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The Absolute Beginner's Guide To Watches: Introduction

June 15, 2018 by Tom Chng


What is a watch?

To put it plainly, a watch is a measurement instrument, not unlike a ruler or a weighing scale. So what’s the big deal? Why are people breaking the bank and paying top dollar for these instruments? Why are watchmakers still spending decades honing their skills to craft these instruments? Because what they measure is extremely precious to us: time. Time is essentially our existence, our story here on earth. With every tick or the second hand, every swing of the balance, we inch closer to our unthinkable demise. Timepieces are therefore extremely intimate and highly sentimental objects.

Before you rush off to book an appointment with your local tattooist for your “Carpe Diem” tattoo, here’s Part 1 of Luxglove’s Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Watches: The Introduction.


Why Wear A Watch?

There’s really no practical reason to wear a watch. In this day and age, you can read the time from almost every electronic device. Whip out your phone, and there it is. A watch is unnecessary, obsolete, and redundant when you can learn the time of day from even a microwave oven display. More than ever, wearing a watch today is a statement.


Both tell time but which tells it better?


You wear a watch, because you choose to. Everyone’s heard the saying at some point, “you can tell a lot about a man by his watch” (or lack thereof), and your timepiece of choice reflects the attributes you hold dear.


General Build of Watches

Timepieces today can generally be grouped into two categories: quartz and mechanical.

Quartz watches typically are powered by batteries, use electronic oscillators and regulated by quartz crystals (hence the name). Mechanical watches, on the other hand, are driven by springs and gears.

For all intents and purposes, we will largely be discussing mechanical watches, and their associated characteristics and components.


Types of Mechanical Watches

Mechanical watches are powered via a mainspring, housed in a barrel. This mainspring needs to be wound up in order to provide the energy required for the timepiece to run, and we can distinguish the two main types of winding systems.


Manual Winding

Manual winding watches are also sometimes known as hand wound watches, as they require the wearer to wind up the mainspring, usually by turning the crown.


The manual winding calibre P.3000 of the Panerai PAM 557 Luminor 1950 "Destro" 3 Days Acciaio. Discover it here.


Automatic Winding

This system eliminates the need to manually wind up the timepiece, typically using an oscillating weight (rotor) that spins around as a result of the wearer’s natural movements. Also known as self-winding, not to be confused with the previously mentioned manual winding system.

The solid gold micro rotor of the Chopard L.U.C. Lunar One Limited Edition oscillates freely along with the natural wrist movements of the wearer, keeping the watch powered. Discover it here.


Which is better?

Both systems have their respective advantages and downsides, and is subject to personal preferences. Automatic watches are obviously less hassle to keep running, as their power reserve can be ensured by either wearing the timepiece, or placing them on a watch winder. This is especially useful for watches with calendar complications.


The caseback view of the F.P. Journe Octa Lune might be obstructed by the automatic winding rotor, but the oscillating weight redeems itself with its exceptional guilloche finishing. Discover it here.



The simplicity of a manual winding timepiece: A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Limited. Discover it here.


Stay tuned for the next installment of The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Watches: Complications.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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