In this article we will briefly touch up on the terminology of a self winding vs automatic watch. This is one of those cases where the terminology can get pretty confusing to people. Hopefully we can clear things up a bit. So, right off the bat, here is the truth about self winding vs automatic watches.
They are one in the same! That’s right, a self winding watch is an automatic watch! They are just different names for the same thing!
It is not surprising that people would get confused by this. Especially people who are not familiar with watches, or the terminology used when describing watches. So, just know that when someone is referring to an automatic, or self winding watch, they are talking about the same thing!
These days, they are most commonly referred to as automatic watches. You will rarely hear somebody call a watch “self winding”.
Now that we have that cleared up, we can actually go into a little bit more detail about these types of watches. First off, what is an automatic watch anyway?
Self Winding Vs Automatic: What is an Automatic Watch?
A self winding, or automatic watch is a mechanical watch that utilizes the natural movements of a person’s arm to wind, and thus, power the watch. Allow me to explain.
When I say that an automatic watch is a mechanical watch, that means it is a watch that must be wound. This is in contrast to a quartz watch, which uses a battery as power.
In a mechanical watch, however, the watch is powered by a mainspring that must be wound up. Once wound, this spring slowly unwinds. This unwinding of the spring is what moves the gears and powers the watch.
Now, in an automatic watch, instead of manually winding the mainspring, it is wound by the natural movements of a person’s arm. There is a weighted rotor inside of automatic watches that winds the watch as a person’s arm moves around. This is why they were originally referred to as “self winding”.
Now that we know a little bit about how an automatic watch functions, what about their history? Who invented automatic watches?
Self Winding Vs Automatic: A Brief History
So, how did automatic watches come to be? Automatic watches hit the scene way back in 1777. They were invented by a Swiss watchmaker named Abraham-Louis Perrelet. The thing is though, that they didn’t really become popular until much later.
It wasn’t until 1928 that automatic watches finally gained popularity and exposure. A British watchmaker named John Hardwood is responsible for the popularization of automatic watches. This was because he had patented his own version of automatic watches in 1923. These were commonly referred to as “bumper watches”.
This paved the way for other watch companies to start producing automatic watches. And of course, the Swiss watch manufacturers gained prominence by refining automatic movements and incorporating them into their watches. Today Swiss luxury mechanical watches are some of the most coveted watches in the industry.
Next, we will answer some common questions about self winding watches.
Are Self Winding Watches Any Good?
One of the benefits of an automatic watch is that they do not require a battery. Many automatics also have a power reserve feature. This means that they can continue to function for a length of time without being worn. Additionally, high quality automatics can last for an extremely long time (generations) if properly cared for and maintained.
Do you Need to Wind an Automatic Watch?
Most automatics should have the option to be manually wound as well. This should be done if you want the watch to function for a while and you don’t plan on wearing it for a day or two.
Some people wonder if an automatic watch can be over wound. These days, automatics are made in such a way that they cannot be over wound, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the watch in this way.
What About Accuracy?
This is one of the cons of an automatic watch. They are known to be less accurate, on average than their quartz counterparts. Mechanical watches, in general, will be less accurate than quartz watches. This goes back to how the watch functions.
Since mechanical watches use a wound spring to function, it may lose energy over time, and thus be slightly less accurate. A quartz watch, on the other hand, is powered by a battery, so it will have the same position as long as that battery is functioning.
What Are the Prices Like?
This is another negative aspect of automatic watches. They are going to be more expensive on average, than the equivalent quartz watch.
In other words, if you are comparing a cheap quartz to a cheap automatic, the automatic will be more expensive than the quartz. Same way for luxury quartz watches vs automatics. You may find that the automatics are going to be pricier.
So, Which One Is Better? Quartz or Automatic?
As we just mentioned, in terms of pure accuracy, a quartz watch is going to be superior. However, mechanical watches are still praised for their craftsmanship. This is especially true in the case of luxury watches.
If you ever noticed, most of the popular Swiss luxury watches have automatic movement. It really just comes down to an appreciation of the mechanics involved in these types of watches. So, what can we conclude about automatic watches?
Self Winding Vs Automatic Watches: Final Thoughts
Now you have seen that the two terms self winding, and automatic have the exact same meaning and can be used interchangeably if desired. These days though, you should probably just stick with calling them automatic.
Automatic watches are a marvel of human ingenuity and have definitely earned their place in horological history!
Hopefully this article has been helpful, enjoyable, and informative. If you liked this article, then we have many more articles that delve into different or obscure facts about watches. If you want, you can check some of them out here