Movement (clockwork)

Movement of a Russian aviation chronograph

In horology, a movement is the internal mechanism of a clock or watch, as opposed to the case, which encloses and protects the movement, and the face which displays the time. The term originated with mechanical timepieces, whose movements are made of many moving parts. It is less frequently applied to modern electronic or quartz timepieces, where the word module is often used instead.

In modern mass produced clocks and watches, the same movement is often put into many different styles of case. When buying a quality pocketwatch from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, for example, the customer would separately pick out the movement and the case of his choice, and the movement would be installed in the case for him. Mechanical movements get dirty and the lubricants dry up, so they must periodically be disassembled, cleaned, and lubricated. One source recommends servicing intervals of: 3–5 years for watches, 15–20 years for grandfather clocks, 10–15 years for wall or mantel clocks, 15–20 years for anniversary clocks, and 7 years for cuckoo clocks, with the longer intervals applying to antique timepieces.[1]


Mechanical movements

Mechanical movement, Deutsches Museum, München

A mechanical movement contains all the moving parts of a watch or clock except the hands, and in the case of pendulum clocks, the pendulum and driving weights. The movement is made up of these parts:[2]

Power source
Either a mainspring, or a weight suspended from a cord wrapped around a pulley. The mainspring or pulley has a mechanism to allow it to be wound up, which includes a ratchet to prevent it from unwinding. The barrel or pulley has gear teeth on it which drives the center wheel.
Wheel train
A gear train that transmits the force of the power source to the escapement. Large gears known as wheels mesh with small gears known as pinions. The wheels in a typical going train are the centre wheel, third wheel, and fourth wheel. A separate set of wheels, the motion work, divides the motion of the minute hand by 12 to move the hour hand, and in watches another set, the keyless work, allows the hands to be set.
A mechanism that allows the wheel train to advance, or escape, a fixed amount with each swing of the balance wheel or pendulum. It consists of a gear called an escape wheel, which is released one tooth at a time by a lever that rocks back and forth. Each time the escape wheel moves forward it also gives the pendulum or balance wheel a push to keep it moving.
the timekeeping element, either a pendulum or a balance wheel. It swings back and forth, with a precisely constant time interval between each swing, called the beat. A pendulum movement has a pendulum hangar usually attached to a sturdy support on the back, from which the pendulum is suspended, and a fork which gives the pendulum impulses. The oscillator always has some means for adjusting the rate of the clock. Pendulums usually have an adjustment nut under the bob, while balance wheels have a regulator lever on the balance spring.

Types of movements

A modern bridge watch movement

Watch movements come in various shapes to fit different case styles, such as round, tonneau, rectangular, rectangular with cut corners, oval and baguette, and are measured in lignes, or in millimetres. Each specific watch movement is called a caliber.[3] The movement parts are separated into two main categories: those belonging to the ébauches and those belonging to the assortments.[2]

In watch movements the wheels and other moving parts are mounted between two plates, which are held a small distance apart with pillars to make a rigid framework for the movement. One of these plates, the front plate just behind the face, is always circular, or the same shape and dimensions as the movement. The back plate had various shapes:

Full plate movement
In this design, used in the earliest pocketwatches until the 18th century, the back plate was also circular. All the parts of the watch were mounted between the two plates except the balance wheel, which was mounted on the outside of the back plate, held by a bracket called the balance cock.
Three-quarter plate movement
In the 18th century, to make movements thinner, part of the back plate was cut away to make room for the balance and balance cock.
Bridge movement
In modern watch movements, the back plate is replaced with a series of plates or bars, called bridges. This makes servicing the movement easier, since individual bridges and the wheels they support can be removed and installed without disturbing the rest of the movement. The first bridge movements, in Swiss pocketwatches from around 1900, had three parallel bar bridges to support the three wheels of the going train. This style is called a three finger or Geneva movement.

Mechanical watch movements are also classified as manual or automatic:

Manual or hand winding
In this type the wearer must turn the crown periodically, often daily, in order to wind the mainspring, storing energy to run the watch until the next winding.
Automatic or self winding
In this type, used in most mechanical watches sold today, the mainspring is automatically wound by the natural motions of the wearer's wrist while it is being worn, eliminating the need for manual winding.

See also


  1. ^ "Clock Services and Repairs". Grandfather Clock Manufacturers and Antique Clock Repairs. Affordable Clocks. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Glossary". Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-09. [dead link]
  3. ^

External links

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