If you’re a fan or collector of vintage clocks, you’ll likely have to spend some time winding them, unless, of course, you own electric models.
Winding a clock has been part of the process of owning one for centuries. They’re driven by springs, and those springs have to have tension in order for the mechanism to keep time. As the clock runs, the tension decreases and unless you rest it, the timepiece will eventually stop running.
With mechanical clocks, you wind them with a key or by resetting a weight. With mechanical watches, you wind them by twisting the small knob on the crown that’s usually found at the 3 o’clock position….
…unless, that is, you own an automatic watch.
Automatic watches aren’t new; they’ve been in mass production since the 1930s. The method used for most automatic watches was patented by Rolex and is still in use, with some modifications, today.
These timepieces are mechanically wound; there is no magic mechanism that avoids that. What makes them “automatic” is that there is a small weighted rotor inside the case. This rotor moves as the person wearing the watch moves their arm during the normal course of the day. As they move, the rotor moves, and this adds tension to the spring, thus winding the watch.
You don’t have to continuously wear an automatic watch to keep them running, as they have what is known as a “power reserve.” This represents the amount of time, usually expressed in hours, that a watch will continue to run without being manually wound. The power reserve of most watches is somewhere between 12 and 72 hours, which means that you likely won’t have to wear your watch every day in order to keep it running.
Even if you do fail to wear your watch for a long enough period of time that it stops, you can get it running again by winding it manually. Automatic watches can be wound just as any other mechanical watch might be.
If you don’t want to manually wind your automatic watch but you want to keep it running while it’s not being worn, you can buy a device known as a watch winder. These are storage boxes that move the watch while it’s being stored in order to wind it for you. That way, it will always be ready to wear and have the correct time waiting for you.
Automatic watches come in a wide variety of price ranges. While many high end watches ($10,000 and up) are automatic, self-winding models, we have also seen budget self-winding watches priced at under $30.
That makes them affordable for just about everyone.
Automatic watches are convenient affordable and accurate. Unfortunately, no one has yet to invent a self-winding mechanical clock. For that, we’re just going to have to wait a bit longer.