Watch movements guide

What you need to know about watch movements

If you're on the hunt for a new watch, there are plenty of features that make each one unique. Understanding movement and working out which type you prefer is as good a place as any to start when searching for the right timepiece for you.

Movement is what makes a watch 'go'; it's the engine and the mechanism that ensures all its functions keep ticking over nicely. It's this instrument that moves the hands and powers all the watch's timekeeping functions. Put simply, a watch won't work without the movement.

Movement can be divided into two categories – those with a mainspring and mechanical function and those powered by electricity. We've put together a handy guide so you can be confident that you know your automatic movement from your quartz – and everything in between.

Different types of movement

What is a mechanical watch?

If you're a fan of tradition, this centuries-old type of watch is for you. Mechanical watches ooze class thanks to the fine craftsmanship and intricate work that has gone into putting them together. In a mechanical watch, a series of tiny components and moving gears work together to power the piece. It gets its energy from a mainspring that is wound every day or every few days. As this wound spring uncoils, it powers a balance wheel, which turns a number of times per second to move the watch's hands.

You don't need to look much further than the dial to clock a mechanical watch. Check out that second hand – if it's moving in a smooth, sweeping motion, you're looking at mechanical movement (as opposed to the individual 'tick-tock' of quartz movement).

Which brand of mechanical watch is for you?

Mechanical watches are very reliable and are over 99.9% accurate in their timekeeping. They're the watch of choice for collectors and connoisseurs due to the level of expertise and fine-tuning that has gone into them over hundreds of years. If you've got your heart set on a mechanical watch, your next decision is which brand you go with. You'll find renowned brands including Rotary and Mount Royal among H.Samuel's offering of mechanical watches.

What is an automatic movement watch?

Another type of mechanical watch, an automatic watch is self-winding and gleans power every time you move your wrist. But how do automatic watches work? While they're similar in many ways to mechanical watches in how they keep time (with the balance wheel and a mainspring), automatic watches house a weighted pendulum, which spins with the wearer's movements. This energy is then transmitted through to wind the spring. This type of watch will store energy for up to 48 hours, so it needs to be worn regularly, but requires little maintenance otherwise.

While Abraham-Louis Perrelet is considered the inventor of the automatic winding pocket watch, it was Bolton-born watch repairer John Harwood who first applied the idea to wrist watches. Rolex can lay claim to being the first brand on the scene with this modern rotor winding system when it brought us the Oyster Perpetual in 1920 – and the technology behind this Rolex movement hasn't changed in the 98 years since.

Which brand of automatic watch is for you?

If you like the sound of the easy-wearing, low-maintenance automatic watch, there's no shortage of brands to choose from. Find brands including Lorus, Sekonda and Timex in H.Samuel's collection of automatic watches.

What is a quartz movement watch?

This type of watch is battery-powered and has few moving parts. Quartz watches first became available in the late 1960s and have grown in popularity since thanks to their accuracy and low maintenance. With a quartz watch, you can expect around half a second a day gain or loss – impressive accuracy in comparison to some otherl movement types.
But how does a quartz watch work? An electronic charge from the battery makes a tiny piece of quartz vibrate at a set frequency to regulate the time. The principle is less complicated than some of its counterparts so it's less expensive to manufacture – so most quartz watches are cheaper to buy.

While watch enthusiasts will always go for the technical expertise of mechanical movement, quartz watches are big news in fashion. They're stylish, affordable and display superior accuracy.

Which brand of quartz watch is for you?

There's a huge selection of quartz watches on the market – and they're all on the lower end of the price spectrum compared to other types. Among our bestsellers are Seiko's kinetic offering, while eco enthusiasts shouldn't overlook Citizen's Eco-Drive, which is light-powered and stores energy for up to five years. Browse the H.Samuel collection of quartz watches to find your best-match brand.

Whether you're all about engineering ingenuity at the hands of expert watchmakers or prefer the simple yet precise offering of a quartz watch, the perfect timepiece for you will depend on your own taste and lifestyle. Head back to our watch buying guide to find out about other important features of your wrist wear.