Understanding different watch movements

Watch movement forms the beating heart of any timepiece. The internal working mechanism plays an essential role in keeping the hands ticking, as well as powering features such as chronographs.

From quartz to mechanical, and everything in between, there's a spectrum of watch movement types that control our timepieces, each one boasting its own unique set of characteristics.

Discover the differences between watch movement types with our straightforward guide and find out how your favourite style of watch works beneath the surface.

Watch movement types

What is a mechanical watch?

Synonymous with the finest craftsmanship, mechanical movement serves as the engine room of most luxury watches. Dive underneath the dial of a mechanical watch and you'll find an intricate series of components that work harmoniously to deliver timekeeping performance.

A coiled mainspring is wound up by hand every day to store energy. As it unwinds, a set of gears drive the hands to show the time, oscillating at a constant speed thanks to a balance wheel. The smooth-sweeping second hand, as opposed to the more common ticking motion, gives away its mechanical status.

This traditional method of watchmaking has been used by horologists for hundreds of years and was first invented during the 16th century. Since then, it is been tinkered with and developed to keep up with innovative advances.

This pedigree watch movement type tends to be installed in more expensive pieces than its quartz counterpart, as it is meticulously created by hand and revered for its quality craftsmanship. Mechanical watches from luxury watchmakers, such as Omega, Breitling and Longines, are available from Ernest Jones.

What is an automatic movement watch?

The sister of mechanical movement, automatic watches (also known as self-winding) are similarly designed around a mainspring system. The difference lies in how the energy is derived - automatic watches are powered by the natural motion of the wearers wrist. Worn regularly, this type of watch requires minimal maintenance.

Automatic watch movement was the brain child of John Harwood during the 1920s - born out of a need for a watch that wouldn't be crippled by dust or muck getting stuck in the winding system. New technology from Rolex took the movement to another level in 1931, designed around an ingenious Perpetual rotor system. To this day, Rolex's automatic technology remains the pulse of all contemporary self-winding watches.

Find the ultimate automatic watch for you among the collection at Ernest Jones, with brands such as TAG Heuer, Cartier and Montblanc to choose from.

What is a quartz movement watch?

Quartz technology burst onto the scene during the 1960s and revolutionised watchmaking as we know it. These battery-powered timepieces send an electrical current to a quartz crystal, which creates vibrations that power the watch's hands. The tell-tale mark of a quartz watch is the ticking movement of the second hand.

Since its creation, quartz movement has gone on to dominate the fashion watch world with its exceptional accuracy and easy-to-maintain nature. Plus, the batteries in this type of timepiece mean they need a lot less attention, tending to only need replacing every 18 months to two years.

Quartz watches are the perfect match for those looking for a timepiece that's affordable, stylish and accurate. Shop the range of quartz watches at Ernest Jones, which boasts brands such as Gucci, Michael Kors, Skagen and Olivia Burton.

What is an Eco-Drive watch?

Triggered by the decade's energy crisis, Eco-Drive movement was developed during the 1970s, in line with watchmaker Citizen's ambition to create a timepiece that needn't depend on a battery. This pioneering technology can generate energy from any light source, whether natural or artificial. All energy collected is then stored in a power-cell, which continuously recharges the watch.

Following this huge innovative leap, all Citizen watches are now equipped with Eco-Drive technology. Shop the full collection of both men's and ladies' models at Ernest Jones.

What is a hybrid smartwatch?

Disguised as traditional models, but boasting wearable technology, hybrid smartwatches are the perfect blend of smart and stylish. While quartz movement powers this type of timepiece, a classic aesthetic remains at the core.

You can enjoy the sophisticated design elements of timeless timepieces while also connecting your watch to your smartphone. Get notifications straight to your wrist via vibrations and enjoy fitness tracking on a sub dial. Hybrid watches are available from Ernest Jones, including models from Michael Kors, Skagen, Kate Spade and Fossil.

What is a kinetic watch?

Harnessing the power of kinetic movement, this type of watch took the industry by storm when it was first introduced during 1986 by Seiko. With just a flick of the wrist, movement by the wearer is converted into electrical energy and stored in a self-charging battery. Advances were made during the late 1990s with the Kinetic Auto Relay, giving this type of watch the ability to tell time with real precision, even when not worn for up to four years.

Environmentally friendly and highly reliable, kinetic watches are popular all around the world. Find a stylish selection of kinetic watches from Seiko at Ernest Jones.

What is a solar-powered watch?

Sunlight powers these clever watches. Solar panels are hidden beneath the dial, which are used to recharge the battery and keep the timepiece ticking over. Accurate and easy to maintain, solar-powered watches are an environmentally-friendly choice as they eradicate the need to replace the battery.

Roger Riehl introduced the first solar wrist watch, the "Synchronar", to the market in 1968. Since then, a number of brands have been championing this type of technology - Seiko, Citizen and Casio included. Discover the perfect one for you at Ernest Jones among our line-up of men's and ladies' models.

Whether you love the tradition of winding up your timepiece or prefer to put an environmentally-friendly spin on your wrist wear, watch movement types play a big role when choosing the perfect timepiece. Discover more with our expert buyer's guide to watches.

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