The world of watches can sometimes be overwhelming. Deciding on which one to buy can take a hell of a long time because there are just too many styles and technical features to consider. We aim to help you in this cause by presenting you with the different types of watches you may or may not have come across.
All the watches are categorized into easily understandable groups based on their movements, functionalities, display types, and styles, and are available in the majority of renowned watch brands.
By the end of this post, you’ll be better positioned to determine the best type according to your requirements and preferences.
Without further ado, we start the list with the most basic classification – by the watch movement.
- Types of Watches by Watch Movements
- By Types of Dials
- By Visual Enhancement
- Types of Watches By Style
- Types of Watches by Functionality
Types of Watches by Watch Movements
The movement is what makes your watch tick. It is said that a true watch professional decides upon the inside of a watch, rather than the outside. Although everyone’s not an expert and will not make up their mind accordingly, it is still good to know the different watch movements you’ll encounter when researching the wristwear.
1. Mechanical Watches
A mechanical watch uses a clockwork mechanism to measure the passage of time. It is driven by a mainspring, which must be wound periodically. The watch’s wheels move forward with each swing of the balance wheel, moving the hands at a constant rate.
Mechanical movement watches make the ticking sound you’ve probably heard from your grandfather’s old timepiece.
Enthusiasts purchase mechanical watches mostly for their artistic reasons – the intricate moving gears and spiraling springs are what define the ultimate craftsmanship.
Nowadays, this type of movement is not very widespread – the watches are not as accurate as modern electronic quartz pieces and require regular cleaning by a skilled watchmaker. Nevertheless, you can still find a considerable number of models from various manufacturers, costing anywhere between a mere $100 up to astonishing tens of thousands of dollars.
2. Automatic Watches
An automatic watch, or a self-winding watch, is made up of mechanical parts and shares similar working principles that a mechanical caliber does but employs a spinning rotor that winds the mainspring using the natural motions of the wearer’s wrist.
The fact that it’s still made up of mechanically moving parts means the time tends to lose some pace, as it is with manual mechanical watches. Although the automatic watch accuracy falls well behind in comparison to quartz calibers, the timepieces carrying the movement are highly appreciated for the sophistication and the effort it takes to produce them.
The movement is employed by the majority of watch producers and finds use in all types of watches, from military-style to fancy dress pieces.
3. Quartz Watches
Out of all the watch calibers, the quartz movement is the most popular and widespread for being very accurate and inexpensive. Such a mechanism uses an electronic circuit that is regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. A crystal under the circuit creates a signal with a precise frequency, whereas the power source comes from a battery.
Compared to a mechanical watch, though, quartz wristwear needs a battery change every 2-3 years, which is the biggest concern dealing with this movement.
Seiko presented the first quartz watch in 1969. The technology has not stopped developing since then, becoming compact and inexpensive.
Quartz technology has also been a fruitful ground for a couple of groundbreaking developments in the watch industry. For instance, the next two movement-based types of watches you’ll find below exist precisely because of the introduction of quartz.
4. Solar Watches
Solar-powered watches run on quartz timekeeping but energize themselves from all sorts of light, natural or artificial. A fully charged solar timepiece can last anywhere between two to ten months without any light source applied to it.
What makes these watches unique, though, is that the cumbersome battery replacement you typically face when dealing with quartz pieces is out of the question. A rechargeable cell has a typical lifetime starting from 10 years.
The array of solar watches is vast, ranging from classy dress pieces for festive occasions to military-purpose timepieces for severe conditions in the wild. The most notable providers of solar-powered wristwatches come from Japan when Citizen, Seiko, and Casio lead the line.
An absolute delight with such timepieces is their very accessible price point – a quality solar watch costs around $100-$300.
5. Kinetic Watches
Like with previously covered solar pieces, a Kinetic watch, too, possesses a long-lasting rechargeable battery and runs on quartz timekeeping.
But unlike receiving energy from light, it powers itself from the motion of the wearer, just like automatic watches do. That’s why Kinetic timepieces are also called auto-quartzes, in being hybrids of automatic and quartz movements.
