Understanding Watch Movements: Automatic vs. Mechanical vs. Quartz

Watches are more than just tools for telling time—they're expressions of style and craftsmanship. 

At the heart of every watch is its movement, the mechanism that makes it tick. Understanding different types of watch movements can help you choose the right watch, no matter if you're a collector or buying your first one.

There are three main types of watch movements: 

  • Automatic
  • Mechanical
  • Quartz
  • Each type has its own features, benefits, and downsides. 

  • Automatic movements combine the charm of mechanical watches with the convenience of self-winding.
  • Mechanical movements are admired for their intricate design and traditional appeal. 
  • Quartz movements are known for being precise and low-maintenance. 
  • Let us understand more about watch movements and find out what makes each one special.

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    What is a Watch Movement?

    Watch movement is the internal mechanism that makes a watch work. 

    The movement consists of tiny parts like gears and springs that work together to keep the watch ticking. Without a movement, a watch is just a piece of jewelry—it wouldn't be able to tell time.

    There are three main types of watch movements:

    Automatic Watch Movements

    The celebrated NH35 automatic movement is the main caliber used in the Monterey portfolio. 

    Automatic watch movements, also called self-winding movements, are a clever combination of classic craftsmanship and modern ease. 

    They work like mechanical movements but with a neat twist: they wind themselves as you wear them. Inside the watch, there's a rotor that moves with your wrist's motion, automatically winding the watch's mainspring. 

    This means as long as you wear your automatic watch regularly, it stays wound and keeps accurate time without needing manual winding. 

    Mechanical Watch Movements

    A manual (self-wind) movement

    Mechanical watch movements are like tiny, intricate machines that run purely on mechanical power. 

    Instead of a battery, they use a tightly wound spring called a mainspring, which you either wind up manually or automatically as you wear the watch. 

    As the spring slowly unwinds, it releases energy that drives the gears and hands of the watch, keeping time ticking along. 

    Mechanical watches are loved for their craftsmanship and often have beautifully decorated parts that you can see through the back of the watch. 

    Quartz Watch Movements

    A quartz (battery-powered) movement. 

    Quartz watch movements are powered by a small battery that sends an electric current through a tiny quartz crystal, making it vibrate steadily. 

    These vibrations are used to move the watch hands at a consistent and accurate pace. 

    Quartz watches are known for being very precise and low-maintenance. They don't need winding, and the battery usually lasts several years, making them very convenient. 

    Because of their reliability and ease of use, quartz movements are popular in both affordable and high-end watches.

    Comparing Automatic, Mechanical, and Quartz Movements

    1. Accuracy: Quartz movements are renowned for their exceptional accuracy, typically losing or gaining only a few seconds per month. Mechanical and automatic movements, while impressive in their own right, are generally less precise, with variations of several seconds per day.
    2. Maintenance: Quartz watches require minimal maintenance, usually only needing a battery replacement every few years. On the other hand, mechanical and automatic watches need regular servicing to ensure optimal performance. This includes cleaning, lubrication, and adjustments by a qualified watchmaker every few years.
    3. Cost: In terms of upfront cost, quartz watches are often the most affordable option, making them accessible to a wide range of consumers. Mechanical and automatic watches, however, tend to be more expensive due to their intricate craftsmanship and higher production costs.
    4. Durability: Quartz watches are highly durable and less susceptible to damage from shocks and vibrations compared to mechanical and automatic watches, which contain delicate moving parts. However, with proper care and maintenance, mechanical and automatic watches can last for generations, becoming cherished heirlooms.
    5. Prestige and Perception: While quartz watches offer exceptional accuracy and reliability, they are sometimes perceived as less prestigious than their mechanical and automatic counterparts. Mechanical and automatic watches are prized for their craftsmanship, tradition, and the artistry involved in their construction, making them highly desirable among collectors and enthusiasts.
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