Can you hand-wind an automatic watch?

Can you hand-wind an automatic watch?

Is it possible to manually wind an  automatic watch? It's a common misconception that automatic watches don't require any winding, which has led many users, particularly first-timers, to believe that their watches will wind themselves, hence the term "automatic." To clarify this issue, let's address the main question: Is it necessary to hand-wind an automatic watch? The short answer would be “yes”. Winding your watch is important to prevent malfunctions and ensure that it remains in perfect condition for years to come. In this article, we will delve into everything you need to know about winding your automatic timepiece.

This is a black dial watch for men with a stainless steel case and bracelet. This open heart watch has three sub dials and skeleton hands paired with golden Roman numerals.

What is an automatic watch?

An automatic watch is a timepiece that winds itself as you wear it. Unlike mechanical watches, which require periodic winding of their mainspring, automatic watches feature built-in mechanisms that generate energy from the movements of your wrist. This energy is transferred to the watch's gears through either rotating weights within the  movement  or springs contained within it. Some automatic movements even use ball bearings that rotate on their own, utilizing the kinetic energy from your everyday movements to wind the watch's gears. 

How does an automatic watch movement work?

An automatic watch movement is a type of mechanical movement that is self-winding. Unlike manual watches, where you need to twist the crown to wind the mainspring, the rotor in an automatic watch movement winds the mainspring when you move your wrist. The gears powered by the mainspring keep time, allowing the watch to run accurately for several hours before requiring rewinding. Some models of automatic watches come with a glass case back, enabling you to watch the inner workings of the watch. The heavy rotors in these watches, made of materials such as tungsten, gold, or platinum, store a significant amount of kinetic energy and use it to wind the spring. As a result, they have more power than  mechanical watches.

Do You Need To Manually Wind Your Automatic Watches?

The key element of these timepieces is their movement mechanism which is kinetically powered through the natural motion of the wrist. That being said, if you don't wear your watch regularly, the movement will come to a halt. However, since automatic watches are commonly referred to as self-winding watches, many people make the mistake of thinking that these timepieces never need to be wound. The truth of the matter is that if you haven't worn your automatic watch in days or weeks, you need to handwind it the next time you put it on. After winding your automatic watch manually, the gears will be set into motion and the movement will keep on working as per usual. 

This is a gold men watch with a stainless steel case and a black dial. The multi patterned black dial has three sub dials and an open heart display. The Roman numerals are paired with gold skeleton hands.

Why do you need to wind an automatic timepiece?

For those who have recently acquired a wristwatch, it is crucial to comprehend the mechanics of automatic watches. Suppose you possess a minimalist automatic watch, which you wear regularly. Since it is an automatic watch, it relies on a winding rotor present in the watch, which gathers energy from your wrist's natural movements during the day, enabling it to work as long as you have it on your wrist. Nevertheless, even if you don't wear it at night, the saved energy from the day can keep the watch running for up to 48 hours. If you don't use your automatic watch for a prolonged time, it can lose power and stop functioning. Automatic watches necessitate movement to operate, so leaving them idle can be detrimental to the watch. Once the energy runs out, you will have to wind the watch manually to restart it.

How do you wind an automatic watch?

When it comes to automatic watches, you can easily wind the mainspring by shaking the watch a few times, which activates the oscillating rotor inside. However, to fully wind the watch, you need to wear it for 8-10 hours. When an automatic watch is left unused for an extended period, the tension of the spring inside decreases, which can lead to the watch stopping functioning. It is crucial to keep the watch in use to maintain its functionality. Unlike manual watches, you can't overwind an automatic watch since it has built-in safety features. If your automatic watch stops working even after regular winding, it might be due to issues with the mechanism, such as excessive pressure during manufacturing or defects causing friction between parts. In such cases, it's best to get your watch serviced.

Watch Winders

Consider purchasing a  watch winder  if you plan on having a collection of watches with automatic movements that will be inactive for extended periods. This investment will prevent the need to reset the gears and will save you time in the long run. However, it is important to note that not all watch winders are suitable for every watch. It is essential to ensure that the winder is programmed to your watch's specific requirements. A high-quality watch winder allows you to customize the frequency of rotations to prevent excess strain on the movement and keep your timepiece accurate.

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How should I care for my automatic watch?

An automatic watch is a more fragile timepiece compared to a quartz watch and requires daily wear. Avoid exposing it to sudden changes in pressure or extreme temperatures. When not in use, it is best to store it in a soft cloth pouch or case that allows for air circulation but prevents dust accumulation, with vintage leather being the ideal material.

Determining whether manual winding is necessary depends on the watch and its movement. Consulting the manufacturer's recommendations is the safest course of action if you are unsure. Generally, it is recommended to let the automatic watch do its job and minimize manual winding. The watch was designed to self-wind, and its components will last longer if left to do so.

If an automatic watch stops keeping time after regular winding following these guidelines, it may indicate a problem with its mechanism. There may have been too much pressure applied to its gears during manufacture or a defect that causes friction between parts. Alternatively, an unusual incident, such as falling downstairs without noticing, may have caused damage. If this is the case, take your watch for servicing.

Winding Your Automatic Watch: Summary

If you want to wind your watch while wearing it, take the following steps:

  • Put on your watch carefully.
  • Gently move your wrist until you see the watch's hands begin to move.
  • If needed, adjust the date and time.

But what should you do if you haven't worn or used your watch in a while? If it's been less than 48 hours, your watch should still be ticking. However, if it's been longer, you'll need to manually wind it by turning the crown. To do this, rotate the crown about 30-40 times, or until the second hand starts moving. This will fully wind your watch and allow you to set the time and date correctly. Remember that turning the crown is just one way to wind your watch.

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