Types of watch movements

February 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Questions

Key wind movement
The very early pocket watches created around the 16th century, up until the third quarter of the 19th century, used key wind and key set movements.  For this method a key was necessary to wind the watch and to set the time. This was usually achieved by opening the back of the watch and putting the key over the winding arbor or setting arbor, one for the winding of the watch itself and the other to control and set the time.  The drawback of this design was the need for a watch key and without it the watch could not be wound.

Crown wind and crown set movement
The creator of crown wind movement was Patek-Philippe in the 1850s, this type of movement removed the need to use a key which up to this point was a necessary requirement of any pocket watch.  The first crown wind pocket watches were sold during the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and the first owners of these new kinds of watches were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  This style of movement is the most common found in both antique and more modern pocket watches.

Crown wind, lever set movement
A common requirement for all railroad watches, this kind of pocket watch was set by opening the crystal and bezel and pulling out the setting lever.  It was very important on the railroads of America that the time was correct so to avoid accidents on the railroad due to time errors.  Once the lever was pulled out, the crown could be turned to set the time. The lever was then pushed back into place for the watch to be used again.  The reason for the popularity of this design of movement was that it made accidental time changes impossible as the lever needed moving to make time changes possible.

Crown wind, pin set movement
Similar to the lever set movement these type of pocket watches had a small knob or pin next to the watch stem that required depressed before turning the crown to set the time and releasing the pin when the correct time had been set.  A finger nail was needed to get to the set button and this style of watch was occasionally referred to as “nail set” for that reason.

Mechanical movement
Modern watches work with mechanical movement, usually driven by a spring which requires periodic winding. Mechanical watches evolved in Europe in the 1600’s from spring powered clocks, which appeared in the 1400’s