So, you’re on the lookout to add a new watch to your collection and keep seeing “automatic” and “mechanical” mentioned, right? This guide on the mechanical watch vs. automatic watch will help clear up your questions!
When exploring the world of luxury timepieces, I should warn you. It’s a rabbit hole. Once it sucks you in, you’ll never look back.
The first thing you may notice when comparing the different varieties of watches is the second hand’s motion. Some will stick, and some will sweep. It’s the difference between a mechanical and a quartz watch. But what does that actually mean?
The Difference Between Quartz and Mechanical Watches
A quartz timepiece uses a battery to create a source of power. The battery sends an electrical current through a small quartz crystal, electrifying it and creating a vibration.
Quartz movement performs at a much quicker rate than mechanical movement, deeming it more accurate. So, if that’s what a quartz watch is, what is a mechanical watch, and how does it differ?
Mechanical Watches have a slowly unwinding spring. The tension of the spring unwinds in a controlled manner. As it does this, a series of toothed wheels drives the hands around the dial. The mechanical watch category is split into two further sub-categories.
One is the automatic sort, and the other is the manual sort. But what is the difference between the two?
Are Mechanical and Automatic Watches the Same?
In a nutshell, the motion of the wearer’s wrist powers an automatic movement. It doesn’t necessarily require you to wind the watch, unlike a hand-wound movement manually.
The latter tracks the time via a mechanical movement but requires you to wind the crown by hand regularly.
(Below: Nomos Tangente Manual-Winding watch)
So, if you’ve often wondered, “Are mechanical and automatic watches the same?”, the short answer is no.
The Difference Between a Mechanical and Automatic Watch?
The difference between a mechanical and automatic watch is that mechanical watches need winding.
Ideally, you should wind your watch daily, which is no problem if you own a self-winding (automatic) each day.
If you own a manual winding watch, it should be hand-wound daily, preferably at the same time each day.
What Is Best, Mechanical or Automatic?
All mechanical watches make for great heirlooms. The advantage of an automatic watch vs a mechanical watch is its accuracy. But many true horologists prefer a manual winding watch.
(Below: Zenith Chronomaster powered by the famous automatic El Primero movement)
Many love the allure of a mechanical movement and connecting with their timepiece upon winding it. Mechanical watches often promise the opportunity to admire the movement in motion through a sapphire exhibition caseback, too.
Mechanical Watch vs Automatic – How To Choose?
When it comes to mechanical watches, they offer several advantages over quartz.
Firstly, they promise a high level of craftsmanship. Although quartz watches are more accurate and cheaper than mechanical timepieces, they are less intriguing. Quartz movements can feel like they are flying off a factory line to some watch enthusiasts.
In ways, the allure of a mechanical watch is even more fascinating when you consider the world we live in.
Technology has catapulted to new heights over recent years. Authentic watchmaking traditions are a testament to traditional timepieces being the preferred option over modern technology today.
When buying a mechanical wristwatch, you are almost buying into the history of traditional watchmaking. This tradition dates back centuries.
(Below: Hamilton Khaki Field powered by the famous ETA 2824 automatic movement)
Unlike quartz watches, a mechanical timepiece normally requires a large amount of handcrafting, enabling you to build a special connection.
Without a doubt, there is an air of prestige with a mechanical watch. When it comes to choosing between a manual winding or self-winding timepiece, there are good and bad points to each. Here are the facts.
Pros and Cons
There is a risk of overwinding a manual winding watch. Automatic watches tend to have a feature that prevents overwinding.
On the flip side, Automatic watches are great for strapping to the wrist and forgetting about. So long as you are moving the watch is keeping time.
However, this does pose a threat to those who don’t live an active lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time in one position, you may find you need to wind an automatic watch physically via its crown.
Alternatively, if you’re considering a manual winding watch, you need to think about whether you have the time to dedicate to one. They require a little more nurturing. This, however, is what makes a hand-wound watch so popular.
Automatic watches are also slightly more expensive than manual models. Often reflecting this higher price tag are the many hundreds of components making up a more complex engine.
Despite these differences, both mechanical and automatic watches hold their value well. They can also appreciate over time, depending on the brand, the model, and its scarcity.
If you’re not a fan of chunky watches, you may consider turning your attention to a manual watch as opposed to an automatic watch.
This is because a manual watch features no rotor, unlike the automatic. Every automatic watch needs a rotor, which adds depth and weight to its design.
Even with the resurgence of vintage-inspired watches over recent years, not many watches top a manual timepiece. They tend to feel more authentic and old school. In part, this may be down to aesthetics.
In other ways, the traditional manual winding watch requires a more time-honored approach to manufacture. For comfort and practicality on a general scale, thinner watches are a better option.
So, to finish the debate “Mechanical watch vs. Automatic”, you should simply consider what is best for you and your lifestyle.
Several factors contribute to the popularity of a mechanical watch vs an automatic watch. These include traditions, quality, craftsmanship, and longevity, not to mention a brand’s reputation for accuracy.
In comparing automatic watches vs mechanical watches, the choice to opt for one over the other comes down to personal preference. Both options deliver on accuracy, and both need regular winding.
Sometimes, the difference becomes a question of purpose. Do you like the idea of connecting with your watch when manually winding your timepiece each day? Maybe the ease of wearing a watch on the wrist that self-winds is a better option?
Either way, whether opting for a manual winding watch or an automatic, you have options. There are plenty of reputable brands to choose from on the market today. The key is to determine what suits your wrists best and go for it.
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