So what’s it going to be, a Japanese watch movement or Swiss mechanical, and what’s the difference? DWS jargon buster is here to give you the lowdown on what it’s all about.
Movement or ‘calibre’ is the heart or engine that drives the hands around a watch face and powers additional features including calendars, chronographs, and all the other complications. For a movement to be considered Swiss it must be built in Switzerland, inspected in Switzerland, and components of Swiss manufacture account for at least 50 percent of the total value.
Mechanical | Quartz
Movements can be automatic winding themselves through kinetic energy produced by the wearer’s movements. Mechanical that is wound by the wearer, battery powered, or solar powered by natural or artificial light.
The mechanical movement will cause the second hand to move in a smooth sweeping motion, while the quartz causes it to move in individual ticks.
Mechanical movements do not rely on batteries but on the winding of a spring, called a ‘mainspring’. This spring then transfers energy through a number of other springs and gears, which, in turn, powers the watch. The winding can be carried out automatically using kinetic energy, or by winding the crown wheel.
Mechanical movements are favored by luxury watch collectors but Quartz is favored for everyday use because of its superior accuracy and reliability. The battery contained in the quartz watch sends an electrical pulse through a piece of quartz, which acts as an oscillator, causing it to vibrate exactly 32768 times per second.
The quartz movement is cheaper, more accurate and reliable with fewer moving parts, needing less maintenance because it is powered by a battery.
Japan and Switzerland
There are two countries that excel in the expertise and skills in designing both quartz and mechanical movements favored by watch collectors and they are Japan and Switzerland.
Historically the benchmark for quality has been set by the Swiss, but recent history has seen the Japanese-produce movements that have caught up and in some respects surpass. Dominating the global production of quartz movements is the Swatch group of Switzerland and Seiko of Japan.
There are not that many mechanical watch movement producers in Japan, with the big three watch brands Casio, Citizen, and Seiko concentrating on quartz, bar Orient. Citizen owns the movement maker Miyota, which is used in many third party brands due to its cheapness and reliability. Seiko is probably the most prolific mechanical movement maker in Japan, producing both low-end automatics as well as their Grand Seiko.
It’s a personal thing. The quartz is by far the best overall movement, cheap, accurate, reliable, easy to maintain and repair. Mechanical movements can loose time and run down in addition to being expensive to buy and repair if anything goes wrong but to watch aficionados the mechanical movement will always be superior.
So why is a mechanical movement that has so many shortcomings when compared to quartz be seen as a superior? The simple truth is that the mechanical movements are seen as a product of superior engineering on the part of a master watchmaker, giving it a value that is more than the sum of its parts. This is an outward express of the appreciation of art and engineering combined to create a piece of beauty, or if you like, as Gordon Bethune has been quoted as saying “Watches are the only jewelry men can wear, unless you’re Mr. T. ”
For more information about where to look for your favorite watch brand why not read my watch store reviews to get a better idea where to look?
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