What's What In Watch Construction: A guide to Swiss vs Japanese Motion.

The Vow Team

Mar 21, 2022

Watches fall into two, major categories of motion, Swiss sweeping and Japanese ticks.


As a new, watch collector, it is important to know the biggest major difference in watch design. That is the way that the hands (hour and minute are the most common hands on a watch but, watches are not restricted to only two hands) move. Watches can move in one of two ways-Swiss sweeping or Japanese ticks.

Swiss watches have a smooth motion, referred to as "sweeping". The hands on a Swiss watch move in an arc across the face of the watch. The Swiss Sweep is often considered more elegant than the "tick" motion of Japanese watches. On a Japanese watch, the hands move in a series of small jumps or ticks across the face. Some people find this movement to be more accurate, since it doesn't lose time as easily as the sweeping movement of a Swiss watch.

Swiss watches are often seen as luxurious watches. The smooth movement of the hands makes it appear as though the watch is more expensive. Think of brands such as Rolex, Cartier, and Omega.

Japanese watches, while not as luxurious, can be quite affordable. These watches often have a more sporty look to them, since they are often used for activities that require more accurate timing, such as running or biking. Watches from brands such as Seiko and Citizen are less expensive than their Swiss counterparts, but still offer great quality.

This difference in motion is dictated by the engineering. Swiss watches, are noted to be battery free. This means, in order to maintain the watch's signature sweep, these watches must be regularly wound. This also means that they require attention to detail, to keep the watch accurate and good working order. The mechanics in a Swiss watch can be delicate, and one must keep that in mind when winding them, as overwinding a watch can damage the delicate gears. There are watch boxes that can be purchased , which automate the winding process for you.

Japanese watches are powered by a battery, which gives them their ticks. The hands on a Japanese watch move in small increments, which means that they lose less time then Swiss watches (which often must be reset). In addition, this battery powered movement does not always need to be wound like a Swiss watch does in order to keep it ticking. Japanese watches are often more rugged than Swiss Watches. This is because the battery-powered motion can handle more contact with the environment and is less susceptible to breaking.

While a battery powered watch might not have the "class" of a Swiss watch, it is a more accurate timepiece that doesn't require winding and won't get damaged as easily if you forget to do so.