What’s The Best Watch Movement
If you’re asking ‘which movement is best for me’ you need to understand the differences between the movements or calibers and the environment you will be using them.
The best way to do this is to break down the movements into their basic types and look under the hood, so to speak. Basically, there are 2 main types of movement that are broken down into Mechanical and Quartz battery powered and within these classifications, we can break them down further like this.
What Is A Movement?
To know what a movement is and how it works is the answer to knowing which movement is best suited to your lifestyle, of if you need to invest in more than one movement to fulfill your needs. The movement is the most fundamental part of the timepiece giving the Rolex hands their sweeping motion or reliable ticking of the less expensive models, it’s the inner mechanism of springs and gears oscillating to power the beating heart driving the hands and complications and maintaining accuracy.
Video courtesy of Gentleman’s Gazette.
The production of Mechanical Movements is seen as much as an art as a science, made up of hundreds of parts and assembled by the hand of a master watchmaker they are both expensive to buy and maintain and also sort after by watch enthusiasts. It’s well worth noting that not all mechanical movements a created equal, the quality of the movement is a direct result of the attention to detail the watchmaker put into the build. This would be due to budget, time restrictions, or price point of the movement rather than oversight on the part of the watchmaker.
The power of the mechanical movement is derived from the manual winding at the crown that winds up a coil of wire or mainspring that slowly and evenly unwinds causing the hands of the watch to progress around the dial in a smooth sweeping fashion. The longer the mainspring the longer the power reserve and the longer the intervals between winding.
Most if not all watch enthusiasts believe the mechanical movement is the top of the tree, embodying tradition and precision engineering meaning owning a mechanical is more about expressing appreciation for a history of refinement and craftsmanship.
No battery needed
Glass case back means you can view the movement
Requires regular winding
Can be affected by Moisture, dust, shocks, and magnets
Not as accurate as Quartz
Notes. Modern mechanical movements are designed and built to withstand the elements but if you are regularly in environments of where the watch could be subjected to moisture, dirt, magnets, and shocks, a Quartz watch would be the better option.
Mechanical watches are accurate to 99.999% accuracy (which is about +/- 1 second a day but after time your watch will need to be serviced every 5 years to remain in good working order.
Moving directly on from the manually wound mechanical movement, the Automatic or self-winding movement is basically the same with one major difference.
They are also powered by a mainspring that gradually unwinds to provide motion to internal gears to give a steady sweeping hands movement and powers any complications, but the one thing an Automatic over a manual has is the rotor.
The rotor is a small weight connected to the mainspring that winds the watch as the rotor pivots creating a circular motion while the user moves throughout the day. As there is no way to restrict the movement of the user every automatic watch are fitted with a slipping clutch to prevent overwinding.
If the user does wear the watch for a day or so and doesn’t store it in a watch winder the movement will stop. This is not unexpected but it does create the situation where all the calendars and date displays will need to be manually corrected
No battery needed
Don’t have to wind it by hand.
Not cheap option
Sensitive to the environment.
Needs to be stored in a watch winder when not in use.
Notes. Just like the manual mechanical, the Automatic is just as accurate and well-crafted but it will also lose accuracy over time and need tune-ups.
The Quartz powered watch doesn’t use the power of a mainspring to push gears but the power of a battery that sends a small charge through a quartz crystal, causing the crystal to vibrate 32,768 times per second. It’s these vibrations measured by a circuit that moves the seconds hand in the hypnotic tick tick tick motion.
Quartz electrical movements have fewer moving parts meaning less wear and a more sturdy build making a Quartz more accurate, and able to withstand more of a beating than any mechanical or automatic watch. They are also cheap, reliable, and accurate, making them perfect for outdoor watches.
Used to be they lacked charm but this is changing
No sweeping seconds hand
Cheap cheap cheap
Hybrid Quartz Solar
This is where we meet the Japanese steel that leads the world in luxury Watches with functionality that comes with reliability, accuracy, and low prices. The Citizens’ Eco-Drive and Casio’s Solar Tough brings solar power to the market meaning sunlight and artificial light is able to charge the internal battery. This means all features such as atomic clock and blue tooth connection will never be lost and total reliability is maintained with no effort on the part of the wearer.
Lacks the kudos of a mechanical
The Take Away
Not all movements are not made equal which is reflected in the prices but where does that extra money go? When you research any movement you will want to know the basics, is it Quartz, Mechanical or Automatic. When you are looking at an expensive Mechanical movement you should also be able to ask your retailer about who made the movement, where it came from, and how it compares to similar movements. Perhaps you don’t need this amount of detail but it’s always a good sign when the information is readily available and dispensed professionally.
Don’t forget you can do your own caliber research using Google or other search engines by entering the caliber serial number into the engine.
A great percentage of Watch enthusiasts consider the mechanical movements superior to a Quartz, regardless of being manually wound or automatic. This is because they see the ownership of a mechanical movement as owning a piece of history and knowledge that a master watchmaker with centuries of combined watchmaking skills produced a fine timepiece using technology hundreds of years old.
Although Quartz and Solar-powered watches beat the mechanical watches in accuracy and reliability hands down, there is still a great kudos in owning a Swiss Made timepiece, whereas Quartz and Solar are considered more as modern gadgets.
Who Build Movements?
Today there are only a hand full of watchmakers that make their own in-house movements and because they are the result of years of development making them very expensive, little wonder both the manufacturers and the Watch enthusiasts are prepared to pay a premium. The other watchmakers that don’t build their own movements generally source movements from well known and respected specialist manufacturers like ETA or Sellita who built excellent, reliable Swiss Made movements.
Ask yourself not only how much money you want to spend but where will you be wanting to wear your watch. If you are working in a dirty, dusty, or damp environment you need to consider that a mechanical movement has many moving parts all subject to wear and shock damage. In a situation where you’re subjecting your watch to shocks like chopping wood, mountain biking, or other sports that put you in a situation where environmental factors could damage the movement, then a Quartz or Solar movement is going to be your best choice.
The option to enjoy a mechanical movement should be reserved for those times when your movement will happily wind an automatic but not subject it to unnecessary abuse either via poor environmental conditions or rough treatment.
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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?