You’ll not find many Kinetic watches when searching for your next timepiece because the number of such models is relatively low. The pioneer of the innovation, Seiko, is the onliest provider.
If you aim to differentiate from others by wearing something that the majority doesn’t, then a Kinetic watch could be one of your best bets.
6. Spring Drive Watches
Like a Kinetic mechanism, a unique type of movement that employs the best merits of automatic and quartz calibers is Seiko’s proprietary Spring Drive movement.
Unlike the mechanical mechanisms where the escapement and balance wheel determine the accuracy, Spring Drive watches employ a regulator instead that uses quartz signals. Due to that, you can expect precise timekeeping while maintaining the prestigious workings of a mechanical watch.
Watches with Spring Drive movement cost thousands and are available only in Seiko’s line-up.
By Types of Dials
The face of a timepiece has great significance in the overall apparel of the wearable. There are four broad types of dials that distinguish from each other in terms of appearance – analog, digital, chronograph, and hybrid.
7. Analog Watches
An analog is a traditional clock face with an hour hand, a minute hand, and sometimes a second hand and a date window. Generally, an analog watch doesn’t have any fancy features and suits mostly for formal wear.
Analog watches can feature any movement there is and are usually priced lower due to the non-existent extra complications.
If you’re tired of continually watching screens in your everyday life, then an analog watch is a breeze of fresh air with its simplicity and traditionality.
8. Chronograph Watches
Chronographs are one of the most popular types of watches, mostly because of the stylish look of a dial and the stopwatch function. Typically, they cost more than analog watches, but prices are still very much affordable.
Usually, a chronograph watch has two or three smaller round dials and two buttons at two and four o’clock. The dials measure seconds, minutes, and hours, but in more advanced watches, even the fractions of a second. The buttons start, stop, and reset the measure.
For a long time, French king Louis XVIII’s watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec was considered the inventor of a chronograph in 1821 after the king needed a stopwatch for timing the horse races.
But a discovery in 2013 found that Louis Moinet had already constructed the modern chronograph as early as 1816. The Breitling family was the first to develop a chronograph watch with dials and pushers as we know it today.
9. Digital Watches
In contrast to analog and chronograph timepieces, a classic digital watch displays the time on a screen in numerical digits. A quartz movement typically powers it, and such a straightforward watch is typically the least expensive on the market as well.
The number of vintage-looking digital watches has deteriorated in the last couple of decades, but some still find their simple apparel everlasting. In fact, the vast majority of surf tide watches come precisely with a retro appeal. The likes of Rip Curl and Nixon brands are wonderful examples of how cool the vintage watches look like. Besides the apparel, they offer excellent practicality through tide graphs and pre-programmed beaches.
Other sports watches and also smartwatches are digital, too, for convenient and instant timekeeping that also feature additional functions for other measurements, such as heart rate, distance, and temperature.
10. Hybrid Watches
Hybrid watches combine the two prime types of dials – analog and digital – and add an extra dimension with various apps and functions. The number of such timepieces began to rise after the breakthrough of smartwatches several years back.
Many wearers prefer to have a classic analog face instead of a digital one when a watch is not in active use by apps. In hybrid watches, the digital display takes up only a part of the face, which leaves a significant proportion for a traditional analog dial, in that providing a fair compromise without giving away function-wise.
By Visual Enhancement
Although a wristwatch serves the purpose of presenting the wearer with an accurate time more than anything else, it has also become a way of self-expression. The following four types of watches make sure that visual enhancements cater to the needs of those wishing to stand out.
11. Skeleton Watches
One of the most unique-looking types of watches that serve a visual enhancement purpose rather than practical are skeleton timepieces.
All the inner gears and wheels are visible through either the front, the back, or a small cut. Viewing a skeleton watch is like witnessing Leonardo da Vinci painting Mona Lisa – the art is happening right before your eyes!
Many brands have decided to produce skeleton watches, and the design can be exceptional and creative – you will, in no doubt, find some real masterpieces.
Skeletons come with either manual mechanical or automatic movements.
