What is an Analog Watch? A Complete Guide for Watch Lovers

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For centuries, humans have been fascinated by time and seeking ways to keep track of its relentless march forward. One of the most iconic timekeeping devices is the analog watch – the traditional watch with hour, minute, and second hands sweeping around a numbered dial. Analog watches remain popular even in our digital age because of their visual appeal, craftsmanship, and nostalgic retro design.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to analog watches – explaining how they work, different types of movements, components, styles, and how to read the time on watch dials. Whether you’re a watch collector looking to expand your knowledge or simply appreciate fine timepieces, read on to uncover the inner workings and outer beauty of the analog watch.

As a leading manufacturer of custom OEM and ODM watches in China, we at Romlicen create high-quality analog watches for brands worldwide. Our experienced engineering team can bring your unique watch designs to life. If you’re seeking a reliable partner for watch manufacturing, contact us to learn more about our services.

Analog Watch
Analog Watch

How an Analog Watch Works

An analog watch indicates the time using the relative positions of three hands – hour, minute, and second – as they rotate around a dial with hourly markers. The intricate mechanisms inside make this motion possible through an ingenious coordination of gears, springs, and balances.

At the heart of a mechanical analog watch movement is the mainspring – a coiled metal spring that stores energy. As it slowly unwinds, the mainspring powers the gear train, a series of small interlocking toothed wheels that transfers motion. The final gear drives the second hand, continually advancing it 6 steps around the 60 increments on the dial.

The minute hand sits atop the second hand staff and advances one marker as the second hand completes a full rotation of 60 seconds. A series of gears connected to the main gears drives the hour hand, advancing it one hour marker as the minute hand revolves 60 times. The varying gear ratios enable the different sweeping motions of the three hands.

Automatic and quartz movements have their own unique inner workings to achieve this dancing display of the time via analog hands. But every form relies on the harmonized calibration of components to mirror the steadfast forward march of time.

How to Set Time on an Analog Watch

Learning how to manually adjust the time on your analog watch ensures it stays accurate if it gains or loses time. Here is a step-by-step guide using a basic three-hand watch:

  1. Unscrew and gently pull the crown out to the time-setting position. This allows the hands to move freely.
  2. Turn the crown clockwise slowly to advance the hour and minute hands until you reach the current correct time. Ensure AM/PM is correctly set if applicable. You can move the hands backwards as well to align with the exact minute and second.
  3. Push the crown back into the normal operating position carefully. Once tightened and pressed in, the hands should immediately start moving as the seconds hand resumes its sweeping motion. This engages the movement to begin keeping precise time again.

Some analog watches have calendar windows or additional complications like chronographs. Setting these models require correctly adjusting multiple components in sequence when resetting the time. Always refer user manuals for proper instructions tailored to your specific watch caliber.

How to change time on analog watch
How to change time on analog watch

Types of Analog Watch Movements

There are three main types of movements that power analog watches: mechanical, automatic, and quartz. Each has distinct inner workings to drive the hands around the dial.

Mechanical Movements

The traditional mechanical movement uses the unwinding of a wound spring to drive the watch hands through an intricate series of gears. Manual-wind mechanical watches require periodically winding the crown to re-tension the mainspring.

Structure and parts of Mechanical Wrist Watch
Structure and parts of Mechanical Wrist Watch

Automatic Movements

An automatic or self-winding movement harnesses kinetic energy from the movement of the wearer’s wrist. A oscillating weight called a rotor spins with each motion to wind the mainspring, eliminating the need for manual winding. Popular brands using automatic movements include Seiko, Orient and Tissot.

Automatic Watch Movement
Automatic Watch Movement

Quartz Movements

Quartz analog watches contain a small battery that sends electrical pulses to a tiny quartz crystal inside. The vibrating crystal accurately regulates the pulses that drive a stepper motor to move the hands. This results in very precise time-keeping. Many fashion watch brands like Fossil, Armani Exchange and Michael Kors utilize quartz movements.

