TYPES OF WATCH MOVEMENTS
There are three different types of mechanisms, known as movements, that watchmakers use to craft their watches: mechanical, automatic, and quartz.
This is the classic. The first watches were mechanical, containing intricate inner workings that revolve around the use of the mainspring—the component that powers the watch.
The tightly-wound mainspring gradually releases tension over a set period of time, in turn activating all of the wheels and other components inside the watch. Over a long enough time, it will eventually lose tension; to keep your mechanical watch ticking, you have to keep that mainspring wound.
Also known as a self-winding watch or a perpetual motion watch, automatic watches contain all of the same intricacies of mechanical watches—with an added feature.
While the old-school mechanical watch needs to be wound by hand to keep working, an automatic watch has a self-winding mechanism that uses the kinetic energy of the watch’s wearer (i.e., when they swing their arms as they walk) to keep the mainspring wound.
This is a more recent method for powering watches. Instead of all the intricate inner workings of mechanical and automatic movements, quartz movements use an internal battery. Because of their simplicity, many quartz watches are more affordable than their complex counterparts.
Seeing as the main purpose of a watch is to tell the time, how the time is displayed is very important. Here are the different designs that you’ll see (or feel):
This is the most traditional and common display type for watches—and timepieces in general. Pretty much every classroom in America has an analog clock on the wall…and pretty much every student in America has found themselves staring at the second hand at some point in their tenure. If the clock has hands that turn and point to numbers on a dial, that’s an analog display.
Digital displays use an LCD screen to show the time. You’ll find digital displays on ovens, microwaves, coffee machines, and pretty much any appliance that includes a timekeeping feature.
Digital watches are popular for their ability to instantly tell time without having to interpret the positioning of the hands on a watch’s face—people who have difficulty reading analog displays will probably prefer digital options.
As one might assume from the name, this is a combination of analog and digital. Many different watch types feature hybrid displays, ranging from simpler designs—with a traditional analog face and an additional digital display—to those with more complicated features (for instance, watches that include fitness trackers or the ability to connect with a smartphone).
This specialized type of watch can tell time without needing to look at a display. Tactile watches were created in the early 1800s so that people could discreetly know the time without having to take their watch out of their pocket (back in the days before wristwatches).
These days, tactile watches are helpful for the blind. Braille watches are also available for that purpose.
The Information Age has brought us some pretty incredible equipment, including smartwatches. While tiny little wrist computer-communicators used to be a thing of science fiction, reserved for the likes of James Bond and Buzz Lightyear, these days, smartwatches are available from a variety of retailers.
Since smartwatches offer multitudes of features and applications, there’s not enough room on the watch face to display everything at once—necessitating a touchscreen display. This feature makes it possible to switch screens and scroll through messages and articles. (Extra points if you’re reading this article on a watch right now.)