12. Tourbillon Watches
Another example of mechanical wristwear’s craftsmanship and virtuosity is a tourbillon watch, which initially was to enhance the movement’s accuracy but later remained as just a piece of art instead.
Tourbillon stands for “whirlwind” in French and consists of a balance wheel and an escapement in a miniature cage. The continuous whirling motion, which is to average out positional errors, is the very reason for the fame of these types of watches.
The easily recognizable complication is rich in detail and takes months to construct. Swiss sell them for astronomical prices, whereas the emergence of Chinese affordable tourbillon watches has made them available for the wider public. Stuhrling Original is the most notable brand offering cheap tourbillons.
13. Moon Phase Watches
A moon phase complication is nothing more than the name already suggests – it tracks and displays the phases of the Moon. But what truly makes these timepieces special is the visual representation of it on the dial.
The classic blue-yellow coloring that comes with genuine moon phase watches depicts the various phases, all the way from new Moon to full Moon with waxing and waning phases.
These timepieces lean towards sleek style, which makes them perfect for wearing with suits and shirts.
Along with the genuine moon phase complication co-exists a simplified version of it, a Sun and Moon indicator. Unlike the original one, the latter indicates alterations between days and nights – at noon, the Sun is at the top center position, whereas at midnight, the Moon takes the spot.
14. Sweeping Second Hand Watches
A sweeping second hand watch is a timepiece where the second hand gives a sweeping motion instead of clear once in a second step. It is considered a higher class compared to typical timepieces, and, most importantly, is a pleasing sight to see.
A gliding motion is to do with the frequency of vibrations the watch conducts. Mechanical watches, including automatics, have the sweeping motion already in their core. Therefore, every wristwatch that runs on a mechanical caliber is already a sweep second hand watch.
On the other hand, quartz watches need a higher frequency than usual to feature visual enhancement. Thus, not many quartz watches come with a sweeping motion. However, the ones that employ it are real masterpieces to own. Bulova Precisionist line is one of the few examples of the magnificence of quartz sweepers.
Types of Watches By Style
15. Dive Watches
While many types of watches are also water-resistant, diving watches are meant explicitly for underwater activities, generally up to 1,000ft (300m). Dive watches possess the required standards to withstand rigorous conditions deep underwater, something that simple water-resistant wristwear doesn’t.
They are not only resistant to water, but the water pressure as well. To withstand the pressure down below, the construction of the watch needs to be very tough. Therefore, the timepieces regularly use rubber seals to protect the openings around the crown and come with a screwable crown for extra resistance.
Standard features of a classic dive watch include a longer band to fit over a diving suit, a rotating bezel that can be rotated only in one direction, allowing for tracking the remaining air supply precisely, and luminous hands and indices for better readability deep below.
Dive watches are perfect for everyday wear since they come with a style that suits not only professional activities in the water but a wide variety of attires for various occasions.
16. Military Watches
These hand watches are for simple yet effective use. Military watches don’t have many fancy attributes – they are meant to show time and be rugged to stand dirt, mud, and wet conditions.
But don’t get me wrong – “rugged” can also mean stylish and good-looking. Many military watch brands produce very durable and straightforward yet fashionable wristwear.
One of the most important things about a field watch is how the time is displayed – the dials have to be easily readable, even under low-light and night conditions. Therefore, a high-contrast dark dial with white numbering is the most prevalent styling element.
The luminous background or hands/indices is another feature helping to read the time in low-light conditions.
17. Dress Watches
Dress watches are simple yet elegant in style. They need to match various smart styles and outfits. Therefore, they can’t be too extravagant. Single-colored analog dials with few features are perfect for dress wristwear. Another trait that comes with a genuine dress piece is its height – for the watch to slip under the sleeve, it needs to be slim enough.
These timepieces suit the best for white-collar workers and businessmen, who usually dress smart due to their profession.
The rules of matching a leather and metal band of a dress timepiece with a suitable color of a belt and shoes have more significant importance than with other types of watches. That’s why it’s good to have a selection of different bands with your dress watch.
18. Fashion Watches
If you wish to steer away from the simplicity that a dress watch provides, then a fashion timepiece from a renowned brand can be a valuable addition to your outfit.
