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What's The Right Watch Movement For You?

Since the beginning of time, humans have been using many different methods to tell the time. We started by tracking the stars, then moved on to using a shadow and a stick, water, sand, weights, springs, batteries and then thanks to our friend steve jobs, silicone. We’ve come a long way, increasing in complexity over thousands of years until we could comfortably carry our time tellers on our wrists but with this complexity comes a question.

Which watch movement is right for me? Leaving sand powered clocks and sundials aside for a moment. Let’s dive in to what options we have in the modern day when choosing a watch, the pro’s and cons of each and how each option can fit into your lifestyle.

Types of Watch Movements

Mechanical Movements (Hand Wound):

Mechanical movements are the most traditional type of watch movement used today. Although incredibly complex in construction, hundreds of years of watchmaking advancements have made them robust, precise and reliable. They rely on a complex system of gears, springs, and oscillating balances to keep time. In manual movements, the crown must be hand wound to wind up the mainspring. Once wound, the mainspring stores that energy and slowly releases it to power the watch. Every tick of the seconds hand is a direct translation of that energy being released by the mainspring.


  • The ritual of daily winding gives you a great connection to the watch, allowing you to feel the mechanism working.
  • Hand wound movements are generally thinner than their automatic counterparts.
  • If the watch has a lear caseback, you may also have a better view of the mechanism (without an automatic system getting in the way.


  • You have to wind it every day!

Mechanical Movements (Automatic):

Automatic movements, also known as self-winding movements, take the same principle as manual movements but eliminate the need for manual winding. While manual winding is still possible in some automatic movements, they feature a rotor: a semi-circular weight that moves freely with the motion of the wearer's wrist. With every motion, the rotor rotates, winding the mainspring and storing energy. Automatic watches will continue to run as long as they are worn regularly.


  • Automatic winding doesn’t require any manual intervention to keep it running.


  • Higher potential cost.
  • Automatic watches can be thicker in general.

Due to their inherently complex nature, the cost of mechanical watches are typically higher than their battery powered counterparts. Adding more complications (functions) only increase the complexity and can drive up the cost of a watch considerably. Despite this being an undeniably antiquated technology, there is undeniable romance in traditional mechanical watchmaking that acts as a time capsule showcasing how things were made in days of yore. The moment you lay your eyes on a mechanical movement, you will be entranced by its engineering feats. Traditional watchmaking art at its purest.

Quartz Movements:

Quartz movements revolutionised the watch industry when they were introduced by the Seiko group in 1969. Although watch snobs scoff at them for being “soulless” (they’re wrong), they are an undeniable turning point.

Quartz technology presents a giant leap in watchmaking history, drastically increasing precision and durability, and was the premier luxury watch tech in the past few decades.

Unlike mechanical movements, which rely on a mainspring for energy and a balance wheel for accuracy, quartz movements typically use batteries to power them and rely on the piezoelectric properties of quartz crystals to regulate timekeeping.

The battery sends an electrical current through the quartz crystal, causing it to vibrate at an extremely precise frequency. These vibrations are then converted into regular timekeeping pulses, making quartz watches incredibly accurate and low-maintenance.

Quartz movements are commonly found in both analogue and digital watches. Most quartz watches can run for years untouched until a battery needs to be replaced. Alternatively, a solar panel can also power a capacitor that will ensure that the watch is running as long as it sees some light. Because their construction is inherently simpler, adding complications are much easier (and therefore more affordable) to do when compared to mechanical movements.

While many look down on quartz, we are strong advocates of this historical engineering marvel. Not a quartz crisis, but a quartz revolution!


  • Quartz watches can run for a long time between battery changes and even indefinitely if paired with a solar panel.
  • High accuracy can be achieved due to the stability and precision of the quartz module.


  • Watch snobs don’t like it because it’s perceived ‘impurity’.
  • Many quartz movements are made from cheaper materials like plastic, however this can be avoided by making sure you’re getting a quality watch.

Hybrid Movements:

In recent years, watchmakers have developed hybrid movements that combine the best features of mechanical and quartz movements. These movements often feature a traditional mechanical movement paired with quartz technology for enhanced accuracy and convenience. For example, some hybrid movements use a quartz oscillator to regulate the timekeeping of a mechanical movement, resulting in a watch that offers the beauty of mechanical craftsmanship with the precision of quartz accuracy. Mechanical modules can also be added on top of a quartz base creating what’s known as mecha-quartz movements.


  • Best of both worlds!


  • Still have to think about replacing the battery.
  • Servicing costs can be higher than a normal quartz watch due to the complexity of the mechanical module.

Each type of watch movement has its unique characteristics, and the choice between them depends on personal preferences, budget, and lifestyle. Whether you prefer the traditional charm of a mechanical watch, the convenience and precision of a quartz watch, there is a movement type to satisfy your needs.

Happy shopping!


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