The Mechanical Vs Automatic Watches Showdown 🥊

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By the Best Watch Advice Team, 20th of August 2022

It’s a tough choice for watch lovers and connoisseur when is start talking Mechanical VS Automatic watches…

Both designs are timeless and meet at the crossroads of art and science.

The invention of the early mechanical mechanism would not only stand the test of time but be improved on for years to come. 

Mechanical watches have jumped forward leaps and bounds in their design and technology. 

Today, automatic watches are the most common and popular form of mechanical watch design. 

However, while all automatic watches are mechanical not all mechanical watches are automatic. 

As we weigh up mechanical vs automatic watches, it is important to get a few things straight!

Technically speaking any watch that tells time using a mechanical movement is a mechanical watch.

But for this debate, we will be looking at two subcategories of mechanical watches… 

What is a Manual Mechanical Watch?

A manual mechanical watch is possibly the most traditional and oldest type of watch movement.

The vintage design is beloved by watch enthusiasts and horologists alike due to its classic design and impressive intrinsic craftsmanship.

The manual watch is defined by its mechanical watch movement that requires the owner to wind the watch for it to work.

Once the wearer winds this clockwork mechanism by hand the watch will continue to tell time by the force that is held in the mainspring.

The mainspring releases this force to power the balance wheel which gets all the gears in motion to get the second hand sweeping the seconds away. 

A manual watch will almost always feature beautiful red jewels such as ruby, sapphire, or garnet.

These jewels aren’t just there to add some extra bling.

They help reduce friction in the movement to tell time more accurately.

The manual watch is an old, sturdy vet that has plenty of experience in the watch game and is sure to give any up and comers a tough test. 

Looking for your next mechanical watch that will exceed your needs on your next adventure?

Make sure you check out these epic mechanical and automatic field watches…

What is an Automatic Watch?

Speaking of up and comers, the automatic watch is almost like a fresh new mechanical watch ready to challenge the old manual veteran of the watch game.

An automatic watch movement is extremely similar to that of a manual watch.

However, there are a couple of differences. The main one is that an automatic watch winds itself by using kinetic energy when worn on the user’s wrist.

While an automatic watch can be wound by hand just like its older manual counterpart, automatic watches should keep that second hand sweeping so long as it is worn regularly.

Just like the manual watch, automatic watches also store up this energy in the mainspring which then keeps the gear moving to keep track of time.

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches

These two classic designs have been mainstays in the watch game for decades.

There would be no automatic watches if it wasn’t for the manual watch.

But we all know the young hungry, up-and-comer would love to take the old dog out in this battle of the mechanical watches.

So without further ado, let us take a closer look…

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches: Winding

Both watches have quite a few similarities. Both use mechanical movements made up of an intricate series of springs and gears to keep the watch operating as accurately as possible.

However, how this series of gears gets to work differs in both watch models. Thanks to British watchmaker John Harwood’s advancements in 1923, automatic watches are self-winding.

This means just by wearing the watch it will wind and power itself. In comparison, the manual watch must always be wound by hand.

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches: Maintenance

This lends itself to the next comparison which is maintenance. As both watches do utilize mechanical movements, there will be a considerable amount of care required for owners of manual and automatic watches.

However manual watches are considered one of the oldest clockwork designs and have been around since the early 16th Century.

The mechanical design that is used in today’s manual watches was used even for the early pocket watches. This means getting replacement parts and repairs for a manual watch can be quite difficult.

This fact only becomes twice as difficult if the watch is a vintage manual watch as many parts that feature in some vintage designs are no longer in production. 

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches: History

With the previous point in mind, owning a manual watch is essentially owning a piece of timepiece history. As the oldest watch design, many manual watch owners love their watches for that exact reason.

The movement is far more than just the engine of a watch. For true watch lovers, this mechanical design is art.

Even people who just like watches for fashion have to admit there is a certain beauty and elegance to the inner workings of the old watch mechanism. 

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches: Accuracy

When it comes to time telling accuracy the younger mechanical design trumpets the hands-on vet by a hair.

Automatic watches are slightly more reliable when it comes to keeping track of time. This is mainly due to the fact they are self-winding and don’t have to be wound by hand.

Mechanical vs Automatic Watches: Power reserve

The last big difference between these two generational rivals is their power reserve when being manually wound.

Usually, a fully wound automatic watch will power itself for between 36 – 42 hours.

While a manual watch that has been wound to capacity will last for a minimum of 48 hours and some models can last for over two weeks. 

Summing it all up

So which is better when it comes to automatic vs mechanical watches?

As with many debates on what is the superior watch, the answer can only be answered by you.

If you are someone who truly appreciates watch design and history and also has plenty of time to care for their watch, then you would like your manual watch design are old school.

Or maybe you are regularly on the move which is perfect for powering your automatic watch up.

If you still want to have a slice of watch history without the daily hassle of winding your timepiece up then automatic watches are the way to go.

Regardless of what mechanical design you prefer, everyone can agree these feats of engineering are some of the most impressive on the plant.

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