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Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up watchfam! Today, we’re going to take a look at something that every new collector is probably wondering: what the @&%! is a mechanical watch?

For the vast majority of us, we’re introduced to watches through some cheap, typically novelty-type pieces you can pick up at Walmart or Target. Sometimes we luck out and we start out with a nicer piece. In the majority of cases, we start out with a quartz. Quartz, very briefly, is a watch that is powered by a battery – check out this ASKTNH episode about Quartz watches! The second hand jumps one place for every second (most of the time, excluding some really cool Bulovas), and generally these are more inexpensive when it comes to actual purchasing.

By contrast, a mechanical watch does not take a battery. Instead, the movement is powered by the storage of energy to a spring (called, as you’d guess, the main spring), which is delivered by winding the crown until the spring is “full.” Over the course of a certain amount of time, that spring releases energy, which turns the gears, does a whole bunch of other super technical stuff, and ultimately keeps the watch moving. Your most inexpensive mechanical movement is, by leaps and bounds, more expensive than your cheapest quartz movement. There are plenty of reasons for this, but they’re a bit beyond the scope of this article.

The thing about any mechanical movement, automatic or otherwise, is that it will never be as accurate as a quartz watch. It just won’t. As the energy dwindles its way out of the mainspring, the mechanical movement is going to beat slower and slower until it dies completely. The issue is that, the slower it beats, the longer it takes the second hand to go around the dial, meaning you will lose time along the way. You can also gain time, but that’s a subject for another article.

We’ll talk a bit more in another article about this next point, but I just want to touch on the fact that there is, within the industry, a difference between a mechanical watch and an automatic one – here’s a brief description of the automatic movement. It’s sort of like that “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square” conundrum in that every automatic movement is mechanical, but not every mechanical movement is automatic. If it’s a bit confusing, that just means you’re paying attention.

Tourneau has a really cool, in-depth breakdown of the various components of a mechanical movement, delivered in plain English with no pretension, that is definitely worth checking out if you want to learn more about the different parts and pieces.

Well, that does it for me. I hope you now have a much better idea of what a mechanical watch is, even if we didn’t get into the reasons that they are so bleeping cool (we’ll get there, don’t worry). Until next time, keep it classy, watchfam.