All About Watch Movement Types
Confession, we’re obsessed with watches (it is our business, after all). We channel that obsession into making sure our watches not only look good, but also keep perfect time. We won’t bore you with all the intricate details, but watch movement technology has come a long way. A few centuries ago, you’d be wearing an old school watch that could barely keep time. Today, you have the choice between automatic, quartz, and mechanical watches, among other options.
We want to find you the perfect watch that will be your go-to timepiece for years to come. And the only way to do that is to craft a watch with tasteful styling, quality craftsmanship, and the best timekeeping technology around. So which type of watch do you choose? There are pros and cons to every technology, so the answer depends on your needs. Time to get schooled on all things watch movements.
What is a Mechanical Watch?
Mechanical watches are the oldest type of watch. Their movement is also called a hand-wound movement or manual movement because you have to turn the crown to store energy in the mainspring. This stored energy is then used to run the watch until it has to be wound again. Mechanical watches are wound when they are worn. Many watch collectors choose mechanical watches because of their history, intricate movement, and classic appeal.
The Pros and Cons of Mechanical Watches
There are many benefits and considerations of mechanical watches and knowing these can help you decide if a mechanical watch is right for you:
- Extreme craftsmanship - Because these watches have such a rich history, they’re crafted with an extreme level of detail and care. This is one of the reasons why watch lovers seek out these symbols of classic timekeeping.
- Can last a lifetime - When maintained properly, mechanical watches can last a lifetime and can be passed down from generation to generation. This also means that a family’s mechanical watch can hold a lot of sentimental value (we would totally rock a great grandpa pocket watch).
- Needs manual winding daily - These watches aren’t going to wind themselves. Having a mechanical watch means that you need to manually wind it every day. Manually winding your watch doesn’t take long, but it’s one more thing to add to your to-do list for the day.
- Not the most accurate - Mechanical watches are known for their beauty and history, but not necessarily for their accuracy. It’s easy for a mechanical watch to get off by a few minutes.
- Expensive - These watches require a lot of intricate craftsmanship, making them more expensive than other watch movement options. Although the watch market is changing and you can find beautiful mechanical and automatic watches for less, they’re still going to be more expensive than their quartz watch counterparts.
What is an Automatic Watch?
Automatic, or self-winding, watches are similar to mechanical watches, but they can wind themselves when worn on your wrist. Automatic watches have a rotor that turns with the motion of your wrist, meaning that you don’t have to manually wind it every day. This also means, though, that you need to wear an automatic watch consistently to make sure it stays wound.
The Pros and Cons of Automatic Watches
Here are a few of the pros and cons of automatic watches:
- Don’t need to manually wind - The beauty of the automatic watch is that you get the same movement as a mechanical watch, without the commitment of having to wind it every day (if you can’t commit to an entire Netflix series, committing to manually winding a watch might not be for you).
- Extreme craftsmanship - Like mechanical watches, automatic watches are made with a high level of detail and craftsmanship. They’re beautiful timepieces that can pass the test of time.
- They can last a lifetime - Speaking of time, automatic watches can last a lifetime when maintained properly. They can even be passed on through generations, making them the perfect sentimental keepsakes.
- Need to be worn constantly - Some automatic watches stop working after just 12 hours of no activity. This means that you either need to wear your automatic watch almost all the time to keep it running, or manually wind it when needed. Taking it off for bed is totally fine.
- Not the most accurate - Automatic watches may be more accurate than mechanical watches, but they’re still not as accurate as quartz watches and can easily get off, especially if they’re not worn consistently.
What is a Quartz Watch?
Quartz watches use batteries as their power source. They’re the most accurate type of movement because the watch’s battery sends electrical signals to a quartz crystal and these vibrations are what make the watch hands move. More on that later.
The Pros and Cons of Quartz Watches
Just like the other types of watch movements, there are pros and cons to quartz watches.
- Less expensive to produce - Quartz watches are easier to make, which means they’re less expensive for you.
- More accurate - As we mentioned, quartz watches are the most accurate type of watch movement on the market right now. Unlike automatic or mechanical watches, they don’t stop ticking unless the battery is dead. They are extremely accurate because they use the vibrations of the quartz to keep time.
