Choosing the Right Watches’ Movements Affects Quality and Lifespan

January 20th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Although encrusting the face with thousands of diamonds can certainly skyrocket the monetary value of a watch, the true test of a watch’s value is time. A quality watch, theoretically, will keep working forever as long as it is serviced regularly (every 3-5 years is recommended).

The watches’ movements are the mechanisms that allow watches to consistently tell time for years on end.

Despite the crucial role of watches’ movements, many well-known watch companies (including Omega and Tag) outsource the production of their watches’ movement.

Read on to learn about:

  • The 5 watch movement parts
  • ETA watch movements
  • In-house watch movements

5 watches’ movement parts

Watches’ movement mechanisms contain 5 basic moving parts:

  1. Mainspring, a coiled flat spring that stores energy to power the watch. The mainspring has a mechanism that allows it to be “wound up,” including a rachet to prevent unwinding. The mainspring is contained in a small cylindrical drum known as the barrel.
  2. Wheel train, which is a set or system of gears arranged to transfer power. The wheel train contains both large gears, known as wheels, and small gears, known as pinions. Two other sets of wheels divide the motion of the minute hand by 12 to move the hour hand and allow the hands to be set.
  3. Balance wheel, which swings back and forth with precise and constant time intervals between each swing (the beat). The pallet-lever receives energy from the mainspring through the impulses of the balance wheel and transforms it into alternating, or rocking, movement.
  4. Escapement, the mechanism that transforms the energy from the mainspring into impulses. Without the escapement, the wheels would turn quickly and the mainspring would be unwound in seconds. The escapement consists of a gear called the escape wheel, which is released one tooth at a time by an oscillating lever. When the escape wheel moves forward, it also distributes energy to the balance wheel to keep it moving.
  5. Indicating dial, which displays the time.

The parts of watches’ movement mechanisms work together to power mechanical watches and play the most crucial role in the quality and lifespan of a watch.

ETA watches’ movements

Switzerland-based ETA SA, a subsidiary of Swatch, is a producer of mechanical and quartz watch movements. They produce both complete movements and ébauche movements. Ébauche, which is French for “blank” or “outline,” refers to an incomplete or unassembled watch movement.

Around 80% of Swiss watches have ETA-manufactured movements. Even many companies that claim to use in-house movements still utilize a few ETA components.

ETA mass-produces watch movements, which leads to reduced quality. Additionally, Swiss watches of all price-ranges essentially carry the same or very similar movements.

In-house watch movements

In-house watch movements are produced entirely by the company’s staff and resources. In addition to increased accuracy, watches with in-house movements also have other benefits over ETA watch movements, including:

  • More control over design
  • Higher reliability
  • Customization and distinctiveness – your watch is unlike other brands’ watches
  • Simplicity

For prices in the low hundreds, Orient offers watches with mechanical movements that have been developed and assembled strictly in-house. An example of a great watch with an in-house movement is the Executive CEV0M001B.

At only $215, it has the quality of an expensive Swiss watch.

It features:

  • Completely in-house movement
  • Simple, professional design for everyday wear
  • Solid Stainless Steel band
  • 40 Hour Power Reserve
  • 30m Water Resistance

With proper upkeep, a well-designed watch can last, literally, a lifetime. Choose wisely when purchasing a watch, because superior quality will carry you through years of problem-free wear.

  1. 2 Comments | Tell us what you think!

  2. By Brennon Williams on Feb 16, 2010

    Thanks for the really informative article! I’m just getting started in watchmaking, do you know where I could buy unassembled watch movements (or ETA movements)?

  3. By Brent Kirchner on Mar 4, 2010

    This article helped me see a bit more about what makes a mechanical watch distinct from the other counterparts without being exclusive. Im glad that there are still a few in-house companies who are making mechanical watches that stand the test of time.

2 comments | Tell us what you think!