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FAQs about Automatic Watches

by Rob Wagner

Automatic watches are mechanical timepieces that offer many benefits over traditional wind-by-hand watches and modern battery-operated quartz watches. Women's automatic watches and men's automatic watches are particularly popular in the luxury watch field and are also available at many price points. Automatics have been available since the 1920s, but they didn't come into widespread use until the 1950s when watchmakers began producing them more economically. Men's watches and women's watches with automatic winding technology are stylish, interesting and low-maintenance. Use our tips to choose an automatic watch for your lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions:

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  • What is an automatic watch?

    An automatic watch is a watch that operates through the continued motion of the wearer's wrist. Automatic wristwatches don't need winding if worn daily. The energy is stored by using a half-disc metal weight, called a rotor, that spins when the arm is moved. This energy is used to power the watch and can keep the watch going at night or while the watch isn't being worn. Stored energy in an automatic wristwatch can keep an unworn watch running for 24 to 48 hours.

  • Is an automatic watch different from a wind-up watch?

    Men's automatic watches and women's automatic watches are mechanical like traditional wind-up watches. The only difference is that the conventional manual watch needs to be wound daily. Automatic wristwatches use the same parts and technology as mechanical watches, but they are wound automatically with the motion of the wearer's wrist.

  • Can an automatic watch be wound too tightly?

    An automatic watch can be wound constantly and never break. You can wear your automatic watch day and night, and the watch will never be over-wound.

  • What happens if my automatic watch runs out of power?

    If your automatic watch is unworn for 24 to 48 hours, it will likely stop running. An idle automatic can be wound with 30 rotations to restore its energy. Even just a couple of turns of the crown or a brief shake will usually get it started again. Simply wind the watch and set the time and your watch is ready to go again.

  • How accurate is an automatic watch?

    A high-quality automatic mechanical watch is fairly accurate. Mechanical watches, including automatic varieties, can lose or gain as much as two seconds of time a day and as little as one second of time per week. Each mechanical watch is different, and you will quickly get to know how accurate your watch is.

  • What is so special about an automatic watch?

    After the quartz watch boom of the 1970s, men's and women's watches with mechanical craftsmanship and quality made a comeback in the 1990s. Watch wearers recognized the benefits and pleasure of interacting with a mechanical device as part of their daily routine. An automatic watch, by virtue of being a machine, signifies quality and the owner's interest in the mechanics of timekeeping. Traditional mechanical women's and men's watches also offer an aesthetic value that is difficult to replace with battery-operated timepieces. Automatic watches give consumers a mechanical watch option that is easy to use, because the automatic mechanism eliminates the need for manual winding.

  • Are automatic watches expensive?

    An automatic watch can be expensive. Many luxury watch brands offer a wide range of automatic watches that are meant to be investment pieces. Automatic watches retain their value because they are well-made and interesting. A number of entry- and mid-level brands offer well-engineered automatics in a wide range of prices. In the last 15 years, there has also been a tremendous surge in vintage watch collecting trends. A well-maintained 1950s or 1960s automatic wristwatch, which often possesses a contemporary design, can provide a lifetime of trouble-free service at a moderate price and add panache to your daily style.