Newcomers to the watch industry, especially collectors just starting out, often get confused about mechanical movements and are unsure when it comes to the difference between a mechanical automatic movement and a mechanical hand-winding movement. Here we explain the difference between mechanical self-winding and hand-winding movements in simple terms.
A mechanical watch is made of hundreds of tiny parts that work together without using batteries (as in quartz watches) or without use of solar power. It is just the mechanical components that power the watch and track the time (and often a lot more than just the time).
Essentially, a hand-wound — also sometimes referred to as a manual-wind watch — is a timepiece whose inner movement must be wound by the wearer on a regular basis. The watch is generally wound via the crown in a singular direction to wind the inner spring and power the watch. As the crown is turned, it sets a small dance into motion thanks to a complicated system of gears that slowly transmit the energy from the crown to a main spring that is coiled inside a barrel. When the crown won’t turn any longer, the spring is fully wound. It then slowly starts to unwind, releasing power to the watch via another series of gears and wheels, including a main balance wheel that helps to regulate the release of energy for consistent timekeeping. If the wearer forgets to wind the watch, the energy runs out and the watch stops working until it is set and wound again.
In an automatic watch, also referred to as a self-winding watch, the movement of the watch is built differently than a hand wound. It consists of a “rotor” or “oscillator” that is powered by the movement of the wearer’s wrist. As the wrist moves, it automatically moves the rotor, which, as it swings, winds the mainspring inside its barrel. The power lasts for a specified amount of time (referred to as power reserve) if the watch is not being worn, but as long as the watch is worn, it will continually wind itself. Stop in any time to check out our wonderful array of mechanical watches.