Each type of movement has their devotees in the watch enthusiast community. Mechanical watches are appreciated for their intricate craftsmanship while quartz watches offer affordability and accuracy. As an OEM/ODM watch manufacturer, Romlicen produces quality analog watches using all three movement types.

Quartz Watch Movement
Quartz Watch Movement

Parts of an Analog Watch

Analog watches may appear simple on the outside – hands sweeping around a numbered dial. But inside, they contain many critical components perfectly aligned to display the time.

The Dial

The dial, also called the watch face, provides the background for the hands. It usually contains hourly numeral or baton markers in a 12-hour format. Popular colors include white, black and blue. Some dials incorporate additional sub-dials for functions like chronographs. The hour markers can be made of applied metal, painted, or engraved directly into the dial surface.

The Hands

Watch hands are tapered metal rods, frequently coated for legibility. Hour and minute hands indicate the main time while a slim second hand makes fine sweeps around the periphery. Specialty watches may have additional hands for tracking seconds, dates or other functions.

The Winding Crown

The knob on the side of the case allows manual winding of mechanical movements to tension the mainspring. It can also adjust the time and date. Screw-down crowns provide water resistance by sealing the crown against the case.

Other components like the watch crystal, case, caseback and strap/bracelet all come together in an analog watch. As a full service OEM/ODM watch factory, Romlicen manufactures quality analog watches from scratch, paying attention to all critical components.

Parts of analog watch
Parts of analog watch

Styles of Analog Watches

Analog watches come in a diverse array of styles to suit different tastes and settings. From sleek dress watches to rugged sports watches, the available options reflect both form and function.

Dress Watches

Sophisticated dress watches have simple, elegant dials focusing mainly on the time. Features like thin cases, minimalist indexes and leather straps elevate their refined style. Many luxury watchmakers like Bvlgari, Omega and IWC Schaffhausen create beautiful dress watches.

Sports Watches

Rugged sports watches emphasize durability, visibility and performance. They often have resin bands, chunky cases to protect the movement, luminous hands/markers and timing functions. Top sports watch brands include Casio, Timex and Luminox.

Diving Watches

Water resistance is crucial for diving watches. Features like screw-down crowns, rotating bezels to track dive times and bright lume make them ideal companions underwater. Trusted names for divers watches are Seiko, Citizen and Victorinox Swiss Army.

Chronograph Watches

Chronographs have stopwatch capabilities through additional sub-dials tracking seconds, minutes and even hours. They allow timing of any activity down to a fraction of a second. Leading chronograph watchmakers are Tag Heuer, Seiko and Hamilton.

How to Read Time on an Analog Watch

One of the most common questions first-time analog watch wearers have is: how do you actually tell time from those rotating hands? It’s easier than you think with some simple guidelines.

First locate the hour and minute hands. The hour hand is shorter and moves slower while the minute hands is longer. The minute hand always passes over the hour markers as it makes its way around the dial.

Next find the second hand – it’s the skinny one rapidly ticking each second. Second hands vary in length but are generally not essential to telling the main time.

The key is aligning the positions of the hands with the hour markers encircling the dial. As the hour and minute hands point directly at numbers, you can readout the time straight from the dial.

When the hands are between markers, approximate the time based on relative spacing. For example, if the minute hand has passed 2 and is approaching 3, while the hour hand is halfway from 3 to 4 – it’s about 3:30 PM.

With practice, reading an analog display becomes second nature. And there’s an undeniable old-world charm to decoding the time from ornately swirling watch hands that digital displays can’t replicate.

As a leading OEM/ODM watch manufacturer, Romlicen creates high-quality analog watches designed for easy timetelling. Contact us today for stylish custom timepieces.

Analog vs Digital Watches

Beyond analog watches with their rotating hands, digital watches have also become prevalent – displaying the time via numbers on an LCD screen. So what’s the difference between the two formats?

