How to Start a Stopped Automatic Watch Movement

March 14th, 2010 | 7 Comments

Automatic watch movements are basically the same as mechanical movements , except automatic movements require no winding when worn regularly because the the wrist’s movement powers the watch. However, those who own and wear multiple watches will find that their automatics stop when worn less than every other day. That’s why some prefer quartz watches like the CTT02002D.


However, you can get your automatic watch movement going again. Knowing exactly how this type of movement works will help you to understand how to start a stopped automatic watch movement.

Read on to learn:

The History of the Automatic Watch Movement

Abraham-Louis Perrelet, one of the greatest Swiss watchmakers, first developed a rotor system. He is considered the father of the automatic watch because his 1770 invention was well-suited to wristwatches. However, it didn’t become popular because at the time, pocket watches were most popular. Pocket watches don’t tend to move around much, so his design was ineffective. Ten years later, Perrelet sold some of his watches to a contemporary, Abraham-Louis Breguet, who improved the mechanism, but designed watches that did not work reliably.

Watchmakers continued to advance the concept, but automatic movements did not find an optimal use until wristwatches became popular after World War I. The wrist’s motion was the optimal way for the mechanism to keep watches wound.

Around this time, Rolex developed and patented the modern rotor system. Rolex’s technical chief, Emile Borer, was credited with its invention. It was used as the basis for Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual series, which made significant improvements on past automatics. These watches could run for up to 35 hours without being worn.


By the 1960s, automatic winding became standard in many quality mechanical watches. However, because the mechanism adds weight and size, many other quality watchmakers opted to continue producing manually wound movements.

The 1970s showed a huge rise in the popularity of quartz watches, with electronic watches trumping mechanical ones. However, within 10 years, many people remembered the value of a mechanical watch. Since then, mechanical and automatic watches have rebounded in sales.

How an Automatic Watch Movement Works

Automatic watch movements are mechanical watch movements that self-wind. The main difference is that an automatic has a rotor, a small semicircular weight. The rotor spins freely around an axis whenever the wearer moves his or her arm. A racheted winding mechanism then transfers the spinning rotor’s energy to the mainspring, which powers the watch.


Modern automatic movements have 2 rachets so that the mainspring can be wound when the rotor moves either clockwise or counterclockwise. A typical automatic can store enough energy for about 2 days without wear before it needs to be started manually.

How to Start a Stopped Automatic Watch Movement

Those who do not wear their automatic watch daily have 2 options:

  • Watch Winders
  • Manual Winding

Watch winders store automatic watches and keep them wound by moving them in circular patterns that mimic human motion.

Watch winders, most useful for those who own multiple automatic watches, are particularly useful because:

  • Watches with complex features, such as showing moon phases, would have to be reset each time the watch stopped.
  • When kept wound and running, watches are more accurate because their lubricants don’t solidify over time.


If you choose to forgo the cost of a watch winder, but still don’t wear your watch frequently, you will need to restart it after not wearing it for 2 days or longer.

Steps to start your automatic watch movement:

  1. Hold the watch in your hand with the dial facing up.
  2. Gently move your arm back and forth. This gently gets the rotor moving again; you should hear or feel the movement in motion.
  3. After a few minutes, the watch will have enough energy stored to run for about 2 hours.
  4. Put the watch on. The motion of your wrist and arm will continue to build the power reserve.
  5. Reset the watch’s time – instructions vary from watch to watch.
  6. Now that you understand the mechanisms behind automatic watches and what to do if you won’t be wearing yours frequently, you can start thinking about which of the dozens of beautiful styles to choose from. A good place to start is with these automatic watch bestsellers.

    Cassie Wallace

  1. 7 Comments | Tell us what you think!

  2. By Steve Poorman on Mar 15, 2010

    I’m going off on a slight tangent, but you brought up the Orient Automatic bestsellers and I noticed the CEV0900 is on there, did you guys ever pick a name from the name the watch contest?

  3. By Kathy Grantham on Mar 16, 2010

    Thanks for posting “How to start a stopped automatic watch”. I thought my husband’s watch was broken and was going to take it to be repaired. It’s back to working fine now! Thanks!

  4. By ORIENT Cassie on Mar 16, 2010

    Steve – yes, we have! The winner has been contacted, and the name will be announced in the next few weeks. Stay posted on’s News section for details.

  5. By Steve Poorman on Mar 16, 2010

    Great, thanks for the update. I’m guessing since I don’t see an email from Orient my names were not picked, I thought mine were good too ;)

  6. By Chris on Dec 13, 2011

    great piece. sorry if I am bumping something old but was looking for help with a watch.

  7. By yash on Apr 25, 2012

    My watch fell down and stopped working.
    It is similar to the one displayed above.
    I shaked it & the biggest circle in it starts moving and stops again within the couple of seconds,no other part is moving in it.
    Plzzz help me.

  8. By yash on Apr 25, 2012

    I am not able to wind my mainspring.

7 comments | Tell us what you think!