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Watch Movements: The Science that Makes a Watch Tick

Watches are beautiful pieces of art, but they’re treasured for the way they move. But what keeps them moving? Learn more about watch movements today!

Watch Movements: The Science that Makes a Watch Tick

What’s the first thing you notice about a watch? The case or bezel? Maybe the dial? The outward facing elements of a watch are definitely pieces of art, but it’s what’s inside a watch that separates it from being just a piece of jewelry. But not every timepiece uses the same kind of movement to turn the hands of the timepiece to which it belongs.

There are several types of watch movements that ateliers utilize when constructing their timepieces, and all of them have merits that set them apart. The three most common movements you’ll see when you visit the showroom of Rumanoff’s Fine Jewelry include quartz, mechanical, and automatic movements, which we’ll discuss here!

Quartz Movements

Quartz timepieces, like those from Michele, were both a leap forward and a cause for concern for the watch industry back in the 1970s. Rather than utilize a mainspring like traditional watches, these timepieces utilized an electric charge from a battery. This charge would be fed into a piece of quartz, which is a piezoelectric (mechanically reactive to electricity) crystal. The charge causes the carved tuning fork crystal to vibrate at a constant rate, which can be read by circuitry. In inexpensive watches, this circuitry merely produces a digital readout on the screen, but in atelier-designed timepieces, the crystal will cause a motor to rotate at the proper time.

Fortunately, the industry adapted to quartz technology by distinguishing their quality mechanical products from supermarket watches or by utilizing batteries to supplement mechanical engineering!

Manual Movements

Before the innovation of quartz watches, mechanical watches were the mainstay of the timepiece industry. As mentioned, mechanical watches work thanks to a mainspring which retains mechanical energy and doles it out at a constant rate, causing gears to turn. For manual watches, that energy is introduced by the watch owner turning the watch crown. While this may seem like an inefficient way to make a timepiece, given that the owner must turn the crown regularly, there’s a certain delight in the tradition of manual watches.

Ateliers, like the ones you can find in our watch finder, take the beauty of a perfectly designed machine ticking along and often show it off with what’s called a visual “tourbillon” that draws attention. The only thing to remember when purchasing a manual watch is that there’s a lot of delicate parts that make it “go,” and if even a single gear is broken or damaged, it can cause irreparable harm to the movement. It’s crucial to make sure that a manual watch is regularly maintained, cleaned, and oiled by a trusted watchmaker that has a reputation for watch repair.

Automatic Movements

The automatic watch is something of a happy medium in the world of movements. This particular style contains the same mainspring and gear system as a manual watch, but rather than utilize a crown to transfer mechanical energy, these timepieces have a special ratcheting counterweight attached to the mainspring. The slightest movements of the watch or wearer’s wrist transfers kinetic energy into the counterweight and then into the mainspring.

A watch lover will find that when designers create mechanical watches, they’ll often pick this movement. Even luxury designers like Baume & Mercier work their vintage looks around the mechanics of the automatic watch, since it doesn’t distract from the mechanical beauty of their work.

Learn More about Watch Movements at Rumanoff’s Fine Jewelry

If you’d like to find out more about the timepieces we offer at Rumanoff’s Fine Jewelry, or you’d like to learn more about watch movements, don’t hesitate to contact us at (203) 230-1199 today!

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