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What Are The Different Types Of Watch Movements?

What Are The Different Types Of Watch Movements?

There are three different types of movements in the wonderful world of watches: manual, automatic and quartz. The latter is completely electrical, while the former two are under the umbrella of a mechanical movement. 

Before we dig a little deeper into each watch movement, let's understand the basics...

What Is A Watch Movement?

A watch movement is a mechanism that essentially works as the engine that drives all timekeeping functions. A movement is essential to keeping accurate time and without one, a watch simply wouldn’t work. 

All three movements function differently, and it’s important to understand how each type works when deciding which is best for you. 

Manual Watch Movements

different watch movements

Manual watch movements date back to the 16th Century and are in fact the first of the mechanical movements. This type of mechanism is a hand wound movement which, in most cases, needs to be wound daily. 

The movement in a manual watch is extremely intricate. The central component is the mainspring, which is wound up manually and then gradually unwinds, providing the energy needed to power the rest of the movement.

Manual watches are often seen as collectable items, and although they require daily winding (which may put some people off), many manual watch owners enjoy the interaction with their luxury timepiece every day.

If you like the idea of a manual watch movement, take a look at our manual collection by classic watchmakers like Omega and Panerai.

manual watch movement

PANERAI Luminor Marina PAM00001 Manual Stainless Steel 44mm Watch - Black Dial

This strikingly bold pre-owned Panerai features stylised, highly legible Arabic numerals and luminescent markings atop a starkly contrasting pitch black dial, complete with its original Panerai calf leather and rubber strap.

Automatic Watch Movements

automatic watch movement

Automatic watch movements are identical to manual movements, however they operate by a self-winding movement which is powered by the motions of the wearer during use.

The Automatic mechanism is driven by a weighted rotor above the main spring that winds the movement as it’s worn, resulting in the watch being self-winding, and therefore “automatic”.

Automatic watches are great as they do not require regular winding, nor do they require an electrical power source to function. For automatic watches to keep accurate time, they do however need to be worn almost every day, or if left in storage, should be kept on a watch winder to keep the movement ticking. Learn more about why you should use a watch winder here

If you're looking for a timepiece in a traditional mechanical style, but don't want the responsibility of daily winding, then browse our collection of pre owned automatic watches from iconic brands such as Rolex, Zenith, and Tag Heuer.

quarts watch movement

ZENITH 95.9000.670/51.M9000 Defy Classic 41mm Titanium Automatic Watch - Blue Dial

Powered by the Elite 670 automatic movement, the Defy Classic is presented in a 41mm titanium case with an integrated titanium bracelet, fitted with a blue sunray-patterned dial. Featuring a 50-hour power reserve and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, this is a solidly-crafted, reliable wrist watch that's a superb all-rounder.

Quartz Watch Movements 

The quartz movement is by far the simplest of the three. Unlike those mentioned above, a Quartz mechanism uses a battery to run the engine and a quartz crystal to make the hand tick at the correct rate. To be exact, the battery generates an electric current that creates a vibration in a piece of quartz inside the watch. This piece of quartz vibrates at a specific frequency, keeping the ticking of the watch accurate. Pretty cool, right?

As Quartz watches don’t have many moving parts, they are more durable than automatic and manual watches, and also tend to be much lighter and slimmer than their mechanical counterparts. The simplicity of the design also allows more room for specialist features such as alarms, thermometers, compasses, altimeters and illumination.

If you’re looking for a watch with low maintenance, a Quartz is your best choice. They also keep incredibly accurate time - ideal when every second counts. 

OMEGA Aqua Terra 38.5mm Quartz Watch - Silver Dial

Powered by OMEGA's calibre 4564 quartz movement, this classic yet robust timepiece features a silver dial decorated with the Teak Concept patternOMEGA's calibre 4564 and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. It also boasts a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, protecting this unique dial. 


The Evolution Of Watch Movements

Watches were first designed to be carried in a pocket, usually attached to a chain. These first pocket watches were powered by mechanical movement, requiring the wearer to wind the watch to keep it ticking.

The earliest wrist watches were made by Abraham Louis Brequet, a Swiss watchmaker, in the 1800’s and were also powered by mechanical movement. 

It wasn’t until after the first World War that automatic movement started being used to power wrist watches.

In the late 1960s, Japanese watchmaker Seiko released the first Quartz powered watch to the market - the Quartz Astron 350SQ. . Seiko revolutionised the watch market by providing exceptional accuracy and increased convenience through the use of a movement that relied on a battery instead of a wound mechanism. 


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Written by Kate for Watch Obsession.