Mechanical Watch Vs Automatic Watch: Which One is Best for You?

Mechanical Watch Vs Automatic Watch: Which One is Best for You?

When we talk about the history of timekeeping, two giants have completely shaped the way that we capture moments. These two giants are mechanical watches and the newer counterpart of it, the automatic watch. 

When people have to decide between one of the two, they take into account many things and not just the accuracy of the timekeeping. People are in it for the style, the engineering, and the sense of personal connection. 

Imagine, for a second, that you are at a sort of crossroads and this is where tradition and modernity meet, and also where the artistry of the past comes and meets with today’s ingenuity. Finding the perfect timepiece that will be a constant companion is not an easy task and that is exactly what this article aims to help you with. 

Automatic Watches

The whole concept of watches that wind themselves up came to be around the 18th century. A Swiss watch manufacturer by the name of Abraham-Louis Perrelet is the person thought of as the first founder of automatic watches. He did this around the year 1770. 

The invention that he made made use of a sort of rotor. This rotor moved when the wearer moved and this is how the watch’s mainspring was winded up. After Perrelt, it was Abraham-Louis Bregeut who was responsible for improving the designs of these watches. He made a lot of automatic watches from 1779 to 1810. 

This technology remained the staple of automatic watches for about 100 years until a person by the name of John Harwood came up with a patent for a self-winding watch around 1923. This watch had a kind of rotor system. It also had a type of winding mechanism that was built right into the case of the watch. 

After this, there arose a lot of interest in this traditional form of craftsmanship. Swiss manufacturers also started to both refine and commercialize the technology of automatic watches. Huge watch brands like Rolex and Eterna also came up with their self-winding mechanisms and they were extremely efficient and very reliable. 

It was during this period that the popularity of automatic watches started to take off. A lot of different watch companies started to offer a wide array of designs and also features when it came to automatic watches. The concept here is pretty simple. The rotor, which is a type of weight that is semi-circular, is responsible for rotating alongside the motion of the wrist of the wearer. As this rotor moves, it can wind up the mainspring. 

The mainspring is then responsible for storing potential energy as the wound gets tighter. After this, the mainspring kind of unwinds and lets go of the energy. This is what is responsible for moving the hands of the watches and also dealing with many different complications. 

These watches will keep running if they are worn regularly. However, if the watch is not worn for a long time, it may even stop as the mainspring may run out of energy. If that is the case, the watch will need to be wound up manually before it can start functioning normally again. 

Mechanical Watches

It is common knowledge that our ancestors were not able to get batteries. This is why they had to rely on mechanical ways to power the devices used for timekeeping. 

A very common method for achieving this was to use weights. In these cases, a heavy type of weight would be suspended from a chain or a rope. The weight would then come down just because of gravity and this would, in turn, turn gears and move the different hands of watches. 

Spring-driven clocks that made use of coiled springs were also a thing. When these were wound, they would store a lot of potential energy. As this spring would unwound, it would then release the energy required to regulate the mechanism of the watches. These methods were very popular around the late 13th century. 

By the time the 16th century came around, a lot of advances in technology made it possible to make smaller and much more portable watches. A locksmith in Germany by the name of Peter Henlein is the man credited with making the first-ever portable mechanical watch. It is interesting to note that these early models were very inaccurate and they all needed winding quite frequently. 

When the pendulum was invented at around 1656 along with the invention of the balance wheel, it gave rise to much more accurate and also very refined mechanical timepieces. 

These watches have a very tightly wound mainspring and this is responsible for storing the potential energy and waiting for it to be released. The energy transfer happens via a lot of very thoughtfully engineered gears. Each tooth meshes in a sort of perfect harmony. 

Automatic vs Mechanical: Which One Is Right For You?

We are now aware of how both mechanical and automatic watches work. We understand the intricacies of each of these wondrous machines and how they can keep time. So, after having understood these things, the question then arises - which kind of watch is the right kind of watch for you?

Well, if you have that question, then you are in luck. In the following few passages, we will provide a sort of guide for you to help you make the decision. If you take into consideration these factors, you will have a much better time in navigating this complex world of automatic and mechanical watches and you will be able to make a much more informed decision.

