Does Yours Sweep or Tick?

January 06, 2016

When I was young my father had a Smiths Astral watch that he adored, and rightly so. This thing was utterly beautiful in every respect, but it wasn’t only he who felt this way, as I was also very taken with it.

The watch in question never made it home from our family holiday to the south coast of France, although my mourning for it did. I can only imagine how lonely it feels lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean. 

The single most vivid memory I have of this superb English timepiece was the gentle sweeping motion of the second hand. It infatuated me. I could stare at it for minutes on end. Whereas my watch at the time, a hapless football themed plastic monstrosity, merely ticked around the dial in a clunky and unwieldy fashion.

Until recently I hadn’t explored why or how my father’s watch swept, whilst mine simply ticked. But now that I know, I will forever be checking the wrists of my friends to see whether their timepiece sweeps or ticks.

You see, if your watch ticks then it’s powered by a Quartz movement. This is the modern watch engine which replaced mechanical movements in most watches from the early 70s. Although Quartz movements are very accurate and require minimal maintenance, aside from replacing the battery, they are usually low cost and mostly less desirable - to a watch enthusiast anyway - not to mention lacking the technical craftsmanship and engineering of their predecessor. 

The primary power source of a Quartz movement is a battery, which creates power by sending an electric current through a small Quartz crystal, electrifying the crystal to create oscillations. The internal circuit counts the number of oscillations and uses them to generate a regular electric pulse, of one per second. The pulse then drives a small electric motor turning gears that spin the watch’s second hand, at one tick per second.

But in contrast, the engine in my father’s beloved watch which created the smooth sweeping motion I so dearly admired, was a hand-wound movement. Otherwise known as a manual or mechanical movement, these are considered to be the most traditional type of watch movement. Usually shown-off through a glass case-back, they are celebrated for their beauty and mechanical brilliance. They feature no internal circuit, no electric motor, and most notably no battery. 

To power a mechanical movement the wearer must manually turn the crown multiple times to wind the mainspring, which in turn stores energy. This energy is then slowly dissipated and released through a series of gears and springs which regulate the speed in which the energy is released. This energy is in-turn transferred to the hands of the watch - most commonly at around 21,600 BPH (Beats Per Hour). This translates as 6 beats per second, making your second hand sweep its way smoothly round the dial to the envy of all your ticking friends.

The craftsmanship and technical brilliance of a hand-wound movement is exceptional, and that is why here at Marloe we only make watches with such movements. Join the hand-wound revolution.





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