Automatic watch movements, also known as self-winding movements, are a popular choice for people who appreciate the craftsmanship and mechanical complexity of a mechanical watch. These movements use the motion of the wearer's wrist to wind the mainspring and power the watch, eliminating the need for manual winding on a regular basis. However, if you're considering an automatic watch, you may have questions about how these movements work and what to consider when it comes to maintenance and accuracy.
In this blog, we'll explore the ins and outs of automatic watch movements, including how they wind the mainspring, how they power the watch, and the advantages and disadvantages of these movements compared to other types of watch movements. We'll also discuss some key maintenance considerations to keep in mind if you own an automatic watch.
Whether you're new to automatic watches or are just looking to learn more about these fascinating timepieces, this blog has something for you.
How does an automatic watch movement work?
An automatic watch movement, also known as a self-winding movement, is a type of watch movement that uses the motion of the wearer's wrist to wind the mainspring and power the watch. This type of movement is typically found in mechanical watches, such as the Peacemaker by pOrtahl®, and is designed to eliminate the need for the wearer to manually wind the watch on a regular basis.
How does the automatic watch movement wind the mainspring?
The automatic watch movement uses a weighted rotor, also known as a winding rotor, to wind the mainspring. The rotor is attached to the movement and is free to rotate in both directions. As the wearer moves their wrist, the rotor swings back and forth, causing a winding mechanism to turn and wind the mainspring.
How does the automatic watch movement use the mainspring to power the watch?
The mainspring in an automatic watch movement is a long, thin strip of metal that is wound tightly around a central arbor. As the mainspring is wound, it stores energy, which is released gradually as the watch runs. The movement uses gears and escapements to regulate the release of this energy and to power the watch's functions, such as the hands and any complications such as a chronograph or date display.
How long will an automatic movement run for?
As long as the wearer keeps wearing the watch, energy will continue to be stored in the mainspring allowing the watch to keep running. The amount of energy an automatic movement can store differs per movement and is determined by its power reserve capability. If the watch is no longer charged by the movements of the wrist, for instance when the wearer takes the watch off and doesn't wear it for a while, it will continue to run on its power reserve.
The power reserve gives an indication how long a movement will keep running when the movement is no longer in motion. Rolex movements have a power reserve of anywhere between 36 and 72 hours. The STP1-11, used in pOrtahl's Peacemaker, has a power reserve of 44 hours.
What are the advantages of an automatic watch movement compared to a manual movement?
One of the main advantages of an automatic watch movement is the convenience factor. With a manual movement, the wearer must manually wind the watch on a regular basis to keep it running. This can be a hassle, especially for people who are forgetful or who have a busy lifestyle. An automatic movement, on the other hand, is designed to be self-winding, so the wearer doesn't have to worry about manually winding the watch.
Another advantage of an automatic movement is its accuracy. Because the movement is constantly being wound by the motion of the wearer's wrist, it is less likely to stop running or lose time compared to a manual movement that may not be wound as regularly.
Are there any disadvantages to an automatic watch movement?
One potential disadvantage of an automatic watch movement is that it may not be as accurate as a quartz movement. Quartz movements, which are powered by a battery, are known for their high level of accuracy and are often used in high-precision watches. However, the accuracy of an automatic movement can be improved by regular wear and proper maintenance.
Another potential disadvantage of an automatic movement is that it may not be as energy efficient as a quartz movement. Because the automatic movement relies on the motion of the wearer's wrist to wind the mainspring, it may not be as efficient at storing and using energy as a quartz movement, which is powered by a battery.
Automatic movements are, however, still the more environmentally conscious choice as batteries are extremely polluting to the environment and are hard to recycle. It is estimated that in the United States alone, an estimated 3 billion batteries are thrown away each year.
Are there any maintenance considerations for an automatic watch movement?
There are a few key maintenance considerations to keep in mind if you have an automatic watch with a self-winding movement. First, it's important to make sure the watch is worn regularly. As mentioned earlier, the motion of the wearer's wrist is what powers the automatic movement, so if the watch is not worn for long periods of time, the mainspring may not be fully wound and the watch may stop running.
It's also a good idea to have the watch serviced periodically to ensure that it is running smoothly and accurately. This may involve cleaning and lubricating the movement, as well as replacing any worn or damaged parts.
Finally, it's important to protect the watch from extreme conditions, such as extremely high or low temperatures and strong magnetic fields, as these can affect the performance of the movement.
In conclusion, these movements offer the convenience of not having to manually wind the watch on a regular basis, and can also be more accurate than manual movements if worn regularly. However, they may not be as accurate or energy efficient as quartz movements, and may require periodic maintenance and protection from extreme conditions to ensure optimal performance. Yet, this necessity to be treated with care may very well be the romance surrounding automatic watch movements, that continues to entice us. Overall, automatic watch movements are a popular choice for people who appreciate the craftsmanship and mechanical complexity of a mechanical watch, but don't want the hassle of manually winding it on a regular basis.