Mechanical movements are based on the original
pocket and wristwatch movements from the early 20th
century. Mechanical movements keep time through the use of
springs, gears and levers – there are no batteries in a
mechanical movement. Mechanical movements were almost eradicated
from the planet in the mid 1980’s during the quartz
revolution. Many of the watches sold at Island Watch have
mechanical based movements. Mechanical watches are characterized
by a sweeping seconds hand – much like that of a Rolex. This
sweeping motion is actually the seconds hand ticking many times
a second; usually 4, 6 or 8 times per second.
There are two types of mechanical movements –
hand wound and automatics. See separate FAQ’s for more
information on these types of movements.
is an automatic wristwatch?
An automatic wristwatch is a watch that uses an
automatic movement as its timekeeping mechanism. Automatic
movements are a subset of mechanical movements that, when worn
daily, do not need to be wound. Every time the watch is worn, an
oscillating weight in the movement winds the mainspring, thus
ensuring the mainspring (the source of energy for the watch)
remains fully wound. Most of the automatic watches sold at
Island Watch have a power reserve of 40 hours – this means that
once fully wound, the watch will run for approximately 40 hours
continuously. But, as noted above, when worn daily, they will
never need to be wound again.
If you are like many of our customers, you
probably have more than one watch. If you do not wear an
automatic for a day (24 hours), it will still be running the
next morning, but it is recommended to wind it by turning the
crown about 20 times. This will guarantee the watch is fully
If an automatic watch is allowed to run down
fully, as in when it is shipped, or if it remains in your
jewelry box, simply turn the crown clockwise 20 to 30 times to
give the mainspring a full wind. You can not over wind an
automatic movement – there is an internal clutch mechanism – the
crown will simply keep turning but the watch will not wind any
What is a quartz movement?
Watches with quartz movements use a battery as
its power source. The battery is used to provide a voltage
across a quartz crystal which, in turn, oscillates very fast. A
small microchip counts these oscillations. When a certain number
of oscillations is reached, a signal is sent to a stepper motor
that advances the hands (for example, one second intervals).
Quartz watches became very popular in the 1980’s
and threatened the very existence of mechanical
movements. Quartz watches are extremely reliable, and are by far
the best time keepers – if you are looking for accuracy, quartz
watches will serve your purpose. But, they do not have the same
‘life’ that mechanical watches have.
What is a hand wound (manual) movement?
Unlike automatic movements, hand wound movements
need to be wound on a daily basis to ensure it will keep
running. Like automatics, most manual wind watches sold at
Island Watch have a power reserve of 40 hours, so you can get by
without winding it for a day and a half, but, as the mainspring
becomes unwound, the movement does tend to lose accuracy. For
this reason, it is a good idea to wind it every morning.
If it does wind down fully, as in when it is
shipped, simply turn the crown clockwise 20 to 30 times to give
it a full wind. They crown will stop turning when fully wound.
What is a ‘jewel’, and how does the number of jewels affect
In all watches, the power must be transmitted
from the main energy source (eg mainspring) all the way to the
hands. This power transmission takes place through many rotating
parts. In a mechanical wristwatch, whenever there is a rotating
component, there is friction. This friction reduces the watches
accuracy and takes away valuable energy the watch needs to keep
To minimize friction, watches are fitted with
synthetic rubies on most gear pivots. The ruby is lab created,
is generally round, and has a small hole in it for one end of
the gear to fit in. The gears itself rotates in these
rubies. The rubies contain a small drop of lubrication to
further minimize friction.
To simply transfer energy from the mainspring to
the hands, about 17 jewels are needed. Many high quality watches
use 17 jewels. There is a common misconception that more jewels
is better. This is not true. More jewels only means there are
more rotating parts and the movement is more complex. For
instance, a chronograph complication adds more rotating parts.
The basic Poljot 3133 mechanical chronograph movement is 23
jewels; the same movement with a moonphase indicator is 25
What is a chronograph?
A chronograph is considered one of the most
useful functions a wristwatch can have. A chronograph is used to
time short spans of time; generally less than 30 or 60
minutes. A more commonly used name for a chronograph is a
of Watch Terms
A style of watch that has a main spring that is wound by the
movement of the wearer's wrist. This is accomplished by means
of a rotor inside the watch that swings freely on its arbor to
wind the main spring.
Breguet Hands A style of watch hands designed by Abraham Louis Breguet
(1747-1823), one of the most famous watchmakers of all time.
This is a very popular style of watch that has an additional
complication that allows time to be measured in short periods
(much like a stop-watch) without it affecting the main time
keeping mechanism. Most chronographs feature sub-dials for
seconds, minutes, and hour(s).
In horology terms, a complication in a mechanical timepiece is
any feature beyond that of a simple hours, minutes, and
seconds movement such as a moon phase, month display, quickset
date, power reserve, chronograph, etc.
Ébauche is a French term meaning "outline" or "blank". In
horology the term refers to an incomplete watch movement. The
modern "ébauche" is a jewelled watch movement, without its
regulating organs, mainspring, dial, or hands.
ETA is a Swiss producer of mechanical and quartz watch
movements and also manufactures clock movements, as well. It
is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swatch Group.
Luminescent Hands/DIals Hands and indicies on a watch that glow in the dark after
being "charged" by a light source (usually a strong light for
30 seconds or so).
Manual (hand-wound) Movement
Simply a watch who's main spring must be wound manually by
turning or rotating the crown.
Basically fancy name for hardened glass used to make scratch
resistant watch crystals.
Sapphire is used to make a totally scratch proof watch
crystal. Only a diamond is able to scratch sapphire.
This is a watch in which various parts of the movement and
dial have been reduced to a minimum by removing the bulk of
the metal thereby enabling the parts of the movement to be
seen. Most always this watch will have an exhibition
Tourbillon A watch escapement invented in 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet
that is designed to counter the effects of gravity and other
perturbing forces that can affect the accuracy of a
chronometer. The tourbillon is considered to be the most
complex of watch complications and is valued for its
engineering and design principles.
Valjoux (for Vallée de Joux, "Joux Valley") is a Swiss
manufacturer of mechanical watch movements that specializes
primarily in chronograph production. Major watch brands that
use this base movement are Omega, Breitling, Oris, Tag Heuer,
and so on.