What Is a Sweeping Second Hand Watch?

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Whether you’re a watch connoisseur or new to the world of watches, chances are you already know that watches come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of different features. One of these is the sweeping second hand watch. These types of watches are unique and elegant and have differing frequencies, accuracies, prices, and working mechanisms. To learn more about sweeping second hand watches, keep reading.

What Is a Sweep Second Hand?

Unlike most watches, those with a sweeping second hand feature give a smooth sweeping impression instead of those that tick once per second. This is because the watch hand ticks multiple times per second at such a fast pace that our eyes perceive it as being a sweeping motion. This gives the watch a flawless appearance that is sure to please. For the most part, sweeping second hands are found on high-frequency automatic watches.

The more ticks per second, the more accurate the watch will be. Most mechanical watches tick five times per second. Luxury watches on the other hand, tick up to 10 times per second. Because of this, a watch with sweeping second hand is considered luxurious.

Can Quartz Watches Sweep?

While a sweeping hand is rare on a quartz watch, there are some on the market. The two most common sweeping hand quartz watches are the Bulova Precisionist and Seiko Spring Drive. The Bulova Precisionist has a 262 kHz frequency, which is much greater than the frequency of typical quartz watches. Believe it or not, this watch ticks 16 times per second.

class=”s1″>Seiko was the first watch brand to try and make a quartz watch that had a sweeping movement. During the 70s, the company was successful in this and named their creation the Seiko Spirit. These days, Seiko has come up with a more modern version of their original masterpiece – the Seiko Spring Drive. The Seiko Spring Drive has a movement of its own and gets the precision from a quartz crystal through a unique speed control regulator.

Aside from the above-mentioned watches, there really aren’t very many quartz sweepers. This is in part because quartz timepieces are powered by batteries and need an extra amount of energy for the extra steps the hand has to take. Normal watch batteries simply can’t take on the task because their energy would be drained in no time when working at such a fast-paced rate.

For a quartz watch to be able to run with a sweeping second hand, a larger capacity cell would be needed, which isn’t inexpensive to make. Not only that, but it would also be incredibly difficult to fit into such a small wristwatch. To put it plainly, quartz watchmakers simply don’t see the point in putting in all that extra effort just to add a sweeping second hand.

Do All Automatic Watches Sweep?

As you may have just learned, automatic watches are characterized by their sweeping hands, which tend to tick anywhere between 4 to 10 times per second. Quartz watches on the other hand, are ticking in one-second intervals and are being driven by a stepping motor, which is controlled by the vibrations caused by a quartz crystal.

class=”s1″>Automatic watches are completely free from all electronics, so everything is controlled by mechanical movement. The automatic watch is then controlled by the balance wheel, which receives energy from the mainspring that, in turn, releases energy through the escapement. It is the escapement that causes the mainspring to release energy at regular intervals to the balance wheel. The force of the balance wheel expels energy through the gear train in the rate at which the balance wheel is spinning. This is usually between 4 to 10 times per second. As a result, all automatic watches sweep.

If you do happen to find an automatic watch that ticks, be wary before purchasing one because chances are it will be incredibly costly. This is because of how complicated it is to get an automatic watch to do this, which in turn, affects how expensive they can be.

Interestingly enough, the ticking on an automatic or mechanical watch isn’t exactly useful and is simply there for aesthetic purposes only.

When a watch ticks, it means it is either a mechanical watch, whether manual or automatic. If a watch isn’t ticking but sweeping instead, it will be made of mechanical movement.


As you can see, sweeping second hand watches are extremely interesting and are a symbol of elegance and luxury. While for the most part sweeping second hand watches are only seen in automatic watches, there are a few exceptions as mentioned earlier and sweeping second hands can be seen on a handful of quartz watches. However, these pieces will be on the expensive side, which is something to consider when shopping around.