You’ve probably seen some exquisite fashion brands, such as Emporio Armani, Hugo Boss, and Guess, selling their wristwear. These brands are not primarily known for their watchmaking history and typically don’t even manufacture them.
However, by adding their logo and aesthetics, they can sell them at a higher price. Generally, people who appreciate the brand go for these tickers. Though, quality-wise, they often lack the reliability that renowned manufacturers provide.
Fossil brand, for example, is the most notable provider of fashionable wristwear. Many acknowledged companies, such as Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and Guess, have their timepieces manufactured by the Fossil Group.
However, if you wish to decorate your wrists with over-the-top aesthetics, why not go for Swarovski or diamond-covered JBW watches? Such timepieces are also fashion watches but on a whole new level in terms of flashiness compared to others.
19. Luxury Watches
This type of watch is for someone who is not afraid to splash the cash. It’s quite common to have luxury watches costing tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously, not any ticker can have such a high price without possessing something luxurious.
One of the luxuries these watches have is the reputation. A long and successful history of watchmaking defines the brand. Rolex, Breitling, Hublot, Omega, and other known trade names have been around for more than a century, perfecting their procedures and qualities.
Luxury watches are often encased in valuable gemstones and other expensive materials. Also, they use high-end movements, guaranteeing maximum durability.
Since the value holds pretty well, there is a considerable market for used pieces. If you can’t afford a brand new ticker but fancy some luxury, you could consider going for a used one at a much more feasible rate.
20. Pilot Watches
These hand watches are, above all, for pilots because of the unique features the watches have. But nobody restricts their use in simple everyday life. After all, they are fashionable, look appealing, and suit many styles. In fact, aviation watches are the reason why there’s a trend for big-sized cases these days.
Pilot watches originated from the military when pilots had to keep track of time in a portable and little attention requiring manner.
Most of the watches have a compass, tachymeter, and altimeter, for the sole purpose of helping out the pilot when in need of help. The dial is usually large with glowing hands, enhancing visibility in the dark.
21. Racing Watches
Compared to pilot wristwear, racing watches don’t have a lot of specific features. They are foremost fancy and flashy with exciting colors that suit many styles. You can still expect to have two essential co-existing elements determining an ultimate racing watch – a tachymeter and a chronograph.
We’ve already covered a chronograph earlier in the post, but once more, a chronograph is a stopwatch measuring seconds, minutes, and hours.
On the other hand, a tachymeter helps to calculate speed and distance based on the readings of a chronograph. Understanding the complicated tachymeter ring needs some practicing, but once mastered, it is a valuable feature.
22. Nurse Watches
As the profession already hints, nurse watches are for those whose occupation lies in the medical field, whether being a nurse, a general practitioner, or even a medical student.
These professions require a sturdy timepiece, able to show more than just time. A 24-hour dial is used widely in medicine, as is the contrasting second hand for correctly timing everything from medication times to pulse rates. Some watches also have a luminous dial, which helps to check the time in dim lighting conditions.
An easily cleanable band is also a feature of this type because of the excessive water exposure this walk of life often faces.
23. Pocket Watches
There were times when a pocket watch was almost as a must for a true gentleman. Although more than a century has passed and comfortable hand-worn time trackers have taken over, there is still quite a remarkable demand for vintage pocket watches.
Several renowned watch manufacturers, including Tissot, Bulova, and Hamilton, produce the historic timepieces. However, when you decide to acquire one of them, make sure you take good care of it because a manual mechanical timepiece requires regular upkeep from a professional.
Pocket watches are sought-after among watch enthusiasts who wish to complement their collections. Of course, no one limits their use for everyday occasions. Therefore, feel free to go for one if they’re of interest to you.
24. Wooden Watches
Wooden watches have been around for some time now and are a unique alternative to regular timepieces everyone else is wearing.
You will find some interestingly looking wood watches made out of maple, walnut, ebony, and many more. They also come in various colors and suit many attires.
The biggest concern with a wooden watch is that only a handful of models are water-resistant. Though a little rain won’t cause any problems to a splash-proof timepiece, you still can’t go showering or swimming with it. Consider one of the water-resistant options for better durability.
