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Behind the Face - How Do Watches Really Work

Back in 2010, the BBC published an article that suggested the days of people wearing a watch on a day-to-day basis were coming to an end.

Ernest Jones - Editor

A survey at the time found that one in seven people in the UK had no need to wear a wristwatch at all, mainly due to the rise of smartphone technology. Nearly 10 years on however, the truth is actually very different.

Since the introduction of the smartwatch, the humble wristwatch has seen something of a renaissance of late and while wearing habits may have changed from generation to generation, watches are seemingly more popular than ever.

Nowadays, watches are seen as the ultimate accessory with some of the world’s biggest fashion brands jumping on the bandwagon and releasing their very own collection of timepieces. Whether it’s Gucci, Michael Kors, DKNY or Hugo Boss, the number of watch brands available is staggering.

How Do Watches Work?

That little watch you’re wearing really is a marvel of precision engineering.

In this article, the watch experts at Ernest Jones will take you through the incredible world of watches, looking at exactly how watches work, whether that be automatic, quartz, eco-drive or mechanical movements.

How Do Automatic Watches Work?

Batteries not included – literally. Automatic watches are also known as self-winding watches. This means that the watch uses a weight inside the casing that puts tension on the springs within the case to continue to work with the motion of the wearer’s arm.

Some manufacturers of automatic watches are rightly proud of these intricate mechanisms and want to show them off. That’s why you’ll see many automatic watches referred to as ‘skeleton watches’ which in layman’s terms means that you can see the tiny cogs and springs working away via a glass frontage or back. They’re a fascinating sight to behold and a great piece of engineering

How Do Quartz Watches Work?

Generally, any battery-powered watch is called a quartz watch. Although that might be doing these watches a bit of a disservice. They are still extremely intricate and use the power of quartz crystals paired with their small battery to power the watch. Despite having this small battery, quartz watches use so little power that they can go several years without the need for a replacement.

Nevertheless, quartz watches, like many others, are susceptible to changes in temperature meaning that their timekeeping ability can be impacted very slightly by extreme alterations in the temperature of your surroundings. Many of the world’s largest and most desirable watchmakers use the quartz system to construct their timepieces; from Gucci and Breitling to TAG Heuer and Michael Kors. Fascinating stuff.

How Do Eco-Drive Watches Work?

Citizen Eco-Drive watches are a revolution in watchmaking. By harnessing energy from both artificial and natural light, these timepieces reduce the need to dispose of used batteries. In fact, in North America alone, Eco-Drive watches have stopped an estimated 10 million batteries from going to landfill.

In a similar way to how we would charge our phones or electric cars, Citizen Eco-Drive watches store energy in a rechargeable cell. Citizen claim a lifespan of 10 years for the solar elements used in their watches.

Inside the mechanical watch

How Do Mechanical Watches Work?

Mechanical watches function in a similar way to automatic watches whereby they use a clockwork mechanism that allows them to measure the passage of time. The difference between mechanical and automatic watches is that mechanical timepieces need to be wound periodically.

Winding is normally done via the crown – the circular dial on the side of your watch. By following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, you can wind the watch to ensure it continues to function without losing seconds

Top tip: try not to wind mechanical watches too tightly as this can damage the internal components of the watch, resulting in a costly repair. On the flip side, if you don’t wind a mechanical watch enough it will lose time quickly, needing more frequent attention.

If you have any questions about your new timepiece or need any advice on how to get the most from your watch, head over to your local Ernest Jones store where you’ll find our helpful staff who will be able to assist you.

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