz vibrations. Since this quartz vibrates at a defined frequency, there’s no chance that the watch ticking can ever go wrong.

Wristwatches based on quartz movement are highly accurate, lighter than automatic watches, and very convenient to maintain. More and more watch enthusiasts are moving towards timepieces with quartz movement.

Which movement is the easiest to maintain?

Quartz Movement is the easiest of all to maintain in the longer run. This is due to the fact that it runs on a battery and does not need much attention than a quick battery replacement every few years.

Mechanical and Automatic watches require more maintenance and attention from the wearer. These watches have hundreds of moving parts inside and they need special care from time to time. If something major goes wrong, it is much more expensive to replace a automatic movement when compared to a quartz movement.

Written By

Madiha Rizvi

Madiha is a seasoned content writer with 6+ years of experience working in the luxury watches industry. Whether it’s a Rolex or an Audemars Piguet, she knows all about it. So, when she gives advice on servicing, polishing, and authenticating your luxury timepiece, it means that it’s tried and tested. Follow her and find all about luxury watch services under the umbrella of Chronostreet.

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