Quartz and Mechanical Watch Movements Explained

Watch movements are the mechanism by which a watch measures and displays time. They may be either mechanical or quartz, with variations of each. The mechanical movement has been used by the watch-making industry for centuries while the quartz movement was first introduced in 1964 at the Tokyo Summer Olympics by Seiko. Both types of movements and the accuracy of each are discussed below.

Mechanical Movements

Traditional mechanical movement watches use the energy of a spiral wound spring, referred to as the mainspring, to measure time by highly regulating the release of energy by the spring with a series of gears, referred to as the wheel train, and an escapement mechanism to limit and control the winding and unwinding of the mainspring into a periodic and controlled release of energy.

They also use a balance wheel in conjunction with a balance spring, referred to as a hair-spring, to control the motion of the gear system similar to the pendulum in clocks. A tourbillion, an option in mechanical movements, uses a rotating frame for the escapement, used to control or reduce the effects of gravity in the timepiece. Due to the complexity of the design of a tourbillion, they can be very expensive and are found in more expensive mechanical watches.

Manual mechanical watches require the user to rewind the mainspring periodically by turning the crown, Modern manual watches are designed to run for 24 to 40 hours per winding, requiring the user to wind the watch on a daily basis. A self-winding or automatic watch uses the motion of the wearer’s body movements to rewind the mainspring. They use a winding rotor which couples to a ratchet that automatically winds the mainspring. Self-winding watches can also be wound manually to keep them running when not being worn.

Mechanical movements are sensitive to magnetism, position and temperature. They require regular adjustments and maintenance, and thus are more prone to failure. They are accurate to within a range of +/-5 to +/-10 seconds per day, or 3 to 6 minutes per month.

Quartz Movements

Watches utilizing quartz movements have very few moving parts, compared to the mechanical movement watch. They use a battery as the electrical source to cause a tiny quartz crystal in conjunction with the crystal that forms a quartz oscillator to resonate at a highly stable and specific frequency which is used to more accurately pace the timekeeping of the watch. They are geared to drive the mechanical hands on the face of the watch to provide a traditional analog display, which is preferred by most consumers.

Quartz movement or electronic watches are more accurate than mechanical movement watches. They are normally accurate to within +/-.5 seconds per day, or to within 3 minutes per year. The most accurate quartz movements are thermal compensated and are accurate to within +/-5 seconds per year. Quartz watches are normally less expensive than mechanical watches and require very little maintenance, normally consisting of changing the watch battery every year or two.

Conclusion

Quartz movement or electronic watches are normally less expensive and more accurate than watches powered by mechanical movements. They require far less care and maintenance than their mechanical counter-parts. Mechanical watches, on the other hand, with proper maintenance and routine adjustments maintain their value far longer than quartz watches. Personal preference and the intended use should be the determining factors when choosing a watch.

© J. Michael Wright



Source by J Michael Wright

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