Automatic watches are mechanical wristwatches that are automatically charged by the movement of the arm when wearing the watch. In order to keep an automatic watch operational, no battery is necessary, instead, the watch must be moved regularly so that the movement does not stop.
How does an automatic watch work?
The heart of an automatic watch is a rotor with ball bearings. When the watch moves, this generates torque due to inertia and gravity, which is used to wind the movement. In most movements, the rotor moves only in a semicircle. In this way, a slight rotation of the watch is sufficient for a complete 180-degree rotation of the rotor. So that the mainspring of the watch is not over-revved when it is already fully wound, a so-called slip clutch is used, which in this case separates the mainspring from the winding mechanism.
A power reserve ensures that the movement continues to run for a while without being moved. As a rule, the duration is between 30 and 60 hours, depending on the model and manufacturer. Aside from using a leather watch roll when storing precious timepieces, watch winders can be used to store automatic watches for a longer period of time without the watch stopping. The devices are therefore often used by collectors or owners of several automatic watches.
The history of the automatic watch
The first references to automatic pocket watch date back to the 16th century. However, the first real wristwatch with automatic movement was not developed until 1922 by the company Leroy in France but was never brought to market. Instead, it was the British watchmaker John Harwood who received the patent on automatic watches on September 1, 1924. Two years later, the first models were finally offered for sale in cooperation with various companies.
One of the most famous automatic watches is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual from 1931. The company then patented the first functional automatic wristwatch with a single-sided winding rotor. Nowadays, high-quality Rolex watches are considered an investment. In the 1950s, the first automatic watches from German manufacturers such as Junghans came onto the market.
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Compared to mechanical watches with manual winding or battery-operated quartz watches, automatic watches offer the owner some special advantages:
- A constantly evenly tensioned spring ensures a smoother running of the movement
- No manual winding of the mainspring is necessary
- No battery is required for the operation
- With good care, automatic watches usually last a lifetime
- The handcrafted movement is a masterpiece of watchmaking and therefore appreciated by collectors
3 useful tips for handling automatic watches
- Avoid wearing automatic watches while exercising. Especially during activities with strong vibrations or blows, such as jogging or tennis, the sensitive movement can be damaged.
- Do not bring an automatic watch near strong magnetic fields, such as those that can occur in medical or industrial plants. Individual components of the movement can thus be magnetized, which can limit the function.
- Protect the watch from harmful external influences, such as water and moisture or strong chemicals and gases. These can cause damage to the case or, in the worst case, get inside the watch.
Automatic watches are not only particularly practical in everyday life, but also popular with technology-loving collectors due to their sophisticated mechanics. In order to keep the watches always ready for operation and to be able to store and present them appropriately, watch winders will be a useful help.