If you’re in the market for a new watch, you may want to read up a bit on the different watch types available.

Whether you’re looking for watches for men, women, or a maturing teenager, there are thousands of options out there.

Fine watches come in a variety of styles, movement types, designs, and materials, so learning more about each criteria is important.

Today, we’re taking a look at movement types to help you understand which is most suitable for you or your loved one.

The Three Primary Watch Movement Types

There are three basic types of watch movement. Mechanical movement was the original watch movement type. Automatic movement watches are another type, and tend to be more popular with those who just need a functional watch. The third variety of watch movement is the quartz movement, which came about in the late 1960s.

watch movements

Image via Wixon Jewelers

The Differences Between an Automatic and Manual Mechanical Watch

The manual watch and automatic, or self winding watch are similar in several ways. However, their differences are significant and completely change how the watch itself keeps time.

Mechanical Movement Watches

Mechanical movement watches use a variety of components to power their time telling abilities.


The mainspring is the key component for making a mechanical watch work. This spring, usually made of steel, is a spiral ribbon tucked inside a cylindrical barrel. When a mechanical watch is wound up, it’s the mainspring that is being wound by the motion. This spring holds the tension from the winding, and slowly releases that energy to power the watch as it ticks away the time.

Gear Train

The gear train both transmits the force of the mainspring to the balance wheel, and enables the user to wind the mainspring.

Balance Wheel

The balance wheel is the component of the watch that oscillates back and forth within the watch. This movement takes a precise amount of time, and is the mechanism for telling time by the watch.

Escapement Mechanism

The escapement mechanism is the part of the watch that creates the ticking sound. It keeps the balance wheel vibrating, and allows the watch’s gears to advance, or escape, by specific increments.

Indicating Dial

The indicating dial is the watch face that shows the time.

Automatic versus Manual Movement Watches

The similarities between manual and automatic watches is definite. Technically, an automatic watch is a mechanical watch. The difference between them is the way in which the watch keeps the mainspring wound. The added components on the automatic watch adds an additional bit of weight beyond that of a manual watch.

The automatic watch uses the movement of the wearer’s wrist to power the mainspring’s movements. And as long as the automatic watch is worn consistently, it will continue to run.

The rotor in an automatic watch is the main component that varies from that of the manual watch. The rotor is the component that allows the movement of the wrist to automatically wind the mainspring.

The Advantages of an Automatic Watch over the Manual Watch

manual vs automatic watches

Image via Prestige Time

One of main advantages that an automatic watch offers over a manual watch is that you do not over-wind an automatic watch.

Over-winding can cause a watch to break. Either the mainspring will break from the excess pressure, or the balance wheel will get out of whack and can speed up the gear train movement. This can then cause the impulse pin to break.

The other main advantage of an automatic watch over that of a manual watch is that the wearer doesn’t have to keep as close an eye on the watch to make sure it is still running properly.

Manual watches require winding before the watch stops, or the time will be inaccurate. This is one of the main reasons that manual watches do tend to get over-wound and break.

Other Movement Types

Of course, if you’re not sure that an automatic or manual mechanical watch is the right option, there are other movement types.

Quartz movement watches have taken over as the most accurate for telling time.

Electric movement watches are another option, and vary in accuracy. They use a variety of systems including moving coil, fixed coil, tuning fork systems, or transistorized systems that use balance.

A quartz watch is technically an electric watch, as it uses electric impulses created by a battery to power its movement.

Things to Consider as You Shop

Whether you’re shopping for automatic watches for men or manual watches for women, knowing the difference will change the way you shop. Look up watches by movement types, styles, like driving or sports, and you’ll be able to find a design and color sure to suit your taste, or the style of someone you love.

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