The following FAQ deals primarily with watch terminology and some common questions about watches. It's based on my opinion and experience, and I haven't gotten overly technical. If you have any specific queries about watches, or about how The Tailored Watch can hep you, please feel free to email me - felix@thetailoredwatch.com


What is a movement? Are there different types?

A movement is what is inside a watch, the mechanism that makes the watch run. There are indeed different types of movement. Broadly speaking (and there are exceptions) there are two main types of watch movement; mechanical and quartz.

Quartz movements became common in the 1970’s are so called because the timing of the watch is regulated by a quartz crystal. These are by far the most common type of watch and require a battery to run. A quartz watch can be easily identified by the stop/start ‘tick’ of the second hand.

Mechanical movements are a far more varied crowd with a (obviously) much longer history. Mechanical movements can be broken down into two main types, those that require regular hand winding to maintain the power to keep time, and those which – by an internal mechanism, generate this power themselves. I usually refer to these two types as ‘manual winding’ and ‘automatic’ respectively.


Ok, so how are mechanical movements powered? And how do they keep time? Are they accurate?

A mechanical movement stores its power in a spring, often referred to as the mainspring. This spring tightens up when the watch is wound and releases energy as it uncoils. This is how a mechanical watch powers itself. On a manually wound watch what you do when you’re winding the crown is (via gears and whatnot) is winding this spring up. On an automatic watch the spring is wound by force generated by an oscillating weight. This weight is moved by your everyday actions as you wear the watch. Most fully wound automatic watches will keep running for about two days if they are unworn.


Which is better, quartz or mechanical?

Ok, so both sorts of watches have pros and cons. Quartz watches are far more accurate; a really accurate mechanical watch will only be accurate to within seconds a day, whereas a top of the line quartz watch will be accurate within seconds a year. But accuracy isn’t everything. Much of the appeal of mechanical watches is that these tiny machines are to many people more interesting, and have more character. Certainly a lot more work and craftsmanship goes into constructing a mechanical watch. But whether quartz or mechanical is best for you depends on what you want out of a watch.


Is my watch waterproof?

Watches don’t say they are ‘waterproof’ anymore. Instead they will often say they are water resistant (WR). This may be measured in meters, bars or atmospheres (ATM). Now, when a watch says it’s water resistant to ‘X’ meters, that doesn’t mean that you can go that far underwater and it’ll be fine. What it means is that the watch has undergone static pressure testing for the sort of pressure you would find at that depth.  My rule of thumb is (and I tend to be a little conservative on this) is that if it’s WR is less than 50 meters try not to get it wet. 50 meters is ok for casual water immersion, but not swimming. 100 meters is suitable for swimming or doing the dishes. 200 meters is suitable for scuba diving. If you do more serious diving than that, you’ve probably got a better idea than me about pressure, but that’s what high depth ‘divers’ watches (with WR of 300 meters or more) where made for.

Perhaps the most important thing to note about water resistance is that it needs to be maintained. Water resistance is achieved through a few things, one of the most crucial aspects being rubber seals or gaskets that will degrade over time and need to be replaced. If a watch goes in the water it should be pressure tested once a year.


What's the go with servicing?

Ok, so watches (I'm mainly talking about mechanical watches here) are little machines. And like all machines parts can wear out, they can get dirty and they can get clogged. So, like all machines they need a trip to the mechanic. Watch mechanics are in the common commercial sense called watchmakers.

One of the most common questions I get asked is, should i get my watch serviced? And the answer is almost invariably - yes. The trickier question is when. Here's a few guidelines. Is your watch not working, losing time or occasionally doing random stuff? If yes, take it to be serviced ASAP. And don't keep wearing or winding it until it's been checked out. Is there is moisture or condensation inside your watch? If so, again get it to someone quickly. A little bit of water can quickly turn a working watch into rust. These are crisis examples where it's pretty clear that some intervention is required. More broadly speaking I'd suggest you get your watches gaskets and seals pressure tested on an annual basis if it goes near water, and I'd recommend it gets a regular tune up every 3 - 5 years just to keep it in tip top shape.

It's also important to note that the art of watchmaking isn't practiced as widely as it once was. If you'd like some advice as to who to entrust the care of your precious timepiece, feel free to email me ( felix@thetailoredwatch.com )


Why is my watch complicated?

In watch speak any function of the watch beyond telling time by minutes, hours and seconds is referred to as a ‘complication’ (many people would also include a date display – as they are so ubiquitous these days). So if your watch can act as a stopwatch, display a second time zone, or play a tune – it’s a watch with complications.


What is a sapphire crystal?

A watch crystal is the ‘glass’ that covers the dial and hand. It’s also one of the areas of a watch most prone to damage. Crystals are most commonly made of three different materials. ‘Acrylic’ crystals are essentially plastic. These are particularly common on older watches. The advantages of acrylic are they are cheap, pretty tough, and very easy to polish. Unfortunately they are not very hard, so it’s really easy to scratch them. ‘Mineral crystals’ are pretty much some variant on common glass. These guys are very hardwearing in that they are prone to crack rather than shatter under serious impact. They can still be scratched by anything harder than glass (metal or brick walls for example). Sapphire crystals are the most modern innovations in watch crystals. They are made from synthetic sapphire and as such are very hard and difficult to scratch. The downside of sapphire is that its composition means that under impact it is prone to shattering. Sapphire is also highly reflective. Some watch crystals are treated with ‘anti-reflective’ (AR) coating, making them easier to read. This coating can be applied on the exterior, the interior, or both sides of the crystal. AR coatings can be scratched off.


I’ve read that watches have jewels or rubies in them. What does that mean?

Well yes, many watch movements (especially mechanical ones) have ‘jewels’ in them. A watch consists of many parts, moving constantly. This constant motion causes friction and wear. Jewels (usually synthetic ruby) are very hard and low friction, and are used in parts of the watch where other materials, like metal, would wear out.


Are Swiss watches the best?

Switzerland is internationally renowned as the home of fine watchmaking, and it’s true that many of the world’s finest and most prestigious brands come out of that country. But other places, notably Germany and Japan also have great watchmaking traditions. Where a watch comes from is probably not the best criteria to use. However it is worth noting that not just any watch can be called a ‘Swiss watch




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