It’s perfectly fine to collect watches based on their style and fit on your wrist, but if you want to up your timepiece game, you have to go beyond looks. Behind every tick that your watch makes is a mechanism known as a “movement” or “caliber.” Apart from the jewels that make up your timepiece, it’s these movements that often determine your watch’s price and rarity.
There are two categories of calibers: quartz and mechanical. Here’s what you need to know about them.
The Timeless Mechanical Movement
If you recently inherited your grandfather’s watch, it’s likely made with a mechanical movement. As its name suggests, this caliber uses an intricate mechanism made of springs, cogs, wheels, and even synthetic jewels to make a watch’s hands turn. As such, these pieces don’t need a battery to operate. This movement has two subcategories:
- Manual – A manual mechanical movement is mainly powered by the mainspring, which turns the watch’s gears by unwinding itself. Other parts, like the balance wheel and escapement, control this release of energy and convert it into consistently accurate ticks. Most mainsprings only last a day or two before they finish unwinding. As such, they should be wound or tightened regularly.
- Automatic – An automatic movement shares similar components with its manual counterpart. But, as its name suggests, it doesn’t need to be wound regularly to work. This caliber uses a rotor or metal weight that rotates as you move your wrist, winding its mainspring automatically. As such, you need to wear these models regularly to keep them running. Because of the added rotor, they’re often thicker than manual watches.
These days, collectors covet mechanical movement watches, so these often come with a hefty price tag. A stainless steel Patek Philippe recently sold for $11 million at auction. You’re probably thinking why these models are still popular despite the maintenance that goes into keeping them. For most collectors, these watches are pieces of art.
Brands like Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Vacheron Constantin, and more all have their own mechanism designs. And most of these watches often come with a clear case on the back, so enthusiasts can marvel over the intricate ticks and turns each cog and spring makes. Plus, a well-made mechanical watch from a trusted manufacturer can last generations, making them the perfect family heirloom to pass on to your offspring.
Quartz Movement: Crystal Clear Innovation
A quartz movement uses, of course, a quartz crystal to operate. It works by sending an electrical current through the crystal, which makes it vibrate at a constant 32,768 times per second. This energy converts to pulses that make the watch hand tick once per second. The consistent process is why quartz watches are known for being accurate.
They don’t need constant winding or wearing to work, and don’t contain a ton of small moving parts, like mechanical watches, that are sensitive to shock. As such, they don’t take much effort or money to maintain. Just make sure to take them to your watch service center in Salt Lake City every few months to get the battery replaced. Though they don’t have the harmonious cogs and springs that manual watches have, quartz models such as the Tag Heuer Formula One and the Timex Waterbury United look just as cool and sharp.
If you’re getting into the watch collecting hobby or want an affordable daily driver that still looks sleek, get a piece with a quartz movement. However, if you’re passionate about the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into your watch, save up for a manual or automatic piece. The most crucial factor is that you’re getting your watch from a reputable brand or distributor. This way, you’ll have a timepiece that can last a lifetime — whichever movement you choose.