There are three common types of watch movements that keep every type of timepiece running. There are two common mechanical movements in addition to the battery operated quartz movements. These are what makes the watch tick and keeps it holding time. If your watch isn’t keeping time well, it may need servicing.
Manual-wind movements are the foundation for all contemporary mechanical watches. They are powered — mostly — by the winding of the stem and crown to power the mainspring. The movements are constructed with a series of plates, gears and mainspring, requiring no battery to power the watch. Manual-wind watches have a fixed power reserve and need to be wound relatively frequently since there is no automatic or self-winding element to the movement.
An automatic movement is a type of mechanical movement that utilizes an oscillating weight (called the rotor) to “wind” (maintain the power on) the barrel and mainspring. The rotor plays an integral part of keeping your watch running: as you wear the watch, the movement of your arm will provide the necessary energy to spin the rotor. While the rotor spins, it winds up the mainspring, therefore preventing the watch from losing power.
It should be noted though that even with automatic movements the watch should be hand-wound to provide the necessary power reserve to allow the watch to perform properly. The rotor spinning alone is not enough to provide a full power reserve to the watch. The alternative term used to describe or define an automatic watch is a self-winding watch. Self-winding better describes the actual function of this type of mechanical movement. Today, automatic watches make up most of the mechanical watch production.
Quartz movements are powered by a battery. The movement is an electronic device to power the watch rather than a mechanical device. The batteries that power these movements generally last a few years and thus require little maintenance. Quartz movements became popular during the 1970s due to mass production techniques and affordability spurred by innovation out of Japan.
The Swiss watch industry dubbed this period the “Quartz Crisis” as it dramatically altered consumer purchasing habits towards the more affordable and mass produced Japanese timepieces. Today, quartz movements are used in all segments of the watch industry and by the most prestigious brands in Switzerland.