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Watches: Movements and Components

Before jumping into buying a new watch, understand what makes or sets it apart.

Are you in the market for a watch but would like to know what differentiates one from another? Understanding the inner workings of timepieces doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take a quick look at this guide and in no time you’ll know precisely what makes each watch tick…literally!


1. Mechanical

  • Hand-wound.
  • Can gain or lose up to 10 seconds per day.
  • Vintage watches are collected for their craftsmanship and character.
  • Stores energy in reserve so you can take it off, but typically just a day or two.

2. Automatic

  • Can be hand-wound, but also winds when you move your arm.
  • Can be stored on a winder, which rotates the watch while you are not wearing it.
  • Stores energy in reserve so you can take it off.
  • Can gain or lose a few minutes per month.

3. Quartz

  • Uses a tiny sliver of quartz. An electrical current (from the battery) runs across the quartz causing it to vibrate at a frequency that allows it to regulate the time.
  • This principle is significantly easier and less expensive to manufacture than mechanical or automatic movements.
  • Can gain or lose 10 seconds per month.


Band or bracelet
A strip of leather, rubber, cloth or metal that attaches to the case and wraps around the wrist. Metal bracelets can be resized by adding or removing links; leather bands offer several buckle holes for the best fit.


A metal ring that frames the dial of a watch. On many watches, the bezel displays minute increments and can be rotated in one or both directions. Divers use this function to measure elapsed time.


Attached to the watchband, this metal covering surrounds the bezel and dial of a watch and protects its internal parts from dirt and damage. Some cases are built to resist water from entering the watch.


Watches that include multiple time measurement functions independent of the timekeeping. These functions can include stopwatches, timers, one-hour interval timers, measurement of fractions of a second or elapsed time.


The device used to fasten each end of a watchband, bracelet or necklace together. Clasps are traditionally made of metal and include several designs.


A metal knob located on the side of a watchcase used to set the watch to the correct time and date. Some watches have multiple crowns to control other functions and settings.


The clear cover over the dial of a watch that protects it from dirt, scratches and internal damage. Typically made of glass-like substances such as plastic. High-grade watches usually have synthetic sapphire crystals.


The front display of a watch that includes the markings and hands. It is covered by the crystal and enclosed within the case.


Thin, light strips of metal that are secured in the center of the watch face and point to the hours, minutes or seconds.


The time increment symbols located on the watch dial.


The small dials located on the watch face that display chronograph functions of the watch such as the stopwatch, timer, elapsed time measurement, date, day of the week and moon phase.


An instrument on the watch that measures time and distance to determine speed. Tachymeters are typically used to measure high rates of speed.

Water Resistance

The feature of a watch that denies water and moisture from penetrating inside its case. No watch is completely waterproof, but many can withstand rain and splashing. Water resistance is measured in ATMs (atmospheric pressure). This number is usually printed on the back of the case.

Ready to shop? Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry have a large selection of fine watches from top brands such as Movado, Bulova, Citizen and many others.

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