The factors that you need to take into account have been listed below. Let us take a closer look at them.


When we talk about the winding of a watch, we are talking all about how it gets the energy to function properly and tell time accurately. Consider this as a sort of power boost that allows the watches to keep doing their thing and to tell time properly. 

To wind a watch, the crown of the watch is turned. This, in turn, is responsible for tightening up the mainspring. As this part of the watch unwinds, the watch gets power. 

When we talk about mechanical watches, they will require the exact process of winding that I just described. To properly keep time, these watches are dependent on a whole host of gears and springs. To keep these watches functioning properly, they need to be winded up from time to time. 

On the other hand, automatic watches do not have this requirement. They do not need manual winding in the same way. They all have a type of built-in mechanism that takes care of the winding part, This works in tandem with the movement of your wrists. It is important to note that if you do not wear your automatic watches regularly, then they will need some winding up to function properly once again. 

With all of this being said, it is important to realize what exactly it is that you like. If you are a more hands-on type of person, then you might enjoy the ritual of interacting with watches. If this is the case for you, then you would be better off with a mechanical watch. 

If, however, you like watches that will not require too much attention and maintenance, then automatic watches might be it for you. If you do not want to interact too much with your watch, then automatic watches are the way to go for you. Automatic watches keep working perfectly fine as long you wear them regularly. This is why these watches are better for people who cannot be bothered to wind up watches regularly. 

Power Reserve

The power reserve of a watch is what tells us how long the watch will be able to keep time and operate properly after it has been wound completely. We are already aware of the fact that both types of watches need a bit of winding up to keep the watches accurate and functioning properly. It has to be mentioned that the winding-up process of both watches is vastly different. 

If both watches are placed side to side for the sake of comparison, we will find that mechanical watches with their manual winding process have a much greater power reserve than automatic watches. In general, mechanical watches can store energy for extended periods. This time can range from 38 hours to about 72 hours. 

Automatic watches, on the other hand, have a much smaller power reserve when compared to mechanical ones. Their power reserves typically last for about 24 to 48 hours. 


This is not the easiest thing to say. Which watch will be more complex to use will depend on a whole host of different things. This includes the sophisticated and intricate features of the watch, its functions, and the mechanisms that have been incorporated into the design and the movement of the watch.

This is pretty straightforward, the more complications a watch might have, the more complex it will generally be. These can be a whole host of things including chronographs, calendars, alarms, etc. 

It has to be mentioned that both types of watches are complex in their own right because of the design choices and the features incorporated by the manufacturer. A lot of people think that automatic watches are more complex. This is because they have additional things like rotors and a sort of winding mechanism that converts the movement of the wearer’s wrist into a type of winding energy. 

While this does increase the total number of components inside the watch, it may not necessarily make it more complex. 

Other things that can add to the intricacies of a watch include the guilloche, hand engravings, and gem-setting as well. The overall complexity of a watch will depend on a multitude of factors. The design philosophy of the manufacturer is of prime importance here as this will inform how complex they make their watches. 


When we talk about watch servicing, we are talking about the cleaning, maintenance, and possible repairs a watch requires to keep it working properly and telling time accurately. In general, the process will involve cleaning all the individual components, taking apart the watch’s different parts, getting rid of dust and other undesirables, carefully inspecting the different components, and also repairing/replacing. 

It would not be too smart of us to say that one type of watch needs more servicing than the other. However, mechanical watches indeed tend to crave more attention. Take the mainspring for example. In mechanical watches, this needs to be wound up regularly. 

If the watches are not wound up regularly or if it is wound a bit too tightly, it may decrease the accuracy of the watch and it can even cause damage to the watch’s movement. 

Automatic watches do not need as regular maintenance as mechanical ones. This is because they are self-winding machines. It depends on the individual watch, but in general, automatic watches will only need servicing about every 5 to 10 years. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Automatic Watches Better Than Mechanical Ones?

Automatic watches use a self-winding mechanism whereas mechanical watches use mechanical movements. In such terms, automatic watches are better.

Do Mechanical Watches Last Longer?

With care, mechanical watches last a lifetime and sometimes more than that.

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