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Movement Types

Electronic watch movement is desirable by some buyers of watches because they have very few moving parts which results in an increased reliability. All watches that feature an electronic movement use the piezoelectric effect in a quartz or similar crystal to provide the "ticking" to allow the watch to keep an accurate movement, the crystal resonates at a specific frequency that will drive the timekeeping mechanism. You may also hear electronic watches referred to as quartz watches because of this. Don't be fooled into thinking a watch that is advertised as having electronic movement will be digital; the power of the crystal can be harnessed to drive traditional analogue hands with a collection of cogs and gears. A cheap quartz movement will be very inaccurate compared to a move expensive one but the difference between the best and the worst is comparatively small compared to traditional mechanical movement. An electronic movement will always be more accurate than some of the finest mechanical movements due to the highly accurate way in which the crystal resonates.

Mechanical movement is still very popular in horology and is also very popular amongst watch buyers as a consumer market. Mechanical movement is associated with more medium priced watches like Omega and Rolex. The attraction of a mechanical watch is the craftsmanship and work that have to go into each and every timepiece to make them keep time accurately; even though they keep poor time (in comparison to electronic movement) and are sensitive to temperate and pressure they are loved by connoisseurs of watches the world over. In purchasing a mechanical movement on a watch you can be sure that a horologist has spent many hours labouring over your timepiece to craft it to perfection, and many people are attracted to the moving cogs and gears. With the advent of mobile phones, palm tops and other devices that also tell the time actually using a watch to tell the time has become less important; henceforth if a watch is to be used as a fashion accessory then only the finest mechanical movement will suffice.

A radio-controlled movement is an evolution of the electronic movement discussed above. This movement allows the watch to synchronise itself with an external timekeeping source such as the signals sent out by the atomic clocks. They usually do this automatically once a day and until this time work exactly as a standard electronic watch does. Thanks to the combination of electronic movement and radio link connecting it to some of the most accurate timepieces in the world a watch with a radio controlled movement can often be as little as a minute fraction of a second out in 24 hours, and these watches will keep their time much longer than any other as well since their source timepieces are accurate to one second in three million years. Occasionally a horologist will take radio-controlled movement one step further and produce a watch that not only synchronises with a remote source to keep time, but also the date, leap year status and daylight savings time information which means the watch should never require any manual adjustment or updating in the course of its life. The only time you will be at a disadvantage with a radio-controlled movement is if you are in an area with poor radio reception, however even then the watch will continue ticking away using its regular electronic movement until it can locate a signal.

The tuning-fork movement is a delightful departure from the norm in that rather than ticking they will softly hum, this is because a tuning fork that has been developed to work at a precise frequency is used to drive the watches mechanisms. The hands will move in a fluid motion on a watch with a tuning-fork movement as there are no individual pulses, the index wheel in the watch will spin over 38 million times in a year. The tuning-fork movement is a masterpiece of miniaturisation and technology as it works in an electromechanical fashion. The minute electric coils that drive the tuning fork and keep it producing its harmonic note feature 8000 turns of copper wire, each strand of which has a diameter of only 0.015mm but a length of over 90 meters. It is understandable why tuning-fork movements are desired by many even though they do not keep time as accurately as more modern solutions, they are a masterpiece of engineering and a triumph of horology.