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Wrist Watch Movement Types

wrist watch movement types[intro]The humble wrist watch didn’t emerge until the 17th century and then it was more of a pocket watch than a true wristwatch. Popular among British women in the early 1900’s they were initially shunned by men as a fad and regarded as feminine trinkets. Practically won out however and during the First World War soldiers strapped their pocket watches to their wrists using leather straps. [/intro]

Two Wrist Watch Movement Types

Today there are two primary types of wrist watch movement; the original main spring with a mechanical escapement and the quartz crystal, electrical movement.


Considered by many as the greatest timepieces, mechanical watches require regular winding by hand, usually once a day. Automatic or Kinetic versions reply on the movement of the wears wrist to wind the watch and so require regular wear, left motionless for than 36 to 48 hours and they will lose power. The average mechanical watch gains or losses approximately 30 seconds a day. Although this makes them less accurate than electrical, quartz watches they are highly prised for their craftsmanship.

Note: Chronometers are considered the most accurate and highest quality mechanical wrist watches. Accurate to within 4 to 6 seconds a day over 15 days, they can withstand a range of temperatures and are carefully tested by the official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, (COSC).

It is a common misconception that shaking an automatic mechanical watch will generate significant energy to restore power to it. It is not so much the speed at which they are moved, but the regularity, meaning that they should be worn on average for 10 to 12 hours per day to maintain optimum accuracy.


The first production of the electrical, quartz wrist watch in 1969 revolutionised the watch industry. By far the more accurate of the two movements, electrical watches are accurate to within 30 seconds a month, don’t require winding or regular wear, just a replacement battery every few years.
Note: The two primary ways to display the time on a watch are analogue and digital displays.

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Other interesting facts about watch movements:

  • Aside from mechanical and electrical movements there are also solar powered watches which are gaining in popularity, especially as outdoor and sailing watches.
  • Modern watches are capable of doing far more than displaying the date and time. Many electrical movement wrist watches are fitted with alarms and timers and some are capable of containing a huge variety of modern gadgetry, including; calculators, GPS technology and even heart rate monitors.
  • A Tourbillon is an addition to the traditional mechanical movement. By placing the escapement into a rotating cage Tourbillon watches aim to counter the effects of gravity and so increase the watches accuracy. They are often regarded as highly prised and elegant timepieces.
  • The Precisionist movement created by Bulova is by far the most accurate watch available today. Accurate to within 10 seconds a year the Precisionist is still an electrical watch movement; it is the specially designed quartz crystal within that provides the remarkable accuracy.

Taking care of precision watches

Whether your watch is powered by a mechanical or electrical movement, if you have paid a lot of money for it, it is vital to take care of it appropriately. Many high value watches today, especially male orientated and sports watches are all but indestructible in terms of being water and pressure resilient and crafted from some of the toughest metals and alloys known to modern science.

No expensive watch however can repel a perspective thief, survive a fire or remind you that you’ve wondered off and left it by the swimming pool! Make sure you keep records of purchase along with any recent valuations and that you have adequate insurance to cover it. It’s also a good idea to get it regularly serviced by an expert.

If your timepiece is of particularly high value then make sure you have the right watch insurance cover.  For example do you need worldwide cover? Call and speak to the specialists, Highworth Insurance on 0844 225 4025 for further details.