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What is an automatic watch?

What is an automatic watch?

After having covered hand-wound watches, today we move on to a different type of watch movement. Also known as self-winding movement, automatic watches are one of the most popular types on the market. So, what is an automatic watch, and how is it different to a hand-wound watch? Read on for our breakdown of the most frequently asked questions about automatic watches. 

The Basics: What is an automatic watch and how is it different to a hand-wound watch?

To recap, a ‘movement’ is a mechanism that powers the watch. It features multiple components which work together to drive the hands and other functions the watch may have, like a date display. Movements come in three different types, hand-wound, automatic and quartz. 

Although they were reportedly conceptualised as early as the 1770s, automatic watches only entered the commercial watch market in the 1920s. Primarily, this is because the original designs, while functional, were too complex and costly for mainstream manufacturing. As a result, the first commercial watch was brought to life by John Harwood, who patented the automatic mechanism, and Swiss watch manufacturer Fortis. Affectionately and fittingly named the ‘Harwood’, this collection went on sale in 1928.

Although the name perhaps implies otherwise, an automatic watch is not battery-powered as a quartz movement is. In fact, automatic watches feature a very similar mechanical movement to hand-wound watches. For instance, both types of movement have a mainspring that requires winding. However, the primary difference between the two is that automatic watches wind themselves, instead of having to be manually wound. 

How does an automatic movement work?

But how do automatic watches wind themselves if they need to be wound to power themselves? The answer is fairly simple; automatic watches use energy generated from the wearer’s natural motions to wind themselves. 

What is an automatic watch?

Unlike hand-wound movements, automatic movements have a component called a rotor. As the wearer moves their arm, energy is generated which causes the rotor to pivot. This sets off a chain reaction which, in turn, winds the mainspring. Usually, automatic watches have a power reserve of at least a day, if not a few days, depending on the calibre. 

The most important thing is that they have to be worn. Which, if you’re looking for an everyday watch, should not be a problem. However, if you’re taking a break from wearing your watch, most automatic watches can also be hand-wound when necessary. 

Why buy an automatic watch?

There are numerous advantages to an automatic watch. The first is that it serves as an ideal middle ground between a hand-wound mechanical and a battery-powered quartz watch. Without the need for regular winding, an automatic watch has the convenience of a quartz watch without sacrificing the desirable intricacy of a mechanical mechanism. 

Moreover, automatic watches are generally more accurate than hand-wound mechanical watches due to their design. However, to ensure they run smoothly, automatic watches do still require periodic servicing and cleaning.

Our Recommendations for Automatic Watches:

What is an automatic watch?

Squale 1521 Green Ray (42mm) Green Dial / Green Leather Strap 1521PROFGR.PVE

If you’re looking for a dependable automatic divers watch, Squale is always a safe bet. And, with a stylish green colour scheme, this particular 1521 model is bound to turn heads. Protected by a 42mm stainless steel case, its Sellita SW 200-1 movement has a power reserve of 38 hours. The sturdiness of its build also locks in a generous water resistance of up to 500 metres or 50 bar, so you can be sure that the watch’s movement is in safe hands.  

Adorning the graduated green dial are mixed SuperLuminova indices, as well as three luminescent central hands. Moreover, a neat date display replaces the 3 o’clock hour marker and adds another functional detail to the design. For optimal protection, a scratch-resistant sapphire glass extends across the dial and joins onto the black bezel. Finally, to complete the design is a green leather strap that fastens with a pin buckle. Both aesthetically stunning with a mighty build, there is lots of love about this Squale 1521. 

Elliot Brown Beachmaster Professional Automatic Limited Edition (40mm) Black Dial / PVD Bronze Stainless Steel 0H0-A02-B12

Next up is the Elliot Brown Beachmaster Professional. A fairly recent release, the Beachmaster is a design triumph. In fact, it’s the first-ever automatic GMT model that also has a split-timing bezel. For more information on how this incredible patented design works, we have a full blog post about the Beachmaster you can read here

At its centre is a beautiful black dial, equipped with four bronze-tone central hands and bronze-framed indices. Each of these has a luminescent inlay, meaning the watch is still legible even in low lighting. For an added stylistic flair, the dial also features a wave pattern at its centre.

In addition to an internal bezel, a matte black ceramic 120-click external bezel frames the dial and rotates unidirectionally. It rests on top of the model’s 40mm bronze PVD-plated stainless steel case, which has a satin-brushed finish. Within it beats a Sellita SW330-2 automatic movement with a 56-hour power reserve and an independently adjustable 24-hour/GMT function. It’s well-protected by features such as the bolted-down case back. This creates a compression seal that gives the Beachmaster its 300-metre water resistance. To tie in the design, a bronze PVD-plated stainless steel bracelet secures the watch to the wrist. However, for a more everyday look, this model generously comes with a second complimentary black rubber strap. 

What is an automatic watch?

LONGINES Women’s DolceVita Blue Leather Strap L57574719 / L5.757.4.71.9

On the hunt for a reliable automatic watch for women? This Longines DolceVita is a stunning contender. With its silver flinqué dial adorned and navy Roman numeral indices, this watch is the epitome of luxury. It also features traditional blued hour, minute and second hands which tick away at the centre of the rectangular dial design. As an additional functional touch, it also has a petite date display at the 6 o’clock position. 

Housing the design is a stainless steel case. Its polished finish and rectangular shape give the watch a classical Art Deco feel, reinforcing the luxurious edge of the piece. At the heart of the model is the L592 calibre automatic mechanical movement, which beats at 28’800 vibrations per hour and boasts a 45-hour power reserve. Finally, topping off the design is a soft blue leather strap with a pin buckle fastening. 

Seiko 5 Sports Automatic Stainless Steel Watch SRPE57K1

Characterised by its consistently high levels of reliability, durability, performance and value, we highly recommend this Seiko 5 Sports piece. Built from stainless steel, its 40mm  case and bracelet give the watch a timeless look. At the centre of the design is a round black dial, dressed with mixed gold-coloured hour markers and hands. Each of these has a luminescent inlay to improve the watch’s readability even in limited lighting. At 3 o’clock, there is also a weekday and date display which replaces the hour marker. To protect this beautiful dial design, Seiko’s exclusive Hardlex crystal encases the dial. 

Providing an excellent 100 metres of water resistance, the case shelters a 4R36 calibre automatic movement. This calibre features a 41-hour power reserve as well as 24 jewels. A perfect everyday Seiko piece, this watch is bound to last you a long time. 

What is an automatic watch?

Fossil Men’s Grant Automatic Skeleton Dial Brown Leather Strap ME3099

For a more budget-friendly option, our last recommendation is this Fossil piece. Whilst it’s rarer for fashion brands to branch into automatic movements, this watch is a great example of why the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

Showing off the intricacies of the movement, the eye is immediately drawn to the skeletonised window at the centre of the dial. Against the rest of the white dial, the bones of the watch stand out well whilst not looking out of place in the design. To complement it, adorning the dial are silver hour, minute and second hands as well as traditional black Roman numeral indices. Moreover, along the flange, the watch also features a subtle minute track to aid with ultra-precise timereadings. 

A stainless steel case frames the design ans measures a healthy 44mm in diamaters, making this piece unmissable on the wrist. With 50 metres of water resistance, this Fossil piece is also ideal for those looking for a straight-to-the-point everyday watch. Lastly, finishing its elegant design is a brown leather strap. 

We hope that our blog post helped to answer your questions today. Have you got any other automatic watch recommendations for any watch newcomers? Be sure to drop them down below to help a newbie out!

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