Differences Between Quartz, Automatic, and Mechanical Movements

Watch movements are the holy grail for watch enthusiasts. It is the powerhouse of every watch; without it, it will not function. It holds the internal mechanism that produces movements to the hands and complications.

For some people who are starting to appreciate the art of watches, watch movements can be confusing for them. 

It would be better to have a watch that has the best movement with an aesthetically-pleasing look. We will show you the differences between the watch movements.

breitling watch face

Manual Movement

Watches engineered with a manual movement are hand-wound. The wearer has to wind the watch regularly manually. The manual movement is driven by a spring mechanism or mainspring, which needs to be wound on a regular basis. When the wearer wounds the crown to a single direction, it winds the mainspring and powers the watch.

There are hundreds of tiny parts that orchestrates the motion for the watch to tick. As the gears slowly turn, it delivers energy towards the mainspring. The wearer would know if the spring is fully wound, the crown will not turn any longer. If the wearer forgets to turn the crown, the energy that maintains consistent timekeeping will run out, and the watch will stop running.

manual mechanical movement

Source: Wristwatch Blog Demo

The general design of the watches has not changed much throughout the years. But, today’s technology has given mechanical movement watches improvements in precision and details. The only difference between the manual movement and the quartz movement is their driving mechanism.

Quartz mechanism may be battery-operated, yet it may stop working and cost some for the repair. Other than watches with mechanical movements, it only needs to be set and wound after it stops working.

Moreover, several mechanical watches have a clear case back. It gives the wearer a jawbreaking view of the gear rotations. The elegant accuracy of mechanical watches powered by its springs and gears is the reason why most luxury watches are mechanical.


• The very first wristwatch movement

• Sophisticated style and transparent case back
• Smooth hand movement
• Power-reserve from the mainspring
• Follows a predictable torque giving wearers the privilege to regulate it for the best accuracy


• Requires manual winding of the mainspring every 24 hours 

• Gives inaccurate time if the wearer forgets to wind the crown
• Sensitive to the environment
• Expensive

Automatic Movement

The automatic movement is the second type of mechanical movement watch. An automatic watch has a different movement than the mechanical watch. Even though both need winding, it has a slight difference. The automatic watch does not need to be wind every day for it to continue ticking. It has an oscillator that powers the watch through the wrist movement. The mechanism means that as long as the watch is regularly worn, it will keep the watch wound.

automatic mechanical watch without background

Source: Wristwatch Blog Demo


But, just like the mechanical movement, the power-reserve will run out. In automatic movements, the power will last until a specific time. It will only need a quick winding to have the initial power back. Some automatic watch users secure a watch winder to keep their watch fully wound without being regularly worn.

Most automatic watches may have significant variations or may be customized. In every complication added to the watch, it increases the craft complexity. An example of a luxury automatic watch was made by Vacheron Constantin, which featured 57 different features. It took him eight years to finish the piece.


• Entails exquisite craftsmanship of good and extensive design, knowledge and precision.
• Easier to maintain
• Requires no winding when worn every day
• Can be wound manually or with an automatic winder machine
• Power is from the rotor movement


• Needs to hand-wind after not using it for 36 to 72 hours
• Heavy-weight due to the rotor
• Needs to be worn every day, and you have to move around to wind it
• Expensive

Quartz Movement

It was in 1969 when Japanese watchmakers introduced the quartz movement through Seiko. This type of watch is different from the two mentioned above. The quartz movement relies on a battery for timekeeping.

What makes the quartz movement different from the two is its accuracy. It does not need to be regularly wound to have accurate timekeeping. The battery will send an electrical signal through the crystal quartz. The signal is transformed into vibrations to manage a single pulse every second, and the pulse is what makes the hands consistently move.

Breitling quartz movement

Source: Breitling Blog


Moreover, quartz watches are less expensive and with low maintenance. Wearers are only required to replace the battery for two years or less. However, this might be tricky; dead batteries may leak and may cause damage to the watch.

Those who aspire to become a watch enthusiast must know the easy way to distinguish a mechanical movement to a quartz movement. Wearers can do this by watching how the second-hand moves on their watch. A quartz watch movement produces individual ticking motion per second on their second-hand. Meanwhile, mechanical watches provide sweeping motions on their second-hand.


• Does not require winding or frequent use
• Less expensive
• Low maintenance


• Requires battery replacement
• Lacks craftmanship


The intricate mechanism of each watch is a work of art. Every luxury watch has its level of craftsmanship and quality. Each is created artistically by expert watchmakers making the timepiece have an elegant design and accurate timekeeping. But, luxury watch collectors prefer mechanical or automatic movements. Let yourself fall into one of the types of a watch movement and share your ideas below if you have different insight!

Recent Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *