Automatic vs Mechanical Watches:5 Things You Need to Know

An Automatic watch is a type of mechanical watch that is self-winding and uses a clockwork mechanism to measure the passage of time. There are two types of mechanical watches: the self-winding watch (Automatic) and non self-winding mechanical watch (Manual-wind watch or Hand-winding watch).

The clockwork behind the mechanical watch is powered by a tightly wound spring inside the watch. The spring is knowns as the mainspring and requires hand-winding. This winding is usually done by using the crown (a knob on the side of a watch) or is done by a winding key.

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The mainspring is a tightly wounded spring that holds as certain amount of tension. Together with a series of springs, gears, screws and other components, the tension is incrementally released and transfers the tension to other mechanical components of the watch. These mechanical components called the gear train and escapement powers the watch. The rotor keeps the mainspring tightly wounded to allow a steady flow of energy in the caliber. The caliber is the mechanical movement.

Watches are more than just timepieces. They are fashion accessories, status symbols, and even works of art. One of the most important decisions you’ll make when choosing a watch is whether to go for an automatic or mechanical watch. Most people use the term mechanical watch interchangeably with the manual wind watch. I will use this definition in this blog post and refer to the hand-wound watch as the mechanical watch. Now we’ve cleared up the terminology we can start looking at their pros and cons, and the choice you make depends on your lifestyle and preferences. In this blog post, we’ll go over five things you need to know about automatic and mechanical watches to help you make an informed decision.

What’s the Difference Between Automatic and Mechanical Watches?

Automatic watches, also known as self-winding watches, use the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist to wind the watch’s mainspring, which powers the watch. A rotor inside the watch rotates with the movement of the wrist, which in turn winds the mainspring. Automatic watches don’t require a battery and are powered by the kinetic energy generated by the wearer’s movement.

Photo by David Bartus:

Mechanical watches, on the other hand, use a mainspring that needs to be manually wound to power the watch. The user needs to wind the watch regularly to keep it running. Mechanical watches also don’t require a battery and are powered solely by the mainspring.

Which One is More Accurate?

In terms of accuracy, both automatic and mechanical watches are on par with each other. However, automatic watches are more consistent in their accuracy because they are constantly being wound by the wearer’s movements. Mechanical watches, on the other hand, can lose or gain time if they are not wound regularly.

Which One is More Expensive?

Generally speaking, mechanical watches are more expensive than automatic watches. This is because mechanical watches require more skill and labor to manufacture due to their complexity. Additionally, mechanical watches are often considered more valuable because they are handmade and have a certain level of craftsmanship that automatic watches don’t have. There aren’t many inexpensive hand-winding watches out there on the market. There are a few good hand winding watches I want to mention below:

Affordable Hand winding Watches

Oriental Monarch

Price: $400 – $500, Case Size: 40mmmm, Thickness: 13mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Manual Orient 48C40, Crystal: Mineral

Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

Price: $495, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 9.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Manual ETA 2801Crystal: Sapphire 

Seagull 1963

Price: $300 – $500, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 14.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.8mm, Lug Width: 18mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Manual Seagull ST19, Crystal: Acrylic

Affordable Automatic Watches

Seiko SRPD25

Price: $525, Case Size: 42.4mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Seiko 4R36, Crystal: Mineral  

Citizen NY0040-09E

Price: $400, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48mm, Water Resistance: 200m, Movement: Auto Miyota 8200, Crystal: Mineral

Which One Requires More Maintenance?

Both automatic and mechanical watches require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly. However, mechanical watches require more frequent maintenance because they are more complex and have more moving parts. The mainspring in a mechanical watch needs to be cleaned and lubricated regularly to prevent it from rusting and breaking. Automatic watches, on the other hand, only require periodic maintenance to ensure that the movement is clean and lubricated. Let me break it down below.

Firstly, let’s go though how to wind and set a watch. The coiled spring in a hand-wind watch will provide power for one or two days in general. The hand wound watch typically requires the crown to be wounded a few dozen times. Hand wound watches tend to be owned by Watch Enthusiast.

Maintaining a Hand-wound Watch

Maintaining a hand-wound watch requires regular winding and cleaning. It is recommended to wind the watch daily, preferably at the same time each day, to ensure accurate timekeeping. When winding, do not overwind the watch as this can damage the mechanism. In addition, it is important to keep the watch clean and dry to prevent dust and moisture from affecting its accuracy. If the watch is not water-resistant, avoid exposing it to water. If the watch stops working or loses accuracy, take it to a professional watchmaker for maintenance and repair. With proper care and maintenance, a hand-wound watch can last for decades or even generations.

Maintaining a Automatic Watch

Automatic watches must be serviced to re-oil and clean the parts. This kind of watch usually requires service every three to five years. Servicing your watch also ensures that it stays clean and accurate all the time. The watch may no longer correctly work if you don’t wear it often.

Photo by Antony Trivet:

Overall, a mechanical watch (hand wound) requirement more regular maintenance compare to an Automatic watch. Generally speaking, the person who usually owns a hand wound watch is a passionate watch lover, and can devote more time on maintenance.

Which One is Better For You?

The choice between an automatic and mechanical watch ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a watch that requires less maintenance and is more accurate, an automatic watch might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re willing to put in the effort to keep your watch running smoothly and want a watch that has a certain level of craftsmanship and value, a mechanical watch might be the better choice.

If you are someone who have the passion and time, the hand wound watch is the way to go. Treat it like a hobby, and spend time and care on it. If you are someone who loves automatic mechanical watches, an automatic watch is the way to go. Its way less maintenance and at the same time you have the pleasure of owning an automatic watch.

In conclusion, the choice between an automatic and mechanical watch is a matter of personal preference. Both types have their pros and cons, and the choice you make ultimately depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and budget. If you’re in the market for a new watch, consider these five things before making your decision.

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