Mechanical Watch vs Automatic Watch

Watch is a timepiece that worn by people commonly for its main purpose to show the time. Do you know that watches can differ and available in more than one variant? In this article today, we are going to explain about the difference between mechanical watches and automatic watches, just in case if some of you still confused about the both terms.

In this article we will give you information about:
– What is mechanical watch and automatic watch
– What is the difference between mechanical watch and automatic watch
– Mechanical watch vs automatic watch

About Mechanical Watch
Mechanical watch is the type of watches that uses a mechanism to measure the passage of time, this type of watch is the exact opposite to modern quartz watches, which runs electronically. The mechanical watches movement are driven by a spring that called a mainspring, this mainspring needs to be wound periodically in order to keep moving. This wounding force then transmitted through a series of gears in order to power the balance wheel. Balance wheel is a weighted wheel that swinging back and forth in a constant rate. Inside the watch there is a device called an escapement that releases the watch’s wheels to move forward in a small amount along each movement of the balance wheel, this is why the watch’s hands can move forward at a constant rate.

The History of Mechanical Watch
Before the Quartz watch appear in 1970, all watches from that time are mechanical. Taken from Wikipedia, early watches are said to be very poor in accuracy and the good one usually vary as much as 15 minutes in a day. Modern mechanical watches require of the order of 1 microwatt of power on average. Mechanical watch from the early 16th to the early 19th century has a chain driven fusee to regulate the torque of the mainspring when it’s winding, however this fusee later becomes another issue if not treat with care because the fuse were very brittle and easy to break.

In common mechanical watch are not as accurate as modern quartz watches, mechanical watches also required to be clean periodically to make it work properly and prolong its life, this process is only can be done by a skilled watchmaker. Since quartz watches became popular in 1970s, in the present day mechanical watches are commonly only used as a fashion items. Mechanical watch is sold with a higher price than quartz watch because the complicated mechanism and high maintenance. Most of mechanical watches these days are high end product and worn as status symbol. If you are interested on other type of mechanical watch, you can read our previous article about Chronograph.

About Automatic Watch
Automatic watch are the mechanical watch that is wound automatically by the natural motion of the wearer to provide energy and makes the watch running, so the manual winding is not needed. A mechanical watch that is not self-winding or electrically run are called manual watch. Just as the explanation about mechanical watch above, automatic watch has gears that are turned by spiral spring called the mainspring. While in manual watch the energy is stored in the mainspring by turning a knob at the side of the watch to wind the mainspring. In automatic watch the movement mechanism winds the mainspring using the natural motion from the wearer’s body.

The History of Automatic Watch
The earliest trusted source on who invented the first automatic watches is date back between late 1776 or early 1777. The automatic watch was made by a Swiss watchmaker named Abraham Louis Perrelet in Le Locle. During the years 1776 to 1810 there are several types of weight were used in the making of automatic watches. They are side weight, center weight, rotor weight, and movement weight.

In automatic watches there is an eccentric weight that turns on a pivot. The movement of the wearer will cause the rotor to pivot on its staff that was attached to a ratcheted winding mechanism. The motion then translated into circular motion through a series of reverser gears and ends up winding the mainspring. When fully wind typical watch can store enough energy to run the watch for about two days, so the watch will keep running even when placed still.

What you have to pay attention when wearing automatic watch is not to overwind the mainspring. If the mainspring used are the simple one, the over winding could cause the mainspring to break and even when it is not, it will cause a problem called “knocking” or “banking”. The excessive drive force might cause the balance wheel rotate in excessive amplitude and make the watch run fast and at the end breaking the impulse pin. This is why there is a slipping clutch device to prevent the mainspring from over winding.

Mechanical Watch vs Automatic Watch

Mechanical WatchAutomatic Watch
- Refer to how the watch works- Refer to how the mechanism works
- The watch that uses mechanism to measure the passage of time- The users don't have to wind the watch manually
- Can be automatic or manual- Can be a regular automatic watch or chronograph

As it have been mentioned above, aside from its main purpose as timekeeping watches are worn to match their wearers taste. In this case many people may have different preferences. The different between mechanical watches and automatic watches is that the mechanical term used to call watch that used a mechanism to measure the passage of time. While automatic watches is one type of mechanical watch that doesn’t need to be wound manually in order to run the watch.

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