So How Does a Mechanical Watch Work?

In the past, we’ve covered the differences between a quartz and mechanical watch, and even which watch might be more suitable for you. Today we’re going to dive deeper into the inner workings of a standard mechanical watch, and up to a previous post that was written a few years ago.

So you’re probably aware that a high majority of Orient’s watches are mechanical, and that they’re powered by you, the wearer, in some way, shape, or form. But how does a basic mechanical movement actually work?

This brings us to the nifty illustration above. Let’s point out a few things: the power source (the hand-winding of a crown or rotation of the rotor/oscillating weight), the mainspring, the gear train, the escapement (also known as the escape wheel), the pallet fork, and the balance wheel. The process by which these parts work together not only makes the watch physically tick, but is a means of effectively storing energy. This allows a watch to have a power reserve (Orient watches have an average power reserve of 40+ hours), and prevents the watch from suddenly stopping right after you take the watch off your wrist.

Here is a condensed explanation of how all of these parts work together.

  1. The watch receives power from turning the crown or by rotation of the oscillating weight (also called a rotor in an automatic watch). For the crown, power comes from the physical hand-winding by the wearer, and for the rotor it would be from natural wrist motion that spins it.

  1. The energy gained is stored and dispersed by the mainspring, which looks like a coiled piece of metal.

  1. The mainspring powers a series of gears called the gear train. The turning of these gears helps to continuously transfer energy. It’s kind of like an assembly line.

  1. The last gear in the train meets the escapement, a part that parcels a consistent amount of energy with each individual turn. This helps regulate the gear train from spinning too fast and exhausting all the energy at once.

  1. Each turn of the escapement moves the pallet fork, which is attached to the balance wheel. The escapement and the pallet fork team up to make the balance wheel swing back and forth. The swinging motion of the balance wheel is usually visible through the exhibition case back or open heart design of a watch.

  1. Many consider the balance wheel to be the “heart” of the watch since it powers the hands of the watch. When a watch movement is serviced for timing accuracy, the balance wheel is what’s adjusted to move faster or slower.

 


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