Watch Movements: Manual vs. Automatic vs. Quartz

Know Your Movements

Under carriage of an expose Watch
As you start learning more about watches, you might have noticed watches are described by their movement: manual, automatic, or quartz. The movement of the watch is the parts of the watch that make it tick and might include mechanical parts like gears and springs, or an electrical circuit connected to a battery.So why do watch lovers care so much about watch movements? Mechanical movements, such as manual and automatic movements, are more expensive than quartz movements powered by a battery because they require more work to build. Most watch connoisseurs prefer an automatic movement because those watches require more craftsmanship.Here’s a quick comparison of the three movements side by side:



  • Oldest type of movement
  • Requires daily winding
  • Found in expensive and collectible watches


  • Introduced in the beginning of the 20th century
  • Self-winding while on the wrist
  • Found in many modern, luxury watches


  • First introduced by Seiko in 1969
  • Battery-powered with electric circuit
  • Found in many modern watches

How Movements Work

So what exactly goes on inside the watch? Here’s a quick overview of each movement:

How Manual Movements Work

Manual movements are some of the most complex types of movements because they require transferring energy that comes form the mainspring. You need to turn the crown to store energy into the gear train and then the part called the escapement sends energy into other parts. The dial train keeps transferring energy to the hands of the watch every few beats which is what makes the hands move.

How Automatic Movements Work

Automatic movements rely on the movement of your wrist to wind the mainspring but you can also turn the crown. Just like manual movements, energy is stored in the gear train and then the pushed to the escapement meter to push energy into different parts. The balance wheel regulates the energy transfer and the dial train transfers energy to the hands of the watch.

How Quartz Movements Work

Quartz (Seiko) WatchQuartz movements are battery-powered watches so there’s no need to wind the watch or count on wrist movements. As a result, quartz watches are extremely accurate. With a quartz watch, electricity runs from the battery to a quartz crystal and the electric charge makes the quartz vibrate at a rate of 32,768 pulses per second. These pulses are sent to a stepping meter which sends the electrical pulse forward to the dial train which then moves the hands on the watch.DISCOVER MORE:What Waterproof and Water Resistant Actually MeanWhat Exactly Are Watch Complications?The Watch Crystal: 3 Types You Should Know