Types of Movements
The inner mechanism of watches are called movements, and is the powerhouse of a watch. The movements fall into two categories, quartz or mechanical.
Many of the common watches sold by retailers are quartz watches. These are powered by a small battery. Some of watches boast a rechargeable battery, which is powered either by solar energy or physical movements to charge the battery in the watch. The Eco-drive models from Citizen and the Kinetic models of Seiko stand at the forefront of this category.
Quartz watches are easily identified by observing their second-hand, which generally moves at one tick per second.
Many prefer the quartz watches as they are more affordable, more accurate, and are easy maintenance. They are also less expensive than mechanical watches and simply require a periodic battery replacement.
The other type are the mechanical movements which are powered by the a coiled spring. Unlike quartz movements, a mechanical movement harnesses energy from a wound spring, rather than a battery, to power the watch. This spring stores energy, transferring it through a series of gears and springs, to power the watch. Mechanical watches are easily identified by their smoothly sweeping second-hand. The higher the beat rate of the movement, the smoother the sweep. The beat rates are measured in BPH/VPH; beats/vibrations per hour. The movements with higher-beat rates will cost more correspondingly than the movements with a lower-beat rate.
Mechanical movements can be manual or automatic.
Manual movements are the oldest and the most traditional watch movement. These movements are referred to as hand-wound movements because they have to be wound manually by hand. The crown must be manually turned several times to wind the mainspring. Winding the spring stores potential energy. The mainspring will then unwind slowly and release energy through a series of gears and springs. This energy is then transferred to move the watch hands and power the watch’s functions. These watches often have a see-through case-back to display the technical finesse of the craftsmanship. The winding intervals for manual watches depend on the power reserve capacity for the movement. It can range from 24 hours to five days or more.
In self-winding or automatic watches, there is an additional metal weight called a rotor. This rotor is connected to the movement and it can rotate freely. The automatic movements uses the motion of the body to swing this rotor, which in turn, adds tension to the spring. With each movement of the wrist, the rotor spins, and transfers energy automatically to wind the mainspring. The advantage here is that the owner doesn’t have to worry about winding the watch regularly to keep it running. If the watch is worn every day, it will maintain its power without winding. However, if it hasn’t been worn for an extended period of time, it will need a quick wind to power it back up.
However, watch collectors and enthusiasts much prefer mechanical movements, despite their higher costs, lower accuracy, and periodic maintenance. They enjoy the watches as purely mechanical devices. The precision, the workmanship the artisanship of the watchmaker, and the fact that a mechanical watch requires regular engagement from the owner in order to run. It is easy to be mesmerised by the hypnotic beauty of the gears working methodically behind the crystal casing. They are truly a thing of beauty and a joy to watch.