- Don’t need to be wound - Set it and forget it with this cutting-edge movement. No need to manually (or even automatically) wind your watch.
- They can be slimmer - Quartz movement takes up less space than automatic or mechanical movement, meaning that the watches themselves can be sleeker. They also come in a wide array of styles, including digital. Quartz watches are the only type of watches that can have digital faces.
- Needs battery replaced every few years - you need to replace the battery in quartz watches every few years, otherwise, they won’t work. A watch battery replacement usually costs $10-$20 and takes about a half an hour, depending on the watch.
Mechanical vs Automatic vs Quartz: Which One is Right for You?
As we’ve seen, each type of watch movement has its list of pros and cons. Some are easily available but not as valuable, while some are rarer but not as accurate. So which is right for you?
Let’s start by outlining some questions to ask yourself before you buy your next watch:
- How important is the craftsmanship of the watch to you?
- Does setting time and winding annoy you?
- How often are you going to wear your watch?
- Do you need your watch to be super accurate?
- What is your budget?
- How long do you want to keep your watch for?
- Do you care about the history behind your watch?
- Which is more important to you, style or craftsmanship? Or both?
Now let’s break those questions down.
If the craftsmanship of the watch is really important to you, invest in an automatic or mechanical watch. These types of watch movements require a high level of craftsmanship and care, making them a beautiful timepiece that shows off the intricacies of timekeeping.
If you're all about style, a quartz watch might be a better bet. A lot of quartz watches are still extremely well made, and because the movement is smaller they tend to be very sleek.
If setting the time or winding a watch annoys you, you should definitely consider a quartz watch. Quartz watches don’t need to be wound and simply need new batteries every few years to keep running.
If you’re going to wear your watch every day, you should be fine with either an automatic or quartz watch. Automatic watches are wound by the motion of your wrist, so if you wear it all the time you shouldn’t have to manually wind it. Quartz watches don’t need to be wound at all, so you’re good to go.
What to Consider Before Buying Your Next Watch
We get it, making decisions can be tough. Here are a few more pointers that should make things easier.
You can find all three types of watch movement for various price points, but the key is to find a quality watch at a price you can afford. Most quartz watches will be about $150-$300 and automatic watches will be $300 or more. Some high-quality automatic watches can easily be $1,000 or more. If you're reading this, then you already know at Vincero, we offer exceptionally-crafted quartz and automatic watches for a fair price.
Another thing to consider when comparing prices of watches is whether or not you want to pass your watch down for generations. Automatic watches tend to hold their value greater than quartz watches and, when taken care of, can last for lifetimes.
Like with price, all three types of watch movements are available in various styles, depending on your preferences. The only stylistic thing to note is that mechanical and automatic watches tend to be slightly thicker than quartz watches. Also, quartz watches are the only type of watches that have the capability for digital displays.
Because they don’t have any electrical components that can fail, mechanical and automatic watches tend to last longer than quartz watches. If they’re taken care of, they can easily be passed down through generations. They may need servicing every few years to make sure they’re in good condition, but with a little TLC, they’ll be the perfect long-term choice.
To Sum it All Up
In today’s watch game, not all timepieces are created equal. There are multiple types of watch movements, including mechanical, automatic, and quartz watch movement. Here are some last things to think about.
- Mechanical and automatic watches feature timekeeping technology that has been around since the beginning of watches. They have more complicated parts, meaning that they will be more expensive, but rare mechanical and automatic watches are keepsakes that you can pass down for generations.
- Mechanical and automatic watches aren’t as accurate as quartz watches, though. The introduction of quartz watch movement made it possible to create slimmer, stylish wristwatches that are accurate, more affordable, and come in virtually endless styles.
- Quartz watches, though, are more mass-produced than collectible mechanical and automatic watches. They can last a long time when taken care of properly, but they likely won’t last as long as mechanical or automatic watches.
At the end of the day, what matters more than the type of watch movement is that you love whatever watch you get. If you need more help, deciding on a movement, reach out to us on Instagram, we love hearing from you.