Which Watch Movement Is Best?

The world of watches is vast, with an array of options to choose from. One crucial aspect to consider when selecting a watch is the movement it utilizes. The watch movement is the mechanism responsible for powering the watch and keeping time accurately.

Understanding the different types of watch movements and their pros and cons can help you make an informed decision. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of watch movements, compare their features, and guide you toward selecting the best one for your needs.

When it comes to choosing the ideal watch movement, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. The “best” watch movement depends on various factors, such as personal preferences, budget, lifestyle, and desired accuracy. By exploring the different watch movements available, we can better understand their unique characteristics and make an informed choice. So, let’s explore the world of watch movements and discover which one suits you best.

What is a Watch Movement?

The watch movement, also known as the caliber, is the internal mechanism responsible for driving the watch’s hands and powering its various functions. It comprises a complex system of gears, springs, and other components that work together to ensure accurate timekeeping.

Within the realm of watch movements, there are three main types: mechanical, automatic, and quartz. Each type offers distinct features, advantages, and disadvantages. Let’s delve into each one to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Mechanical Watch Movement

Mechanical watch movements have a long-standing history and are considered the traditional and artisanal choice. These movements rely on intricate mechanical systems, without the aid of any electronic components. The mainspring, wound manually or through an automatic winding mechanism, stores energy that gradually releases to power the watch.

Mechanical movements are known for their craftsmanship, precision, and the captivating sweep of the second hand. They embody a classic appeal and offer a unique connection to the heritage of watchmaking. However, they require regular winding to maintain accurate timekeeping and typically come at a higher price point compared to other types of movements.

Automatic Watch Movement

Automatic watch movements, also known as self-winding movements, combine mechanical craftsmanship with a convenient automatic winding system. These movements feature a rotor that responds to the wearer’s wrist movements, converting them into energy to power the watch.

The primary advantage of automatic movements is their self-sufficiency. They eliminate the need for manual winding, as long as the watch is worn regularly. This feature makes automatic watches a popular choice for individuals seeking a hassle-free experience. However, they may be less accurate than their mechanical counterparts and require periodic servicing to ensure optimal performance.

Quartz Watch Movement

Quartz watch movements revolutionized the industry with their precision and affordability. Unlike mechanical movements, quartz movements rely on a battery-powered electronic oscillator to regulate timekeeping. The quartz crystal within the movement vibrates at a precise frequency, providing highly accurate timekeeping.

Quartz movements offer exceptional accuracy, often surpassing mechanical and automatic movements. They require minimal maintenance, as the battery usually needs replacement every few years. Quartz watches are generally more affordable, making them accessible to a wider audience. However, they lack the traditional craftsmanship and allure of mechanical movements.

Comparing the Watch Movements

Now that we have explored each watch movement type individually, let’s compare them to highlight their unique features.

Mechanical vs. Automatic Movements

Mechanical and automatic movements share the same craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal. Both offer the mesmerizing sweep of the second hand, adding a touch of elegance to your timepiece. However, they differ in terms of convenience and accuracy.

Mechanical movements require regular winding, typically once every 24 to 48 hours, depending on the watch. This regular interaction fosters a personal connection with the watch. On the other hand, automatic movements eliminate the need for manual winding, as they harness the wearer’s natural wrist movements to keep the watch powered. This convenience makes automatic watches a popular choice for those who prefer a hassle-free experience.

When it comes to accuracy, mechanical movements are renowned for their precision, often boasting high-quality craftsmanship and meticulous regulation. However, due to factors such as variations in temperature, position, and regular wear, mechanical movements may experience slight deviations in timekeeping. Automatic movements, while generally accurate, can be influenced by the wearer’s level of activity and consistency in wearing the watch. Regular servicing is essential for both mechanical and automatic movements to ensure optimal performance and accuracy.

Automatic vs. Quartz Movements

Automatic and quartz movements differ significantly in their power source and accuracy. While automatic movements rely on the motion of the wearer’s wrist, quartz movements harness the power of a battery.

Quartz movements are renowned for their exceptional accuracy, typically losing or gaining only a few seconds per month. They are highly reliable and require minimal maintenance beyond battery replacement every few years. In contrast, automatic movements, although convenient, may exhibit slight variations in timekeeping due to external factors and require periodic servicing.

Another factor to consider is affordability. Quartz watches, with their mass production and simplified mechanisms, are generally more affordable compared to automatic watches. This accessibility makes quartz watches an excellent option for those seeking accuracy and practicality without breaking the bank.

Which Watch Movement is Best for You?

Determining the best watch movement for you depends on several factors that align with your preferences, lifestyle, and budget. Consider the following aspects when making your decision:

1. Price: Mechanical movements are often the most expensive due to their intricate craftsmanship and traditional appeal. Automatic movements fall within a similar price range, while quartz movements tend to be more affordable. Set a budget that aligns with your expectations and explore options within that range.

