Last Updated on

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Watch Movements

Some people use watches mainly for utility, while others are attracted to popular brands and eye-catching designs. But a real watch enthusiast would know that the most important aspect in a watch is the movement, for it is where all the magic happens.

If you don’t know much about a watch movement, read further, so you can get educated on watch movements and know what type of watch movement you should look for when you purchase a watch.

What's a good watch movement

What Is a Watch Movement

Watches display time and other functions all thanks to the watch movement. The watch movement is the mechanism inside the watch that serves as the watch’s engine. It allows the watch to tell the time as well as do the additional functions, called watch complications, included in the watch if there are any, such as the calendar; chronograph; alarm; GMT; and etc.

What Are Good Watch Movements

There are different kinds of movements, and they offer different things. As watches differ in design, their movements have distinctive characteristics. Their movements either can have high precision, can provide particular complications, can be decorative, can last for several years, or can be a combination of any of these characteristics. So what makes a good watch movement can be based on what it is exactly what you are looking for.


For precision that’s definitely spot on, watches that bear the title, Certified Chronometer can assure you of highly precise timekeeping. These watches acquire their title by passing a series of tests done by a precision-certifying organization. In Switzerland, it is the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) that assures the quality of these watches, while in Japan, it is the Japan Chronometer Inspection Institute.


Certified Chronometers are watches that have been tested and have met the high standards in timekeeping precision. That being said, Certified Chronometer movements are composed of high-quality components and are skillfully crafted by expert watchmakers.


With their excellent quality and certification, Certified Chronometers come at an expensive price. Nevertheless, a more affordable watch with a quartz movement can be reliable in telling time accurately as well.


If there are particular complications you are looking for, then you will need a watch with a movement that supports that complication.

If you have a fascination for the intricate details of a watch’s machinery and love the aesthetic that it can make for a watch, then a watch with either an automatic or mechanical movement with a skeleton dial and/or exhibition case back would be the watch for you.

When it comes to longevity, watches will last long when taken good care of. But when it comes to design, a high-quality quartz watch is one to definitely last up to a minimum of 20 years. Since the arrangement of components of a quartz movement isn’t as complex as that of the automatic and mechanical movements, it doesn’t wear out too fast.  

Nevertheless, there are some automatic and mechanical watches that are designed with manufacturers’ respective anti-shock technologies, and some are also designed with jewels that help to reduce the wear and tear within the movement.

What Are the Different Types of Watch Movements?

Quartz Movement

The quartz movement is a battery-operated movement that’s very accurate. Of all the movements, it is the quartz movement that has the longest span of power, as it’s equipped with a battery that can power it for years. So there is not much maintenance needed aside from a battery change after a period of time.

Moreover, because quartz movements are battery powered, they don’t have many moving parts, which makes them more affordable, aside from the fact that they are produced by machine.


Automatic Movement

Rather complex, the automatic movement consists of an intricate arrangement of components, which are assembled by hand. It’s also known as self-winding movement, as it powers itself by drawing energy from the wearer’s own wrist motions.

However, it needs to be worn regularly to maintain power. If an automatic watch hasn’t been worn for a while, it will need to be wound to gain power for it to start. A watch winder can come handy for keeping an automatic watch powered and allowing it to continuously function when it’s not worn.


Mechanical Movement

Of all the types of movements, the mechanical movement is the oldest and most traditional. Like the automatic movement, it has an intricate arrangement assembled by hand.

This movement has to be wound in order to store energy in its mainspring, which is the source of power in a mechanical watch. Thus, it is also being referred to as hand-wound movement.

watch movement

How Do Watch Movements Work

As we’ve said earlier, a watch movement is an engine that makes the watch work. In order for the movement to run, it will need power.


For the quartz movement, the battery is the power source, which sends out electrical currents to electrify a small quartz crystal to create vibrations. Those vibrations are what maintains the oscillation of the movement and allows the watch to operate.


For the automatic movement, the movement of the wearer’s wrist powers it. In an automatic movement, there is a rotor. When the wrist moves, the rotor spins to transfer energy and automatically wind the mainspring. The mainspring, then, unwinds slowly to release energy, which is regulated by a series of gears and springs for making the hands and complications work.


For the mechanical movement, it is the mainspring that provides the power to it. The mainspring must be wound by turning the crown multiple times to accumulate energy to be released for powering the movement.

Which Type of Watch Movement Is the Best

Swiss Movement vs Japanese Movement

It was the Swiss that are the pioneers and have set the standards of watchmaking. It was in the 18th century when the first Swiss watch brands were established. Initially, they mainly produced mechanical and automatic watches.


The mechanical and automatic movements of the Swiss are very much appealing as they are efficient and robust. They are skillfully hand-crafted with keen attention to the intricate details of the arrangement of their parts to achieve excellence in terms of function as well as aesthetic.


These types of Swiss movements have a luxurious air and are expensive. Watchmakers and collectors alike highly regard these types of Swiss Movements.


It was in the early 1980s that the Japanese watchmakers introduced the quartz movement. Quartz watches are more affordable yet very precise as well, which made it all the rage, leading to a neck and neck competition between the Japanese and Swiss watchmakers. They are in fact, the two leading watchmaking countries.


What makes the Japanese quartz movement more affordable is that unlike the Swiss automatic and mechanical movements, the quartz movement isn’t as complicated and is produced through an automated assembly, which allowed low manufacturing cost. But even though they come at a cheaper price, it’s very much precise.

Later on, the Swiss watchmakers caught on with their own quartz movements, and the Japanese watchmakers, too, brought some automatic and mechanical movements to the table.


But when it comes to automatic and mechanical movements, the Swiss movements are more detailed and are made by hand as compared to the less elaborate Japanese movements, which are also produced through an automated assembly.


Chinese Movement vs Japanese Movement

Like Japanese movements, Chinese movements are also more affordable options, even more affordable than the Japanese movements actually. Chinese movements have the lowest prices in the market.


However, their reputation has been badly hurt by some poorly manufactured Chinese movements. While it is true that the quality of the Chinese movements cannot compare to the Swiss movements, China has become one of the world’s major watchmaking countries and has been growing out of their negative image in the watch industry.


In fact, Chinese movements have started making waves when the popular fashion watch brand, Fossil made an order of 800,000 mechanical movements from the Chinese watch movement manufacturer, Sea-Gull, and their purchase has been increasing since.


Moreover, the two biggest companies in the Chinese watch industry, Shanghai and Sea-Gull, who had primarily manufactured timepieces for the masses have improved the quality of their watch movements and are slowly moving on to the higher-end market.

Final Thoughts

Do you know how does watch movement work now?

And which type of watch movement do you think is the best one?

Do you have any other questions that you still did not know about watch movement?

Please let me know in the comment and I will reply you soon.