Close up of man in suit with watch against dark background

Tick of the clock: watch movement types explained

Published 12th December 2022
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Every watch counts the time from second to second, but the precise manner in how they tick varies, and each system has its strengths and weaknesses. With so many different pieces to choose from, it can be hard to decide which one is right for you.

That's why this guide will provide an overview of all the different movement types found in men's watches, so you can make an informed decision on what type of movement is right for you.

Quartz movement

The most common type of movement found in men's watches is the quartz movement. Quartz movements are powered by a battery and regulated by a quartz crystal. This movement was developed in the 1960s for Seiko watches but became very popular in the 1970s and 1980s thanks to brands like Casio watches.

Quartz movement watches are extremely accurate - their margin of error is around fifteen seconds per calendar month. That sounds like a lot until you remember each one contains over 2.5 million seconds!

On the negative side, quartz watches have few moving parts, so if you want the pleasure of seeing your watch tick you'll need to find another movement type. Quartz movement is also generally found in cheaper watches, so their build quality isn't as high usually.

Mechanical movement

Mechanical movement is the original way clocks and watches kept their time. They're powered by a wound spring called a mainspring and regulated by a balance wheel. This mainspring is wound either by hand or by a winding machine. The time between required windings varies from model to model, from extremely short (around 38 hours) to fairly long (240 hours).

Because of the inconvenience of winding the watch and its relative inaccuracy compared to quarts, mechanical movement has fallen out of favour with all but a select few premium wrist-worn and pocket watches made by exclusive brands like Hamilton watches. However, for some watch fans, there's nothing like the authentic feeling of winding up their own watch.

Automatic movement

Automatic movements are powered by kinetic energy, which is generated by the wearer's motions. As you go about your day, a small weight rotates, which transmits energy to a coiled spring, which releases into a modified mechanical watch. Wear your watch consistently and there's no need to wind it or do any vigorous exercise - the movement of your wrist as your watch is enough to keep it powered.

They eliminate the need to manually wind your watch, and thanks to clever cut-away designs enabled with toughed crystal glass, you can see the mechanism working in many models. This movement type is preferred by the premium men's watches brands. You'll find automatic watches from Rolex, Omega and others.

So what's the catch? They aren't quite as accurate as quartz watches. Some models can vary by around three seconds a day, so you will need to reset your watch every few days to ensure its accuracy. This only takes a second or two though, so as long as you keep on top of the corrections you won't have a problem.

Solar-powered watches

Solar-powered watches aren't really a movement type. Instead they're a subset of quartz watch that draw their energy from the sun via a set of photovoltaic cells. Solar-powered watches offer all the strengths of a regular quartz watch in regards to accuracy but their batteries are rechargeable.

The upside to this is that you don't need to replace the watch's batteries nearly as often. While a regular watch battery will last 2-3 years on average, rechargeable batteries found in solar watches can last for 20-40 years. However, this system is more expensive than a traditional quartz watch. Solar watches are offered by many premium brands including Citizen watches, Timex watches and even hybrid smart watches like Garmin watches.

In conclusion, there are many movement types to choose from when it comes to men's watches. By understanding the differences between each type of movement, you can make an informed decision on what type of watch is right for you.

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