Common Types of Watches

An automatic or self-winding watch is a mechanical watch in which the mainspring is wound automatically as a result of natural motion of the wearer’s arm, to provide energy to run the watch, making manual winding unnecessary. It has no battery, and will stop once it unwound - which is caused by a lack of motion. Most automatic watches continue to work for 30-40 hours after motion stops. Non-battery operated watches are among the less accurate, but are coveted because of the high skill level needed to build them.

A mechanical watch uses an escapement mechanism to control and limit the unwinding and winding parts of a spring, converting what would otherwise be a simple unwinding into a controlled and periodic energy release. It has no battery, and must be wound regularly or it will stop once it spring is completely unwound. Non-battery operated watches are among the less accurate, but are coveted because of the high skill level needed to build them.

A quartz watch uses a battery-powered electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. This crystal oscillator creates a signal with very precise frequency, which makes quartz watches highly accurate. Most quartz movements are primarily electronic but are geared to drive mechanical hands on the face of the watch in order to provide a traditional analog watch face. Quartz watches require batteries, which usually last 1-3 years before needing to be changed. Some batteries last much longer.

A digital watch in its proper sense is any watch that shows the time as a number, e.g., 12:08 instead of a short hand pointing towards the number 12 and a long hand 8/60 of the way round the dial. The first digital wristwatches were introduced in the 1920s. The electronic digital watch is what most people think of when they say “digital watch”. A electronic digital watch works the same way as a mechanical watch, but instead of using mechanical workings, it uses electricity to function. While a mechanical watch ticks as it keeps time, a digital watch uses an electronic time base. This is also known as the accurate rate, and the gearing mechanics are referred to as the counter. The face of the watch is lit up by either an LED or LCD. 

A Solar/light watch absorbs sunlight and artificial light by a solar panel. This solar panel converts the light into electrical energy to power the watch. The watch will usually store energy in a rechargeable cell to power itself during the night or when covered such as a wearer’s clothing. Some watches use lithium-ion batteries to store sufficient energy to power the watch for several months/years without light exposure, by allowing the watch to enter a power-saving or hibernation mode during which the seconds hand stops until the watch is re-exposed to light. It does not require regular battery changes to operate, but may need its energy storage battery changed periodically.