Automatic vs Manual Movement

Automatic vs Manual Movement

You may have noticed that some watches have manual movement versus the more popular automatic option but what exactly is manual and automatic movement? Also referred to as hand-wound and self-winding watches respectively, which is the better option for a watch? Nowadays you will see less and less of watches with manual movements and almost exclusively automatic movements. Today we are going to learn the difference between the two.

The Manual Movement

The manual movement, or hand-wound watches, refers to the type of movement in a watch that requires manual winding in order to reserve the power to keep the time. The mainspring is wound by winding the crown, and it usually has to be wound every day or in some makes 2-3 days in order to keep working continuously. It is advised that you should not overwind the watch as this could cause the spring to break, and a good indication of when to stop winding is when you start to feel resistance. This means that the watch has reached its maximum tension. Manual watches are often more regarded in respects to technicality and beauty due to its required winding. This means that manual watches require more personal upkeep giving them increased sentimental value for the owner. They are often known to keep more precise times as well. If you are looking to own a manual watch it is best to find one that you are only going to wear on occasion as these watches need to be maintained frequently. They make great collector timepieces and are generally more valuable and should not be worn every day. Luxury watches are perfect for manual movements.

The Automatic Movement

Then we have the automatic, or self-winding watch. This type of movement is completely self-powered with the assistance of the owner’s hand movements. A special fan-shaped rotor swings on a pivot in response to the motion of the arm. This swinging rotor allows for the watch’s mainspring to wind up and continue to run as long as it is moving on the wearer’s arm. As you can tell automatics are the more popular option because they don’t require constant maintenance; it just needs to be worn on the wrist for several hours a day. If an automatic isn’t worn for a couple of days it stops running at which point it will have to be wound by the crown. However technology advances have led to some companies making automatic watches that can run for up to a week or more without being worn! An automatic is the best option for watch enthusiasts who are looking for a watch that they will wear often, preferably every day. This means you can own several automatic watches without having to worry about winding. Casual and sports watches often fit the bill.

Final Thoughts

The majority of watches today are automatic and there fewer companies offering manual movements, making manual watches all the more rarer. Even if a company offers manual watches it often accounts for a relatively small percent of its total production. Companies that still offer manual movements include Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, Blancpain, IWC, Zenith, Omega, and Panarei. Many of the best watches in the world are hand wound but to decide on automatic vs manual movement it really depends on the level of use the watch will be going through. On a general scale watches likely to be worn frequently should be automatic while watches worn on occasion or for collector’s pieces should be manual.

For a more technical look into movements refer to this helpful guide. Or learn more about the history behind the watch or what makes a quality watch.

 

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