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To any watch owner, the pieces on their wrists can quickly come off as a symphony of pieces that work together in perfect harmony while pulling off complex systems too small to see.
As you go deeper into the realms of watch ownership, the pinnacle of having a timepiece and cherishing it can be found in the ultimate need to understand how everything works. However, jumping into the idea of knowing what keeps it ticking may be intimidating because of all the terms and technicalities involved.
With terms like “minute repeaters” and “tourbillons,” knowing about your favorite thing in the world will inadvertently have you repeat a few words until they make sense. Although it’s no secret that the world of watchmaking is filled with jargon that each bears their own level of significance and complexity, there are some that inhibit more curiosity than the rest – one of which is the watch movement.
The importance of watch movements
Watch movements are actually far from straightforward: They’re intricate little pieces of machinery with parts that can be thinner than a strand of hair that comes in many forms.
Generally, this part stands out as a must-know for any “watch-head” because of how pivotal it is for a timepiece. Whether you’ve got a historic Rolex Oyster Datejust Perpetual that’s a few decades old or an alluring Seiko SKX007 that you use every day, the fact of the matter is that the movement is one of a watch’s more vital pieces.
Once you get to the point where you know the watch names and models by heart and can easily differentiate them, the next step towards becoming a full-fledged connoisseur is to know how the movements work.
The basics of watch movements
The best way to understand how movements work is to remember these analogies: movements are to watches as what engines are to cars, motherboards to computers, and hearts to human bodies. In other words, these parts are wholly responsible for allowing and helping any piece operate as expected!
Technically speaking, watch movements are components that are responsible for carrying out the numerous functions of a timepiece. Without this component, no wrist-worn eye-candy can function optimally, which means that if a movement stops, so does the whole watch.
The different types of movements
Even though manufacturers have tried to apply out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to innovating watch movements, there are two main options that are used the most: Mechanical and quartz.
Mechanical movements are a series of interconnected parts that power older or more bespoke pieces with a type of winding that is powered by the movement of a wrist. On the other hand, quartz movements are innovative iterations of mechanical movements powered by quartz crystals that help keep everything running even when a watch isn’t worn.
The various components of a movement
Although mechanical and quartz movements work differently when it comes to how movements are made, maintained, and controlled, they share four common parts present across all models:
- The mainspring: A coil of metal that stores energy by winding up tighter and tighter for accurate time and management depictions.
- The gear train: A piece that receives power from the mainspring and then pushes that power through a series of increasingly smaller gears.
- The escapement: A tooth-filled, circular part that receives energy from the gear train. The teeth get caught so that the energy directed at the balance wheel is metered out.
- The balance wheel: A piece that swings back and forth (like a pendulum) and is responsible for keeping time.
Out of the different parts of your beloved watch that you’ll need to start keeping note of as you grow more familiar with its nuances, none are more vital than the trusty watch movement. Once you understand more about how this piece works and how it runs your timepiece, you’ll easily grow a sense of appreciation and understanding of how everything works!
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