The 3 Basic Watch Movements

New to the world of watches? A beginner collector looking for the best watches the planet has to offer? For the uninitiated or into a quick learning curve of what to know about watches and the watch-making industry, here’s one for you - one of the most fundamental things about watches is knowing the different watch movements incorporated that powers the watch.

But first things first: the science of measuring time is called horology, and if you’re keen on diving into the deep end of this hobby, you’ll definitely encounter this terminology a lot. In fact, you may have read it already on a random Internet article listing the “best watch in 2019” or something similar.

Now that’s out of the way, here’s why having the knowledge and learning the difference among watch movements is important. Simply put: the watch movement is the brain, body and soul of the timepiece. It’s literally what makes the watch tick. Also called calibre, the watch’s movement is the mechanism driving the engine, so to speak.

Think of it as the chipset to your computer or laptop, or the engine to your car, etc. While it doesn’t tell you the whole story, it’s the main element that jumpstarts the journey. Most people when buying watches decide by how the watch looks, if it fits right in their hand and if it’s within budget. 

But for connoisseurs, the movement is as important as the aesthetic language the watch is presenting.

Mechanical Movement

Mechanical movement works by manual winding mechanism. Time is measured through springs (called the mainspring), so when this spring stops, the watch is needed to be wound manually. Some mechanical movement watches don’t need to be winded for more than 150 years, and therein lies the beauty of the art behind a watch with a mechanical movement.

Most, if not all of luxury watches are in mechanical movement. Purists will tell you that this is how a watch should be, in its most natural and organic form. Watchmakers take years and years to create the perfect mechanical movement, so when you’re buying one, you’re not just paying for the watch, you’re paying for its heritage and history.

Automatic Movement

Although generally deemed as an improvement to the mechanical movement, automatic movement basically uses the wearers motion to automatically wind up the movement. This is in conjunction with the Earth’s gravitational pull. Most mechanical and automatic watches have a self-winding mechanism, put there for a wearer’s convenience.

The best luxury lines of watches always have an option for automatic movement. Take, for example, the Omega Seamaster, which is an iconic watch popularized by the James Bond franchise. The product line carries all the available movements. 

When you buy a watch with an automatic movement, know that every swish of your hand is used by the rotor to self-wind.

Quartz Movement

Possibly the most modern of the three, the Quartz movement has only been around since 1969. Back then, it was a real industry shaker, as when it was launched by Seiko, it challenged the notion that there is no other way to make a watch other than employing a mechanical movement. 

Quartz movement relies on batteries to power the mechanism that makes the clock tick. The movement is way cheaper than the previous two, so watchmakers flock to it and made their own versions.

Although for connoisseurs, the Quartz movement is always a divisive movement. Some see it as a lesser counterpart for the two, others disagree. Time has proven that Quartz can hold its own against the previous two. Today, you can find a Quartz movement watch as expensive as those with mechanical movements.


Whether it’s a mechanical watch or an automatic one, or maybe even a Quartz movement watch you’re buying, bear in mind that at the end of the day, each of the movements have their own unique qualities and characteristics. You’ll never go wrong among the three of them, to be honest.