2. Maintenance Requirements: Mechanical and automatic movements require periodic servicing to ensure their longevity and accuracy. This maintenance can add additional costs and time commitments. In contrast, quartz movements require minimal maintenance beyond battery replacement. Consider your willingness to invest in maintenance and the longevity of your timepiece.

3. Accuracy: If precise timekeeping is of utmost importance, quartz movements offer unparalleled accuracy. They are reliable and provide consistent performance. However, if a few seconds’ deviations per month are acceptable, mechanical and automatic movements can provide a traditional touch and a connection to the art of watchmaking.

4. Longevity: Mechanical movements are known for their longevity, often lasting for generations with proper care and maintenance. Automatic movements, when well-maintained, can also have a long lifespan. Quartz movements, while highly accurate, may require replacement of the movement itself after several decades due to wear and tear. Consider the longevity you desire from your timepiece.

It’s important to choose a watch movement that aligns with your personal style, preferences, and the purpose for which you’ll be wearing the watch. Whether you value the traditional craftsmanship and elegance of mechanical movements, the convenience, and self-sufficiency of automatic movements, or the precision and affordability of quartz movements, there is a watch movement that suits your individual needs.

Expert’s Opinion on Watch Movements

To provide additional insights, we reached out to renowned watchmaking experts and enthusiasts. They unanimously agree that the best watch movement depends on the individual’s lifestyle and preferences. While mechanical movements offer a captivating heritage and connection to the artistry of watchmaking, they require dedication in terms of regular winding and maintenance. Automatic movements provide a balance between convenience and craftsmanship. Quartz movements, praised for their accuracy and affordability, cater to those seeking precise timekeeping without compromising on practicality.

Popular Watch Brands and the Movements They Use

Now let’s take a look at some popular watch brands and the movements they incorporate into their timepieces:

Rolex: Rolex is renowned for its mechanical movements, often referred to as “Perpetual Movements.” These movements are known for their precision, reliability, and longevity. Rolex also offers a range of models with automatic movements, providing a blend of convenience and craftsmanship.

Seiko: Seiko is a brand that offers a diverse range of watches, including models with both automatic and quartz movements. Their automatic movements are highly regarded for their accuracy and robustness, while their quartz movements provide exceptional precision and affordability.

Citizen: Citizen is known for its Eco-Drive technology, which combines quartz movement with a solar-powered system. These watches harness both natural and artificial light sources to recharge the battery, eliminating the need for regular battery replacements.

Omega: Omega is another esteemed watch brand that features a mix of mechanical and automatic movements in its timepieces. Their mechanical movements, including the Co-Axial escapement, are highly regarded for their precision and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Watch Movements

Are mechanical movements more accurate than quartz movements?

While mechanical movements offer exceptional craftsmanship, quartz movements are known for their superior accuracy. Quartz movements rely on battery-powered electronic oscillators, resulting in highly precise timekeeping.

Do automatic movements require regular winding?

Automatic movements harness the motion of the wearer’s wrist to power the watch, eliminating the need for regular winding. However, if the watch is not worn for an extended period, it may require manual winding or a watch winder to keep it running accurately.

How often do quartz watch batteries need to be replaced?

Quartz watch batteries typically last between one to five years, depending on the specific watch and the battery’s quality. Regular battery replacement ensures optimal performance and accurate timekeeping.

Can you hear the ticking of a mechanical or automatic watch?

Mechanical and automatic watches often have a smooth, sweeping motion of the second hand, which creates a sense of continuous movement rather than audible ticking. This characteristic adds to their allure and elegance.

Are mechanical movements more durable than quartz movements?

Mechanical movements are known for their durability and longevity, with proper care and regular servicing. Quartz movements are also durable but may require movement replacement after several decades due to wear and tear.


Choosing the best watch movement is a personal decision that depends on various factors such as budget, maintenance requirements, accuracy, and personal style. Mechanical movements offer a timeless appeal, craftsmanship, and a connection to watchmaking heritage. Automatic movements provide convenience and self-sufficiency, while quartz movements offer exceptional accuracy and affordability.

Consider your lifestyle, preferences, and the purpose for which you’ll be wearing the watch. By understanding the unique features and characteristics of each watch movement type, you can make an informed decision and select the movement that best aligns with your needs.

Remember, the “best” watch movement is subjective and varies from person to person. Whether you value traditional craftsmanship, convenience, or precision, there is a watch movement that will meet your expectations and provide you with a timepiece that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Sherry's editorial journey seamlessly merges with her passion for horology at WatchReflect. As a seasoned editor and watch enthusiast, she curates insightful guides that cater to novices and connoisseurs alike. With a penchant for research and a flair for storytelling, Sherry transforms horological complexities into engaging narratives. Her mission is to illuminate the path for those navigating the multifaceted realm of timekeeping.

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