Your Guide to Watch Movements

The search for the perfect watch is an intricate and fascinating journey, especially for those among us who are not yet well-versed in watch terminology and craftsmanship. When browsing around our watches, have you wondered what exactly are these quartz and automatic movements we so often write about? If you’re looking to learn and discover more about the machinations of watch movements, you’ve come to the right place.

So what is a watch movement, you may be asking. A watch movement is the vital internal mechanism that triggers the rotation of the watch hands. It’s not only the minute and second hands that are powered by the movement; day windows, dual time zones (GMT complications), and chronographs are also powered through small and intricate watch movements within the mechanism.

Automatic Movements

Watchmakers and enthusiasts will agree that automatic movements represent prestige in horology. Synonymous with quality, automatic movements tend to reach higher price points due to the number of parts and skill required to build them. Also called mechanical movements, automatic movements power the battery through the wrist’s motions and work best when worn on days when the wearer is out and about. They can also be powered by using a watch winder, a device that allows the owner to keep their watch powered by rotating the watch slowly, mimicking the movement of a wrist throughout the day.

The idea of a self-running watch is a romantic one, and it is all possible thanks to the rotor, a half-moon metal weight that swings from side to side as you move. Upon this physical motion, the rotor transfers power to the mainspring, a coil that twists tighter and stores more energy as the weight oscillates for a longer amount of time. If you own a skeleton watch or a timepiece with an exposed case back, you have the luxury of seeing the movement work in real time.

But why invest in an automatic watch?

• It can last forever

When one uses the word timeless to describe watches, it can of course subscribe to enduring style that remains forever in fashion. But it can also relate to an automatic movement which, as long as it is taken care of, can last for decades and be passed down generations like an heirloom. Even if it has not been used for years, with a simple wind of the crown and gentle shake to emulate a moving wrist, an automatic timepiece can be seamlessly awoken from its slumber. This nostalgic technology originates from the inception of watchmaking and has stood the test of time, remaining an iconic facet of horology even in this digital age.

• It doesn’t require much maintenance

Sometimes, those who do not understand watch movements will buy an automatic timepiece and be mistakenly disappointed when their accessory appears to stop functioning after weeks of not wearing it. However, all that automatic watches need is physical motion. When worn every day, it will power itself. If worn occasionally, the wearer will simply need to wind it up to get it working again. For more general tips on watch care, please visit here to ensure you know everything there is about taking care of your Rotary timepiece.

Interested in browsing the Rotary portfolio of automatic watches? Click here to discover more.

Quartz Movements

Crafting watches with an integrated quartz movement is a more contemporary feature in watchmaking, having originated in the second half of the 20th Century. A quartz movement uses a battery as its main power source that drives the hands and powers all other features such as a chronograph and second time zone. The battery directs an electrical current through, as the name suggests, a small quartz crystal, which in turn creates vibrations that keep the movement oscillating and power the motor.

Here’s how to tell the difference from a quartz movement to an automatic one from just a quick glance. Unlike the sweeping second hand of an automatic movement, the motion of a quartz watch moves in a tick-tick sequence.

For example, you can see the sweep of the second hand on our Rotary Henley Automatic below:

The introduction of quartz in watchmaking heralded a new way of approaching function and value. Whilst not as intricate as automatic watches, quartz movements are nonetheless well worth considering. Here are the key benefits of owning a quartz timepiece.

• More Reliable Accuracy

The nature of an automatic watch’s movement may mean that the timepiece can be delayed by up to several dozen seconds – especially if it hasn’t experienced recent motion. A quartz movement, however, always oscillates at the same frequency with a natural rhythm. For essential time-telling, a quartz movement offers reliable precision.

• Less Chance of Damage

A quartz movement compromises of significantly less parts than an automatic, meaning that the chances of something being damaged behind the watch’s dial is reduced. A quartz battery will need changing every couple years on average, also meaning that maintenance is easy. As previously mentioned, a quartz watch uses less parts and therefore requires a lot less skill to assemble together. With fewer resources used to craft a quartz watch, its retail value will be less than its automatic counterpart.

Rotary offers a prestigious collection of quartz watches in stock and available in retailers that offer incomparable value and quality. Click here to discover our selection of quartz timepieces.


A meca-quartz movement is a hybrid timekeeping mechanism that combines the precision of quartz technology with the mechanical feel of a traditional watch. In this movement, time is regulated by a quartz crystal oscillator, ensuring accurate timekeeping, while the chronograph function is driven by a mechanical module. This combination offers the best of both worlds: the reliability and accuracy of quartz movements for timekeeping, and the satisfying tactile experience of operating mechanical chronograph functions such as start, stop, and reset. Meca-quartz movements are favoured for their robustness, accuracy, and affordability, making them popular choices in modern watchmaking.

The Rotary RW 1895 Heritage Chronograph uses a meca-quartz movement, delivering a sweep second hand for the Chronograph complication.