Watches really didn’t gain popularity until after WW1. Prior to that, only women wore wristwatches, while men used pocket watches. During the war, the pocket watch was impractical for life in the trenches, and the gent’s wristwatch was born. When the troops returned home, the gents wristwatch continued to gain popularity until the pocket watch became all but obsolete in the 1930’s. Watches are often classified by the type of movement they contain. A movement is the heart of a watch, a mechanism that records the passage of time and displays that time on the face of the watch. Along with the time, some movements display many other “complications” such as month, day and date.
Mechanical movements can be composed of hundreds of tiny moving parts. Historically these parts were hand fabricated and assembled by highly skilled watchmakers. Today mass production technology can make them quite a bit faster. Only a handful of watches are still produced entirely by hand and can fetch prices into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The automatic movement is a variation on the mechanical movement. Rather than having to be wound by hand, the movement contains a rotating weight that winds the mainspring using the movement of the wearers arm. Most mechanical watches today are made this way. For all their master craftsmanship and beauty, a mechanical watch is not the most accurate and can loose several seconds per day.
Electric movements originally were developed in the 1950’s and were the predecessors of the quartz movement. Their timekeeping element was either a traditional balance wheel or a tuning fork, driven electromagnetically by a solenoid powered by a battery. The hands were driven mechanically through a wheel train.
Quartz movements were introduced in 1969. By using a quartz-crystal resonator, an extreme level of accuracy was able to be achieved and removed the need for most if not all moving parts of a watch. By removing these parts, the watch became more shock resistant and eliminated the need for frequent cleanings. The accuracy of a quartz movement might vary by only 0.02seconds per day.