Wooden watches use automatic and quartz movements and come in various display types, such as analog, chronograph, and skeleton.
Types of Watches by Functionality
Smartwatches have been the trend of the last couple of years now. Since people are searching for a quick and convenient way to get and handle all sorts of information, some tech-brands, such as Apple and Samsung, have taken the opportunity to diversify the watch market.
A smartwatch is an extension arm for your smartphone – you can accept or deny calls, use apps, and read messages. It is also possible to read your heart rate or make use of the GPS. And, believe it or not, you can even check the time, among the vast number of features!
Smartwatches keep an accurate time throughout their lifetime because, unlike most of the watches that employ timekeeping mechanism, the smart wear synchronizes through GPS. However, one of the downsides of a smartwatch is the low battery life – you need to charge it regularly.
26. Fitness Watches
Fitness watches, or fitness trackers, are primarily for sports enthusiasts and share similarities with smartwatches in possessing various opportunities that typical hand watches cannot provide.
With the integrated GPS or a 3-axis accelerometer, it is possible to track the distance of running, jogging, walking, cycling, or other activities. If there’s a heartbeat sensor, it can also measure your heart rate and sleep stages.
On the outside, fitness watches are generally with a digital display and made from rubber, silicone, or plastic that is water-resistant. The watches use a battery for power and require regular charging.
As it is with smartwatches, the fitness trackers receive the correct time through GPS.
27. Atomic Watches
When GPS-enabled watches receive accurate time through satellites, then atomic timepieces use radio waves.
The timekeeping of atomic watches is based on a quartz movement, but with the inclusion of a particular receiver under the dial, the accuracy achieves a whole new level – the watches are accurate to one second in thousands of years. It is achieved through the atomic clock that updates the timepieces several times a day through radio waves.
Atomic watches come with affordable prices in various designs from renowned brands – Seiko, Citizen, and Casio.
However, the prime of these types of watches seems to be fading with the growing number of GPS-controlled classic timepieces that eliminate the most significant disadvantage regarding atomic wristwear – the distance from radio towers.
28. Solar Atomic Watches
When atomic watches power themselves from disposable batteries, then solar atomic watches employ rechargeable cells that frequently charge from any light.
These watches can be considered one of the most carefree types of watches available because of the needless battery replacements, as well as time adjustments.
Seiko introduced the first solar-powered atomic watch in 2005 and has been one of the leading forces ever since. A stiff competitor to Seiko is another Japanese powerhouse Citizen who went down in history with the first-ever atomic timepiece in 1993.
Despite the seemingly expensive innovations that solar atomic watches come with, the prices are relatively affordable when most wristwear costs around $200-$500.
29. ABC Watches
One of the best types of watches in terms of functions is an ABC watch. ABC, which stands for an altimeter, barometer, and compass, is a perfect companion for hikers, mountaineers, and trekkers.
The feature-rich watch reads the barometric pressure, from which it’s possible to calculate the approximate altitude. And if you top it with a digital compass providing you with precise directions, you end up with an inseparable wearable for outdoor activities.
ABC watches are also thermometer watches featuring a temperature reader in the range of 14F to 140F (-10C to 60C).
Typically, this type of watch comes with a digital display in order to present all the necessary data in a convenient manner.
30. Vibrating Alarm Watches
The last type of wristwear we cover in this post comes really handy for those wearers who require daily reminders through a vibrating alarm.
Heavy sleepers, people with hearing problems or ADHD, and the elderly often find the typical sound alarm inadequate. But with a wearable vibrating on a wrist, the notification can not be ignored.
Vibrating alarm watches have the possibility for several notifications per day, aiding to remind the wearer of essential daily tasks. The timepieces are easy to set, have a digital display, and won’t cost much either.
Conclusion: Different Types Of Watches
Now that you’re more aware of the different types of watch movements, display options, and profession-based watches, your decision-making should be a whole lot easier. The world of watches is diverse and overwhelming, but as long as there are various types of watches to choose from, you can be sure to find the watch that suits your lifestyle, needs, and personality the best.
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