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The Ultimate Guide to Watch Movements And How They Work
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The Ultimate Guide to Watch Movements And How They Work

Have you ever wondered what makes a watch “go”? Just like a car is powered by an engine, a watch is powered by its movement. If you’re a seasoned watch enthusiast, you probably know your way around different watch movements and their features. However, you might be slightly confused if you’ve recently developed a taste for watches. 

We’ve developed this comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide to watch movements so you can choose based on your needs. 

Three Main Watch Movement Types - Explained

Picture this: a tiny, intricate world made up entirely of gears, springs, and circuits. That's what powers your wristwatch, whether manual, automatic, or quartz. While quartz and auto-quartz watches need a battery, they still rely on some mechanical parts to keep time ticking smoothly.

But here's the kicker: mechanical watches are actual works of art. They're handcrafted with a level of detail that's simply unmatched by their battery-powered counterparts. That's why they come with a much steeper price tag. But for watch collectors and connoisseurs, it's worth every penny.

Watch movements explained in detail for you

Sure, battery watches might be more accurate on paper, but they lack the soul that comes with a finely crafted timepiece. With manual and automatic movements, you're wearing a piece of history on your wrist, a culmination of centuries of innovation, skill, and passion.

Let’s explore each movement in detail: 

Mechanical Movement 

You’ll find this movement in the oldest of watches, which are now considered collectables because of their antique nature. This movement is the oldest and is often called the hand-wound movement since you have to wind the watch daily to work for the day. It was invented in the 16th century and is the very foundation on which all other kinds of movements were innovated. 

Parts of a Mechanical Movement:


This is the small wheel on the side of the watch case, which is used to wind the watch.


This is the leading powerhouse of the movement, which stores all the energy from the winding of the crown as it gets tighter and tighter. 

Gear Train

This consists of small gears that transmit the energy collected from the mainspring to the escapement. 


This is the break of the movement as it takes the energy from the mainspring and the gears and cuts it down into equal parts. 

Balance Wheel 

This is the core of the movement as this wheel beats or oscillates in a circular motion with the energy from the escapement. It usually beats at a rate of five to ten times a second or can be adjusted to beat slower or faster. 

Dial Train 

This is another set of gears that take the energy from the beating balance wheel and regulate it equally for transmission to the watch hands. 


These are synthetic rubies that are used at points of high friction, such as between each gear to elongate the life of the movement and the watch's accuracy. 

How Does a Mechanical Movement Work? 

  1. When the crown is turned, the mainspring coils tighter and tighter and stores energy 
  2. The energy is then transferred to the escapement through gear train 
  3. The escapement divides the energy into equal parts 
  4. The balance wheel uses this equally segregated energy to beat back and forth at a steady and constant rate 
  5. This energy is then transferred to the hands after a regular intervals and that’s how the hands move ahead. 

Before you decide to get a watch with manual movement, you must remember that it requires a lot of care and daily winding. 

Quartz Movement 

This is the most accurate type of movement invented to date. It uses a battery to power the watch and doesn’t need any winding like a mechanical movement does. Most watchmakers rely on the quartz movement to power their timepieces since it is extremely reliable. 

Japanese Quartz Watch Movement

Parts of a Quartz Movement


The battery is the power source of this movement. This lasts for about a year or two and needs to be immediately replaced when it runs out or the acid can leak and permanently damage the watch. 

Integrated Circuit 

The current or charge produced by the battery is carried to the other parts of the watch through this circuit. 

Quartz Crystal 

This is just like the balance wheel in a manual or mechanical movement. It vibrates when an electrical charge is supplied to it. The vibrations produce voltage. 

Stepping Motor 

This voltage is then transferred into mechanical power by this motor 

Dial Train 

This works like the dial train on an automatic movement that sends the energy from the stepping motor to the hands to make them move ahead. 

How Does a Quartz Movement Work? 

  1. Electric charge produced by the battery is carried to quartz crystal through the integrated circuit. 
  2. The crystal vibrates steadily at 32,768 per second 
  3. These impulses are then sent to the stepping motor through the integrated circuit 
  4. Every 32,768th pulse is sent to the dial train through the stepping motor 
  5. This energy is then transferred to the hands through the dial train and they move forward. 

Automatic Movement

An innovation over the manual watch movement, the automatic watch movement was discovered in the 20th century. It is self-winding and mechanical but will need to be winded if you leave it unworn for a long time. 

A Treehut Wooden Watch With Automatic Watch Movement

Parts of an Automatic Movement 

Since automatic movement was founded on the basic principles of the mechanical / manual watch movements, all components are the same and work on the same principle. There is only one extra component i.e. the rotor that allows the watch to be self-winded. 


The rotor is a metal weight attached to the watch's inner workings that swing back and forth as you move your wrist. It's connected to the mainspring by a set of gears and as it spins, it winds the mainspring, giving your watch the energy it needs to keep ticking.

But there's a clever little mechanism at work here: the rotor has a clutch that disengages it from winding when the mainspring is fully wound. In other words, once your watch is fully charged up, the rotor takes a break to prevent overwinding and keep everything running smoothly.

We hope that your watch-buying journey becomes a little easier as you start to understand and differentiate between the different kinds of watch movements. You can choose from a range of Japanese Quartz and Automatic movement-based watches here at Treehut made with high-quality materials and movements. 

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