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Watch Movements

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At Donaldson Watches & Repair, we believe providing exceptional service and education are key pillars in developing a lasting relationship.  Our commitment to these principals help ensure that you have a full understanding of different types of watch movements available. Understanding these unique watch movements will assist you in selecting the right watch for you based on your needs.

MANUAL-WIND MECHANICAL WATCH MOVEMENTS

The manual watch is the most traditional type of mechanical timepiece. These watches contain a manual movement (or hand-wound movement) that requires daily winding or turning of the crown to function. This action winds a coiled spring known as the mainspring. As the mainspring unwinds, this energy is released back into the watch gears to power the mechanical watch. These special movements can trace its roots back to the 16th century and is considered very desirable by collectors.

Understanding the main components of the manual-wind watch movement:

The Crown
The crown in a manual-wind watch is a small wheel on the outside of the watch case that serves two functions. It is used to set the time of the watch and it is turned in to wind the mainspring and give it the watch movement the power needed to keep time.

The Mainspring
In a mechanical watch, the mainspring is a coiled, flat piece of metal that stores the energy of the watch movement. When you wind the crown of your watch, you are tightening the spring and storing energy to provide power to the movement. This is a very sensitive part of manual-wind watches and it is important to never over-wind them.

The Gear Train
The gear train of a manual-wind watch is the component that transfers the energy stored in the mainspring to the escapement.  The gear train utilizes many small gears to transfer this stored energy from the mainspring to the escapement.

The Escapement
An escapement is the regulator of a manual-wind watch movement. This component ensures that the energy released from the mainspring is evenly distributed from the mainspring though the gear train.

The Balance Wheel
The balance wheel is the beating heart of a manual-wind watch movement.  As energy is transferred from the mainspring, gear train, and the escapement, the balance wheel ensures that this regulated energy oscillates (or beats) back and forth at a constant rate. If needed, a watchmaker can adjust the frequency of this oscillation to make the manual-wind watch movement run faster or slower.

The Dial Train
The dial train is an essential component of the manual-wind watch movement.  Through a series of small gears, evenly regulated energy is transferred from the balance wheel to the hands of the watch in order to make them move and tell time.

Jewels
There is a lot of talk about jewels in manual-wind watches. The jewels are often small, synthetic rubies that are set at points of high friction within the watch movement. They are resistant to heat and are very hard. Because of their durability, these jewels are used like bearings to reduce friction and wear within the watch movement. 

 

AUTOMATIC (SELF-WINDING) MECHANICAL WATCH MOVEMENTS

Automatic or self-winding watches were the next evolution of mechanical watch movements. These watches were not common until the early 1930s when Rolex 1st patented the modern rotor-driven system. Differentiating itself from a manual movement, a self-winding movement uses a weighted rotor which rocks back and forth to wind the mainspring while worn on the wrist. This unique system eliminates the need for daily hand winding.

Automatic watches utilize many of the same components as manual-wind watch movements with one major addition:

The Crown
The crown in an automatic or self-winding watch is a small wheel on the outside of the watch case that can serve a few functions.  It is used to set the time of the watch and in some cases, it is turned in to wind the mainspring and give it the watch movement the power needed to keep time.

The Mainspring
In a self-winding, automatic mechanical watch, the mainspring is a coiled, flat piece of metal that stores the energy of the watch movement. When you wind the crown of your watch, you are tightening the spring and storing energy to provide power to the movement. This is a very sensitive part of the watch and it is important to never over-wind them.

The Gear Train
The gear train of an automatic, self-winding watch is the component that transfers the energy stored in the mainspring to the escapement.  The gear train utilizes many small gears to transfer this stored energy from the mainspring to the escapement.

The Escapement
An escapement is the regulator of a self-winding watch movement. This component ensures that the energy released from the mainspring is evenly distributed from the mainspring though the gear train.

The Balance Wheel
The balance wheel is the beating heart of an automatic, self-winding watch movement.  As energy is transferred from the mainspring, gear train, and the escapement, the balance wheel ensures that this regulated energy oscillates (or beats) back and forth at a constant rate. If needed, a watchmaker can adjust the frequency of this oscillation to make the watch movement run faster or slower.

The Dial Train
The dial train is an essential component of the watch movement.  Through a series of small gears, evenly regulated energy is transferred from the balance wheel to the hands of the watch in order to make them move and tell time.

Jewels
Jewels are important components in the automatic, self-winding watch movement. The jewels are often small, synthetic rubies that are set at points of high friction within the watch movement. They are resistant to heat and are very hard. Because of their durability, these jewels are used like bearings to reduce friction and wear within the watch movement. 

The Rotor
The rotor is the key component that differentiates an automatic, self-winding watch movement from a manual-wind watch movement. Rotors are a weighted pendulum that spin freely 360 degrees as the wrist moves. Through this movement, the rotor winds the mainspring through a series of gears and gives the watch it's energy. Most rotors on automatic, self-winding watch movements have a clutch that disengages the winding mechanism when it senses the mainspring is fully wound.

 

QUARTZ WATCH MOVEMENTS

Considered to be one of the most accurate watch movements, a quartz movement uses a battery for its power source. It does not need winding like a mechanical watch and uses integrated circuits to control time keeping.

Understanding the main components of the quartz movement:

The Battery
This is the power source of all quartz watch movements. Most quartz batteries will last between 1-3 years depending on how you use your watch. 

The Integrated Circuit
The integrated circuit is a component that transfers the energy from the battery to parts of the quartz watch movement. It ensures equal regulation of power between the battery and the watch components

The Quartz Crystal
As the integrated circuit transfers energy from the battery, the quartz crystal vibrates at a constant rate to ensure even time keeping. It is similar in function to the balance wheel in a mechanical movement.

The Stepping Motor
A stepping motor changes the electrical impulses from the quartz crystal into mechanical power to move the hands of a quartz movement watch.

The Dial Train
The dial train, through a series of small gears, moves the hands of the watch in order to make them move and tell time.

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