Reading Display

The main difference is the display. Analog displays the current time by position of hands. Digital shows the hours, minutes and seconds through illuminated numeric digits.


Quartz digital watches often have greater timekeeping accuracy than mechanical analog watches. Digital watches can display precise exact times while analog dials have some approximation involved.

Power Source

Most digital watches rely on batteries. Analog watches use manual or automatic winding, with quartz models also being battery powered. Digital thus requires periodic battery changes.

Aesthetics and Design

Analog watch faces have more artistic design freedom including choices of unique dials, index markers, and watch hands. Digital watches focus more on utilitarian display of information rather than aesthetics.

Heritage Value

Analog has a long history of quality Swiss and Japanese watchmaking spanning over a century. Digital is a newer technology popularized in the 1970s and 80s. As such, analog watches often have higher perceived value.

This comparison shows that both analog and digital have their own sets of advantages. For many watch enthusiasts, the elegance and skilled craftsmanship of analog gives it enduring appeal over digital options.

Analog vs Digital Watches
Analog vs Digital Watches

Analog vs Smartwatches

Beyond digital watches, smartwatches have exploded in popularity in recent years as technology-packed wrist wearables. How do old-fashioned analog watches compare to high-tech smartwatches?


Smartwatches are multi-functional miniature computers on the wrist offering features like notifications, activity tracking, payments and much more. Analog watches perform the singular timekeeping function.


Smartwatches use Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular to connect with smartphones to enable their smart features and data connectivity. Analog watches do not require any external connectivity


Analog watches have near endless customization options between case shapes, strap designs, colors, special features etc. Smartwatch customization is more limited to pre-defined vendor models.


With high-end computing components, smartwatches range from affordable to premium prices tiers. Traditional analog watches span an even wider spectrum – from a few dollars for basic models to luxury timepieces costing tens of thousands.

While smartwatches lead functionality, analog retains appeal among serious watch lovers due its legacy, custom options, and the masterful craft behind mechanical movements. For these reasons, analog watches continue thrive even against high-tech competition.

Analog vs Smartwatches
Analog vs Smartwatches

Analog Watches vs Chronographs

Chronograph watches are a specialized type of analog watch with stopwatch functionality for timing events precisely. What sets them apart from regular analog watches?

Time Display

The primary difference is the inclusion of chronograph sub-dials on the watch face to time seconds, minutes and sometimes hours. Standard analog watches only display the current time.


Chronographs have pusher buttons on the side of the case to activate and stop the stopwatch function. Basic analog watches do not feature these control pushers.


The chronograph mechanism allows precise timing down to fractions of a second, much more than possible with just the seconds hand on an analog watch. This makes them useful during races, games and other timed activities.


The extra chronograph module and pushers make these watches more complex and thus slightly pricier than regular analog watches. More affordable options are quartz chronographs.

So in summary – chronographs builds on analog watch foundations but add stopwatch capabilities for more accurate event timing. The functionality expands beyond just basic time display.

Digital vs analogue-What is the difference
Digital vs analogue-What is the difference


From intricate mechanical movements to quartz battery precision, analog watches represent beautiful micro-engineering and design. The sweeping clockwise dance of hands on a dial has endured as a iconic way to record the passage of time.

Analog watches remain popular in our digital world for their visual appeal, pleasing rituals like winding, and the master craftsmanship behind precision timekeeping instruments. Whether an everyday casual watch or a luxury heirloom piece, analog watches continue be a popular jewelry accessory.

We hope this guide gave you a comprehensive overview explaining the inner workings and outward styles of the analog watch – one of humankind’s great timekeeping innovations.

As an established OEM and ODM watch manufacturer based in China, Romlicen creates affordable, high-quality custom analog watches for brands across the globe. With our in-house engineering, factory production capabilities, and commitment to service – we deliver exceptional timepieces tailored exactly to specifications.

Contact us today to bring your watch ideas to life or learn more about our watch manufacturing services. We look forward to helping grow your brand with expertly crafted analog watches.

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