Understanding Automatic Watches

If you’re on our website, you’re probably interesting in our watches. That’s great! But for a lot of people new to the watch world and thinking of picking up their first “proper” watch, some of the terminology can be a little confusing. 

We try to make things as clear as we can on each product page, but we wanted to put together an article to get you up to speed. Read through this and you’ll be talking along with your local watch bore in no time ;)

What are automatic watches?

An automatic watch is simply a mechanical watch that doesn’t require manual winding.

Let’s start with the very basics. There are a few types of “movements” in watches. The movement is the part that makes it work. The main ones are:

  • Mechanical movements
  • Quartz movements
  • Digital “movements”

Quartz and digital movements are the types you’ll find in cheap watches, or in digital smart watches.

High end watches tend to use mechanical movements. A mechanical movement requires winding to keep it “charged” and so keep it ticking along.

There are two types of mechanical movements:

  • Hand winding
  • Automatic

For the most part, the two work the same way. The actual time keeping etc works the same. The only difference is that a hand winding watch needs winding every couple of days. If you forget, it’ll stop. An automatic watch has an extra part, called a rotor, which spins around as you move your wrist. This spinning part winds the watch for you, meaning that as long as you wear it every day it should never stop.

What is the disadvantage of an automatic watch?

The only real disadvantage of an automatic watch over a hand winding one is that it is very slightly thicker. It takes around 1mm extra to fit in the rotor in to the case, so the watch will be slightly chunkier. That’s it. A movement could be identical in every other way.

Are automatic movements better?

Well I guess it depends what you mean by better. People tend to buy automatic movements for a couple of reasons:

  • They’re convenient. No winding, charging or battery swapping
  • They have a history. There is something special about owning something that is so small, yet manages to keep such accurate time via historical technology. It feels a bit magical

Nobody would own a mechanical watch if their number one priority was accuracy. Even a really high end mechanical watch can be within a few seconds a day and still be within spec. If accuracy is your number on priority, pick up a quartz or smart watch.

Owning a wrist watch is no longer a necessity. Your phone, or about 100000 devices in any room you enter, can tell you the time. So mechanical watches are for people that have a passion for either the technology or the fashion side of things.