How to Identify Watch Movements Like a Pro

Few things are as satisfying as collecting a beautiful timepiece.

Your watch speaks for you and allows you to express yourself while literally wearing art on your wrist. People love watches for different reasons, but they can be worth a pretty penny and retain value when you buy those made with incredible watch movements.

When you know how to identify watch movements, you will truly be a more informed timepiece collector.

Here’s what you need to know about these watch movements and everything that comes with them.

What to Look for When Identifying Watch Movements

When it comes to buying a new watch, few things are as important as considering the various watch movements. These watch movements today are incredibly sophisticated and will allow you to truly marvel at the craftsmanship and years of horology knowledge.

The watch movement refers to the interconnected mechanisms and parts that dictate how the watch tells time. Different watchmakers have different styles, and there have become some movement staples in the world of horology.

You have to pay close attention to how the hands move, and how exactly the watch keeps time. There are always little details related to the speed, hesitation, and sound the gears make.

Keep in mind that watch movements are measured in lignes (pronounced “lines”). This Swiss measurement refers to the distance across the movement; essentially the diameter. A round movement will have a single number (i.e. 10 1/2 ligne).  Whereas an oval or rectangle movement will have 2 numbers (i.e. 6 3/4 x 8).   Ligne size can be converted to millimeters (mm) if needed.

However, the “thickness” of the watch movement is only measured in millimeters and ligne is not used for thickness.  Another important number is the jewel count.  Common jewel counts are “0”, “1”, and “7” and most are stamped on the back movement.  The higher the jewel count the better quality and more accurate the movement.

It’s important to get to know the movements because they also dictate the efficiency of the watch functions. Major functions of a watch include moving the hands, keeping the date and winding. Other parts include the dial feet which are posts used to attach the dial directly to the movement.  All of these parts are enclosed by a case to protect them.

Consider all of these aspects and research precise measurements when breaking down the differences in watch movements.

Identify Watch Movements by Knowing the Most Prevalent

Major manufacturers will place their signature brand on the watch movement. This is similar to how auto manufacturers include nuances in the engineering that become a hallmark in how their products turn out.

Here are the most common watch movement types that have been popular throughout the development of timepieces.

1. Manual Watch Movements

This is the oldest type of watch movement known to man and consists of winding the watch up by hand and allowing it to work throughout the course of the day.

With manual watch movements, the mainsprings are the standout feature, and they typically come with transparent cases that let you marvel at the gears. A lot of the biggest collector’s item timepieces were made with manual watch movements.

2. Automatic Watch Movements

With automatic watch movements, the watch is self-winding and doesn’t use a battery of any sort.

Instead, the watch is powered by the kinetic energy created by wearing it in your everyday life. The watch mechanism stores this energy and allows the watch to operate on its own without ever needing a battery.

Because you have to keep wearing it for the watch to keep having power, a lot of people purchase watch winders that keep the watch moving when it isn’t on their wrist.

3. Quartz Watch Movements

Quartz movements revolutionized watchmaking. The addition of quartz gave the watch incredible timing and accuracy, while also using a fraction of the energy.

This also lowered the manufacturing costs, so that consumers can get access to quality watches without having to break the bank.

When you buy a watch with quartz movements, make sure that you purchase the right battery also. You will need to research the specific button cell that fits your watch so that you can power it with no problem.

A reliable cell will keep a quartz watch ticking for more than a year.

Where was the Movement Manufactured?

The country of origin can give a good indication as the quality of the movement how it was manufactured.  Common identifiers to look for on the movement are “Swiss”, “Swiss Parts”, and “Japan”.

1. Swiss Watch Movements

Without question, the Swiss watch movement is the cream of the crop and gold standard when it comes to watchmaking.

This is the benchmark by which other watch movements are compared to. You can tell Swiss movements based on the craftsmanship and ease of motion.

In order for a watch to legally be advertised as having Swiss movements, it must also be made with Swiss parts that were manufactured in a Swiss watch shop.

If you purchase a watch that is certified with Swiss watch movements, you can generally count on it lasting a long time and giving you great service.

2. Japanese Watch Movements

The biggest rival to Swiss watch movements is the Japanese brand of watch movements.

Japanese movements are characterized by accuracy, efficiency, minimalism, and pure functionality. While these watches are great to look at, they make incredible tool watches since luxury and aesthetics are secondary priorities.

3. Private Branded Movements

Owning a Rolex watch is a rite of passage in the world of timepieces, and few are more satisfying and sought after as the Oyster Perpetual.

Rolex watches are characterized by having some of the smoothest watch movements you will ever see. You won’t hear a tick from them, and these watches have amazing precision with very little time loss.

They are always encased with crystal as opposed to glass and are crafted with the finest springs, coils, and gears. While these are very much luxury watches, you purchase a Rolex with Oyster Perpetual movement because it can last you a lifetime while working at very high quality.

These watch movements are far more efficient than others you will see on the market, which is why the Oyster Perpetual and other Rolex movements are sought after by collectors and watch enthusiasts.

Shop Around for the Best Watch Based on the Movements

Once you learn how to identify watch movements, you will be best able to make the right purchase.

Regardless of what type of watch you enjoy, you have to look into the movements to know exactly what you are buying. The more research you do into these various movements, the easier it’ll be for you to get the service and longevity that you are expecting.

Do your research and make sure that you look into watch manufacturers that can help you.

Keep up with our content to learn more about how watch movements work, what to look for in a new watch, and so much more.

Call for the experts at C.R. Time Company for additional cross-reference for special, uncommon, and/or discontinued watch movements.