The right automatic watch is something special. Whether it contains a self-winding mechanism that harnesses kinetic energy or a manual watch winder built for true watch enthusiasts, automatic watches tend to spark a level of passion in watch lovers that other watches just don’t.
A good quartz watch has its place. But, the watch world turns on gorgeous mechanical watches with high-level Japanese and Swiss movements. Most quality automatic watches offer an array of fantastic features like lengthy power reserve capabilities that store energy efficaciously, strong water resistance, gorgeous dial and strap designs, and long-lasting constructions that benefit from proper care.
So, what are automatic watches exactly? How long does a timepiece with an automatic watch movement last? Do automatic watches stop randomly? Do you need a new watch when they do?
We’ve got the skinny on automatic watches, from their average usage life to what you should do when a mechanical movement stops.
What are mechanical watches (automatic watches)?
Mechanical watches are self-powered timepieces that are wound by either movement or hand. Rather than using watch batteries like a timepiece with a quartz movement, automatic watches find power elsewhere. And most automatic watches offer a minimum power reserve of 30-40 hours, allowing you to store energy as the day or night goes along.
Whether you should a self-winding watch or a hand-wound model, mechanical watches are all about craftsmanship. And if you buy a model with an exhibition case-back, your jaw will drop watching the magic happen inside your timepiece.
How long do automatic watches last?
Just because a normal automatic watch stops every 40-50 hours doesn’t mean that an automatic watch lasts that long. In fact, some automatic watches can last you a lifetime! Depending on the particular watch you choose, an automatic watch wound correctly and taken care of could last anywhere from 20 years to hundreds of years with the right owner.
Be careful, though! If it’s a dive watch with a screw-down crown, for example, a small defect or bit of damage could mean big problems in the water. And if you buy an automatic watch that you need to manually wind, be careful not to overwind it or be too rough with it. The nicer you are to your mechanical watches, the longer they will last.
How long can an automatic watch last without servicing?
According to most watch experts, a good automatic watch should last 5-10 years before needing a serious service call. An automatic watch serviced correctly and on time will have a longer usage life. You don’t always need to have spare parts lying around or an extra gear train in your dresser drawer. You just need to pay attention to your watch and see how close it is to the exact time after it’s fully wound. Also, inspects its construction regularly to ensure there are no cracks or chips that could lead to bigger problems down the road.
Can I wear my mechanical watch every day?
Yes! And it might be a good idea if the mechanic watch has a self-winding movement. Your power reserve will be constantly replenished by normal wear, helping it wind up and keep the time without lulls or the need for a winding machine.
We’ve tested several watches that have mechanical movements and are perfect for everyday use. However, you need to be even more careful and observant with an everyday automatic watch. Constant use means more opportunities for damage, so be careful and be mindful.
Are automatic movements worth the time and money?
For true watch lovers, the debate between quartz watches and watches with automatic movements is a no-contest proposition. Wearing an automatic watch on your wrist is an event. Hearing the tick and feeling the power of an automatic movement changes the game for many watch enthusiasts. Whether you’re into luxury Rolex offerings or want something a bit less spendy, automatic watches are well worth whatever you spend on them.
Is there a difference in quality between Swiss and Japanese movements?
As a rule of thumb, Swiss automatic movements usually have longer power reserves than Japanese movements. In addition, Swiss movements tend to require less winding than their Japanese counterparts. However, there are some amazing Japanese mechanical movements out there that compete with the very best of the Swiss oeuvre.
On the whole, Swiss movements last longer and require less maintenance than Japanese ones. But, it’s really all about the particular movement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do modern automatic watches cost?
It depends on the automatic watch. In general, a quartz watch will likely cost you far less than a mechanical watch. However, you can find a quality automatic watch in the low three figures if you know where to look. In fact, there are some good mechanical watches for under $100 when sales are factored in!
However, luxury automatic watches can cost you anywhere from a few thousand dollars to five figures or so depending on the brand and model. These watches usually feature the most elegant of designs and materials that are made to last forever.
Are quartz watches good substitutes for automatic watches?
In our opinion, quartz watches are great on their own accord. However, the need to replace watch batteries with regularity is a real bummer sometimes. Automatic watches eliminate the need for constant battery changes while giving you a glimpse into the art of watchmaking at its finest. So, while quartz watches are something to consider, they don’t hold a candle to the best automatic watches out there.
What’s the best automatic movement right now?
The Zenith Defy Lab has revolutionized the very idea of an automatic movement. Released in 2017, it contains a single-piece oscillator built out of monocrystalline silicon. This creates a much more precise oscillation and helps you keep time with an insane precision rate of just 0.3 seconds a day. Add in a 60-hour power reserve and a movement construction that requires very little maintenance and no lubrication, and you have a recipe for the very best automatic movement available for sale right now.
What’s a good automatic watch to start with?
Are you looking for a great automatic watch but don’t have a few thousand dollars to part with? For cost-conscious watch lovers in need of an automatic model, look no further than the Seik0 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch. Regularly retailing for just around $100 or so, this is one of the most beloved low-cost automatic watches ever released. And thanks to its durable canvas strap, it lasts a long time without showing even a bit of wear. We are also big fans of the shade of the green-on-green aesthetic. It just pops and works with pretty much any outfit.
Are luxury watches worth the money?
It just depends on what you’re looking for and how much money you have to spend. In truth, you often get what you pay for with mechanical watches. There are great entry-level options out there. But, the real quality and top movements are reserved for the luxury end of things. If you’ve got the money to invest and want a watch you can pass down to your children and your children’s children, a luxury automatic watch can be forever.
From Swiss watches to timepieces with Japanese movements, most automatic watches are built with the true watch enthusiast in mind. Quartz movements are fine and dandy. But, nothing beats the fast fashion of a quality hand-wound watch or automatic option. When you wear the watch, you’ll know.