How Does a Mechanical Watch Work?

March 17, 2016

In doing research before purchasing a luxury mechanical watch, I was overwhelmed by the jargon used to describe all of the working parts of a wristwatch movement. Aside from style and aesthetic, most watchmakers differentiate their products from one another based on what, quite literally, makes them tick. 

Parts of a Rolex Movement
After I figured out what a movement was, I became curious as to how the inner workings of the movement manage to precisely keep track of time. I poured over diagrams and blog posts, but I was still confused about what each part of the movement does.

Why does Rolex advertise their blue Parachrom hairspring technology? What is an escapement and why do they need to make it better? How do you power a self-winding mechanical movement without a battery?

Though I still consider myself a novice when it comes to horology, I do feel that I now have a basic understanding of how a mechanical watch works. The inner workings of a mechanical wristwatch are quite impressive, even in a time where most technology is based on silicon chips and global positioning systems.

The video below was produced by Hamilton Watch Company in 1949 to explain how a watch works. Much of what the video presents is still a part of how mechanical watches work today. It is the most comprehensive, detailed demonstration that I've found on YouTube to explain the mechanics of a watch movement in layman's terms.


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