What Makes Us Tick? – A Look Through The Loupe At Different Types of Watches

by Jonathon Ward on October 15, 2021

Different colours; different sizes; different movements, different complications, ways of measuring your step count, heart rate and oxygen intake – if you can think of it, chances are someone out there in the watchmaking world has already created it. And yes, that does include a watch without a face.

The Swiss-Made watch industry and beyond have proved that there is a watch out there for everyone. Particular models have been designed with certain activities in mind; because while a watch is fundamentally designed to tell the time accurately, they can offer so much more. In this blog we will split them into two separate categories: the first being what kind of movement they feature (essentially, the engineering found inside), and then which genre they are part of (their aesthetics). Just like you wouldn’t take a Lamborghini supercar off-roading or wear a Savile Row suit while diving (unless your surname is Bond) you need to find the right piece whose attributes are right for what your lifestyle needs.

Movements - Mechanical/Automatic

The mechanical movement was the original type of portable timekeeping instrument created back in the 16th century. In theory, a mechanical movement controls the movement of energy through a series of micro-engineered parts working in unison with one another; that energy is regulated into a consistent rate that is then displayed through the watch’s hands. While a mechanical movement requires energy to be input by winding the crown on the side of the watch, an automatic watch features a weighted rotor that stores energy from the movement of your wrist.

Can you recommend a good mechanic?

If your watch has an exhibition case-back (like our TRIBUS Chronometer range do, for example), take a moment to admire what’s going on inside your watch. From the oscillating balance wheel to an automatic movement’s whirring rotor, you have a piece of engineering alive on your wrist. To think that the original movements were created about half a millennium ago, and that somebody designed and built one from scratch, is a miraculous achievement. Over the centuries since, these designs have only been honed further by new engineering capabilities that offer increased accuracy and reliability. The mechanical movement inside your watch will keep on ticking away for years on end (provided you keep it wound!), all whilst being worn and subjected to the forces of everyday life.

The mechanical wristwatch is often referred to as one of humankind’s finest achievements. To own one is to appreciate the precision engineering inside. As the seconds hand smoothly sweeps around the dial, a number of individual ‘ticks’ are taking place, consistent enough for the human brain to perceive it as one gradual motion. Engineering at its elegant best.

Movement - Quartz

On the other side of the ring to the mechanical watch is the challenger that nearly killed it: the quartz watch.

In a nutshell, a quartz watch is powered by a battery. While its movement still features gears that help count the hour, minute and seconds hands, a quartz watch features a small crystal that regulates the movement inside. For this to work, a battery sends electricity to the quartz crystal through an electronic circuit. The quartz oscillator vibrates approximately 32,768 times per second, with the circuit counting these vibrations. It then generates regular electric pulses – one per second – that are displayed through the movement of the hands.

Quartz and all

As a watch powered by a battery, the trade-off for superb levels of precision – far beyond what most mechanical watches are capable of – is that it will run out of power every few years. Watch fanatics might stare down their noses at quartz, but they have proven to be ideal for people who need something that is ready to pick up and go, having not been worn for days, weeks or years at a time. If you have lots of different watches in your collection and struggle to give them all consistent wrist time, quartz is always a safe choice.

Some may argue that quartz watches lack the romance of their mechanical counterparts; they don’t feature as many micro-engineered pieces working in union with one another. But if you want your watch to tell the time accurately (and if it’s a watch, isn’t that the point?), then the quartz watch is a near unrivalled (and more affordable) option, accurate to within seconds per month.

Between mechanical and quartz, you’re bound to find the right movement for your needs – and that’s before we even arrive at the mention of the different complications you can find: GMT and stopwatch functionality, power reserve indicators and more. You can read about those here.

Genre. Dress

Essentially, a dress watch is a timepiece traditionally designed for those more formal occasions, worn with a suit or some other smart attire. The prime role is to elevate your outfit through its presence, its elegant and understated aesthetic complementing whatever it is you’re wearing. (It may be called a dress watch, but nowadays you can wear it with whatever you want. Jeans and T-shirt? Go for it.)

Typically on the smaller side so that it can slip under your shirt cuff, a dress watch usually features a minimalistic dial in a lighter colour. We’re not looking to show off here – a dress watch doesn’t shout about itself, instead, it’s in those quieter moments that its sophisticated visuals shine through. While dress watches were encased in precious metals like gold in past centuries, that’s not so necessary anymore now – stainless steel cases prove just as elegant. Lastly, the dress watch is meant to be worn on a good strap whose colour matches your belt and/or shoes. It’s those small details that make all the difference!

Dress to impress

Everyone should own at least one dress watch – you don’t want to get caught out when the rest of your watches are too tall to fit under your sleeve! Although the dress watch derives its name from dressing up for evening dinners, weddings and more, don’t rule it out of the other 99% of your life – their laid-back looks make them flexible enough to wear wherever you like no matter what the occasion.

Genre. Dive

Synonymous with the likes of James Bond and Jacques Cousteau, dive watches are amongst the most popular genre of watch on the planet. Originally created to accompany an underwater expedition, these watches needed to have a water resistance down to depth (300m, for example) and a unidirectional bezel, used for timing the length of said dive so that you weren’t caught short for oxygen. Nowadays, dive computers have replaced the dive watch, but the latter remains the go-to-choice for anyone looking to own a watch that’ll withstand the thrills and spills of an active lifestyle.

Dive hard

If you like the bevelled look and need a watch that is robust enough to survive being submerged in water every so often, then a dive watch is a must. Most people never dunk their diver in a pool of water deeper than their bath or sink, but knowing that it could survive down to 300m? That’s pretty reassuring all the same.

Genre. Aviation

Since the dawn of flight, timekeeping has been essential. Pilots needed a way of knowing exactly how long they’d been airborne for, not only to assist with navigation but to ensure they didn’t run out of fuel mid-flight. Throw in a couple of World Wars, and the pilot’s watch had evolved into something different: a larger design, capable of being operated through thick leather gloves and readable during night-time operations.

The actual mile high club

You like legibility. By their nature, aviation watches needed to assist pilots in their cockpit during Second World War night-time operations, with bold numerals and hands filled with lume for reading after dark. Or, maybe in the case of the TRI-05 P8331 303 Squadron Limited Edition, you appreciate a direct connection to Second World War history, containing metal recovered from Spitfire P8331 of 303 Squadron.

Genre. Motorsport

In motorsport, where fractions of a second can be the difference between glory and failure, timekeeping is king. Reflective of an industry that features drivers cruising around circuits in vehicles worth millions. Motorsport watches reflect the colour, dynamism and precision of this high-octane world. Many feature a combination of a chronograph stopwatch functionality and a tachymeter, used to measure speed based on time travelled over a fixed distance.

Fast not Furious

If motorsport is your passion, then why would you pass up an opportunity to show it through your watch? From a technical perspective, chronographs are a great timing tool, great for timing at the track or how long it’s taken your mate to get his round of drinks from the bar. And if you can’t afford the car? The watch may well be the next best thing. Don’t believe us? Ask Steve McQueen.


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