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What are the differences in watch movements? | Fjordson

What are the differences in watch movements?

April 09, 2017

The watch movement, also known as "calibre", is the heart of a watch. It's what makes the watch "tick". 

The three most widely used watch movements are quartz, manual and automatic movements. Manual and automatic movements are mechanical; they consists out of mechanical parts like gears and springs. Quartz movements have an electrical circuit and require a battery to run.

1. Quartz movement

Quartz movements are very accurate and require minimal maintenance. They are powered by a battery that sends electrical signals through a piece of crystal quartz. The quartz vibrates 32768 times per second. These vibrations are measured by the circuit and converted into single pulses every second. Quartz movements can be identified by a ticking motion of the second hand, whereas mechanical watches have second hands with a sweeping motion. 


  • Accuracy: quartz movements are the most precise movements on the market 
  • Low maintenance: there are only a few moving parts, resulting in low maintenance
  • Durability: a quartz timepiece has fewer moving parts that may require repairing, making it more durable than a mechanical watch

2. Manual movement

Manual movements, or hand-wound movements, are the oldest type of watch movements. These mechanical movements require daily winding in order to work. A mechanical movement uses energy from the hand-wound mainspring to power the watch, instead of batteries like in quartz movements. 


  • No batteries needed: there's no need for battery replacements since the energy comes from the hand-wound mainspring
  • Aesthetics: manual movements consist out of more (moving) parts than quartz watches, resulting in complex and sometimes fascinating movements
  • Daily winding is required: since the movement's energy comes from a hand-wound mainspring, daily winding is required, which is less accurate than a quartz watch

Tip: Manual movements should be wound until there is a feeling of tension or tightness on the crown. If it is wound past this point, damage to the movement may occur.

3. Automatic movement

Automatic movements work largely the same way as manual movements, except that a metal weight, called rotor, is added. This rotor spins with every movement of the wrist, transferring energy and automatically winding the mainspring.


  • Automatic winding: unlike manual movements daily winding is not required with an automatic watch
  • When not worn, the watch stops functioning: if an automatic watch is not worn regularly the watch will stop functioning, since the mainspring needs energy from the moving wrist

Tip: There are watch winding boxes on the market to wind automatic watches when not worn. 


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