What Is A Self-Winding Watch? (Exploring the Automatic Watch Movement)
If you have ever wondered what a self-winding watch is, then you are at the right place to learn everything there is to know about them.
So that they don't confuse you too much, self-winding watches are also a type of mechanical watch.
A self-winding watch, also referred to as an automatic watch, keeps a power reserve by storing energy from the movement of the wearer's hands inside a mainspring. Automatic watches have a rotor/ oscillating weight which converts the kinetic energy from the wearer's hand movement to wind the mainspring, thus the self-winding watch name.
Stick around to find out more about automatic movement watches before you go for one yourself.
How does a self-winding watch work?
According to the name prefix, the "automatic" movement takes the mechanical watch movement to a new level.
Unlike the manual wind watch, the self-winding nature of the watch makes it automatic.
That doesn't answer the question of how the self-winding timepiece works, though. But here goes:
When the wearer moves their hand while wearing the automatic timepiece on their wrist, the inner rotor/ oscillating weight spins, transferring energy to the mainspring of the watch. The mainspring stores the energy and gently redistributes it to power the seconds, minutes, and hour hand of the watch.
This energy release from the watch's mainspring is also responsible for running other complications that might feature on the watch.
Does a self-winding watch have a battery?
The older mechanical watch is a hand-wound watch and would only work with how much energy you have stored inside the spring.
With an automatic movement watch, though, you don't have to wind them to get them working at all.
It is, thus, easy to think that these automatic mechanical timepieces share something in common with quartz watches – the battery. That would be wrong.
Depending on the quality of the automatic wristwatch movement, a power reserve is created when the self-winding watch is worn to ensure continuous operation. The energy stored in the mainspring is slowly released to power the watch over time, even when the watch is not being worn, or the wearer's hand is stationary.
The power reserve that comes with these timepieces differ from one another, so be on the lookout for that.
While some self-winding timepieces can last for a few days, some will only keep ticking for a few hours when left idle. The same is true for the manual winding watch, which also has a reserve based on how much you wind it, and how much energy the spring is willing to store in the first place.
Can you wind a self-winding watch?
Since it is not a manual watch, you would expect that this is not possible.
However, some manufacturers have left the option for users to wind their self-winding watches when it has been left idle for too long.
Before we say any other thing, please keep this in mind:
It is not advised that you wind your watches often.
Now that we're clear on that, self-winding the watch is possible via the crown of the watch. This is the same principle that the basic manual wind watches work on, so nothing new here.
To prevent powering down, you can invest in a watch winder to keep your unit powered. Depending on how many automatic movement watches you have (or plan on collecting), there are different watch winders that you can choose from at varying prices.
Staying true to the Nordgreen nature, we advise that you never go for the cheap ones. That doesn't mean you should break the bank to get a watch winder either. There are always affordable picks that you can choose from on the market.
How long do self-winding watches last?
This question can mean either of two things to you.
On the one hand, you might be interested in the power reserve on these watches. On the other hand, you might want to know about the longevity of the watches.
We've covered both questions for you.
For starters, an automatically winding watch will last for varying hours after its last use based on the quality of materials used for the movement.
High-quality automatic timepieces ensure consistent timekeeping for up to 40-50 hours after they were last worn. Lower quality units can last anywhere from 4-12 hours after the last wear, while some will last just over a day.
If the watch's mainspring gets damaged or any part of the gear train develops a fault, the watch might start losing the energy stored faster than normal. At this point, you should get it checked by a licensed professional so that they replace any damaged/worn-out parts.
Generally, these watches will last for a long time if properly taken care of.
Recall that automatic watches are a subcategory of mechanical watches – which is what the watch industry was built on. These mechanical movements came with everything from pocket watches to the first wristwatch, and they are still handed down today as family heirlooms.
As long as you take good care of your automatic wristwatch, you will also enjoy it for a long time to come.
How do you maintain an automatic watch better?
There are a series of small things that you can incorporate into your daily life to help with better automatic-winding timepiece management.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Clean the watch regularly
You might not have the time to clean the watch every day – and you should not either.
Depending on how much you wear the watch, it is advised that you set aside some time per week for the cleaning.
We have developed an in-depth guide to cleaning your watches by yourself if you're interested in protecting your investment. From the case to the strap, we have everything covered for you.
Avoid excessive winding
The manual mechanical watches come with jewel ball bearings designed to withstand the friction from the inner workings of the watch and consistent winding.
For the self-winding wristwatches, the focus is to generate energy from the natural motion of the wearer's hands rather than the winding aspect. Even though the winding function is on some automatic wristwatches, that is.
With that in mind, you should know that these automatic wristwatches were not designed to withstand the same level of wear and friction that would happen in a manual mechanical movement.
To limit the winding when not in use, check out different watch winders as they appeal to you.
We would like to provide a template answer to how regular the watch servicing will be, but that will be poor advice from us.
Different automatic watches are made at varying levels of precision and with different parts. Thus, it is best to stick to the manufacturer's recommendation on when to service the watch.
In general, automatic watches should be taken to a qualified service shop once every 3-5 years. Depending on your model, refer to the manufacturer's guide to determine which works best for the model you have at hand.
When you have to wind the watch at all, make sure you don't overdo it.
If your automatic unit comes with an external winding mechanism (should be the crown), winding about 30-40 times is enough to get the mainspring fully wound.
To be on the safer side, we advise just 30 turns of the crown to get things working. After all, you'd be wearing the watch afterward, and the natural motion of your wrist should add energy to the spring from the rotor spins.
Should you buy self-winding watches?
Only if you are convinced that you need them.
At Nordgreen, automatic watches are a way to blend the history of watchmaking (from traditional mechanical watches) to the modern advancement in the watch industry (a self-winding mechanism) and offer that at the highest level.
Every automatic timepiece that you see is also a product of top craftsmanship, hours of putting an intricate movement together, and a series of gears that work together to tell the time. In short, an automatic watch does more than just tell the time but packs quite a punch of class, elegance, style, and appeal with it.
If you are not convinced yet, check out the self-winding men's watches and women's timepieces that we have for you. When you are ready to buy, you can customize your automatic ladies' watches or men's timepieces to specific tastes.
Who knows, you might just be starting a family heirloom.