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Luxury Watch Movements: A Beginners Guide

Q Report Team
Updated on October 06, 2022
3 min read

When it comes to luxury watches, a “movement” is what makes the watch go.

 

Most watch producers purchase their movements from other watch companies, but a handful of firms create their own movements. These are highly sought after and expensive watches because of their exclusivity.

 

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the basics of watch movements and what you need to know as a collector. As you explore luxury timepieces, you’ll come across three main types of movements: mechanical, automatic and quartz.

 

Mechanical

Dating back to the 16th century, a mechanical movement still powers many of today’s luxury watches. Many watch collectors value traditional watchmaking and the history behind mechanical movements.

 

A mechanical movement must be wound every day. The kinetic energy stored in the mainspring keeps the watch moving, counting each second of the upcoming day. How does it work?

  • Turning the crown winds the mainspring, storing energy to power the watch.
  • The gear train transmits the energy to the escapement.
  • The escapement parcels out the energy in metred units.
  • The balance wheel beats the energy out at a constant rate.
  • The dial train transfers energy to the watch’s hands every so many beats.
  • The watch’s hand advances.
 

As a watch collector, what do you need to remember about mechanical movements?

  • Your watch will need daily winding.
  • Never wind your watch while it’s on your wrist to avoid damaging the movement, crown and stem.
  • Never wind your watch past the point of tension.

 

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Automatic

Back in the early 20th century, watchmakers developed a movement that didn’t require daily winding. The motions of the wearer’s wrist turn a rotor, which powers the movement. Sometimes called “self-winding,” automatic movements eliminate the need for manual winding. If you don’t wear the watch daily, however, the watch will stop and require hand winding.

 

An automatic movement is perfect for a watch collector who appreciates the engineering and design of mechanical watches but doesn’t want to deal with the daily maintenance of winding. How does an automatic movement work?

  • The wrist’s movement turns the rotor, which winds the mainspring. (When needed, the crown can also be turned to wind the mainspring).
  • The gear train transmits the energy to the escapement.
  • The escapement parcels out the energy in metred units.
  • The balance wheel beats the energy out at a constant rate.
  • The dial train transfers energy to the watch’s hands every so many beats.
  • The watch’s hand advances.
 

Owners of automatic watches should remember:

  • Taking your watch off before bed does not mean you’ll have to wind the movement in the morning.
  • Leaving your watch unworn for several days may require that you wind it with the crown before the next time you wear it.

 

Quartz

The first watches powered by quartz movement made their debut during the last week of the 1960s. Unlike mechanical and automatic movements, a quartz movement is powered by a battery, and hence, it never needs to be wound.

 

Quartz movement is the most accurate type of watch movement on the market today. When Seiko debuted its first quartz watch in Tokyo on 25 December 1969, the “Astron” was sold for ¥450,000, the equivalent of a Toyota Corolla. Today, the watch world is nearly all quartz. In 2015, quartz movement powered 97 per cent of all the watches produced in the world. How does it work?

  • The battery transfers power to the quartz crystal via the movement’s integrated circuit.
  • Electricity causes the quartz crystal to vibrate.
  • The electrical pulses travel to the stepping motor through the integrated circuit.
  • Every 32,768th electrical pulse travels to the dial train.
  • The dial train moves the watch’s hands.
 

As a collector, keep the following in mind:

  • Quartz movement batteries must be replaced.
  • A battery usually lasts about a year and a half.
 

Which type of movement appeals to you? Whatever you choose, cover your precious timepieces with Q Report watch insurance. Get a free instant quote, and discover how affordable it is to protect your luxury watch.

 

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