Self-winding vs. Hand-wound Mechanical Watches

December 31st, 2009 | 13 Comments

A mechanical watch can be one of two types: manual or automatic. A manual mechanical watch must be hand-wound in order to reserve power. On the contrary, an automatic mechanical watch is self-winding.

So, what’s the difference between a hand-wound and self-winding mechanical watch mechanism?

Keep reading to learn more about:


Self-Winding: Automatic Mechanical Movement

This type of watch movement has a special fan-shaped rotor swinging on a pivot in response to the motion of the arm of the watch wearer. The assistance of the swinging rotor allows the watch’s mainspring to wind up and continue to keep the watch running.

One of the best aspects of an automatic mechanical movement is that watch owners do not have to regularly wind them. All that is necessary is to wear the watch on the wrist for approximately 12 hours every day. By doing so, the owner provides the self-winding mechanism with enough motion to keep the mainspring fully wound.

If an automatic timepiece is not worn for a couple days, it does stop running. The watch owner must then wind it by means of the crown that is located on the side of the watch case.

Watch winders are available to rotate the watch for several hours at a time, so an owner of the watch does not have to manually wind it.

However, technology today has allowed many watchmakers to develop automatic movements that will keep an unworn watch running for a week or more though.

Another great feature of many self-winding automatic watches today is their transparent case backs. This feature allows the owner of the watch to see the spinning rotor and truly appreciate and admire the automatic movements. The Orient CFT00004B and Orient CFT00004B utilize an automatic mechanical movement (they are self-winding). The visibility available of the Orient CFT00004B gears and weighted rotor make this watch exceptionally appealing and attractive to buyers. It’s invigorating to see the automatic movement; not to mention, it is nice to see what you are actually paying for.

Hand-Wound Watches: Keep Winding Them

The main difference between a self-winding and a hand-wound mechanical mechanism is that hand-wound mechanisms require the owner to wind them up regularly by the crown whereas with a self-winding mechanism it is unnecessary to wind the crown.

A hand-wound mechanical watch is powered by winding the crown to wind up the mainspring within the movement. Therefore, it is necessary to wind them up regularly using the crown, usually once a day. However, the amount of winding a manual watch needs is dependent upon the make of the watch; some may require winding once a day, while others may only need once every two or three days.

It is important to remember that a hand-wound mechanical watch should be wound while worn. Before winding, take it off.

Also, be careful not to overwind the watch. You should stop winding when you feel resistance. This resistance indicates that the spring has reached its maximum tension. Overwinding will ultimately break the spring.

Many watch collectors and owners believe there is a true beauty in hand-wound mechanical watches because of the required winding. Like many products, personal involvement in their workings or maintenance gives them a unique and private value. While it may take a little more work on the watch wearer’s part, taking time to appreciate the aesthetic beauty and effort of a hand-wound watch is important.

For a traditional hand-wound mechanical watch, consider the Orient CDD00001W, a pocket watch equipped with a wind-up mechanical movement.

  1. 13 Comments | Tell us what you think!

  2. By C.Lane on Nov 7, 2009

    I love a handwind movement! You seem to be more in touch with your watch when you get to wind it.

  3. By Casandra on Nov 12, 2009

    How does one set the hour and minute on a hand-wound mechanical watch?

  4. By Kathleen DeShannon on Jan 1, 2010

    The hand-wind mechanism is similiar to the older watches but updated and more accurate!

  5. By alosh on Jan 1, 2010

    i love orient watch

  6. By Thomas on Jan 9, 2010

    Ive always been fascinated with free energy. While battery powered watches do not need frequent changes in batteries, I still like the fact that you can wind a watch by hand or even better yet just put an automatic watch on and start your daily routine and your watch will keep running.

  7. By Bill Hudson on Jan 19, 2010

    I love Orient Watches, Automatics are “green” since they do not need Batteries ever. Full stainless steel so you will not allergy problems with the metal, and they truly are water resistant ( I say water proof from my experience) they are exceptional value, better in some way then the swiss.

  8. By sunny on Dec 3, 2010

    @Casandar……Hi honey! its very simple. you wind the knob in its original position where it is normally on the side of the watch to continue its usual working mechanism to make it running, after winding completely you pull up the knob slightly, it will come upwards depending upon the make and model and then when you will rotate the knob clockwise/anticlockwise it will change the position of minute’s needles and hour’s needle accordingly :) :) :)

  9. By Scott on Jan 28, 2011

    I believe there is a typo above. Under hand-wound, mechanical watches, it says: “A hand wound mechanical watch should be wound while being worn.” I believe the opposite was intended.

  10. By Hai Tran on Feb 7, 2011

    Are there any other hand-wound Orient hand watches? I know there’s the pocket watch shown here. Will Orient make a hand-wound hand watch in the near future? Would like more information if there is.

  11. By wagieh shoukry on Apr 9, 2011

    i am an orient automatic watches fan they r

    very accurate more than any other swiss expensive watches but i have a little suggestion many times i like 2 change the metal bracelet by a leather strap why not taking that into consideration by making additional holes to suit leather strap?

  12. By George on Apr 28, 2011

    I like both – Automatics as well as mechanical watches. Each for different reasons. Automatics can be more convinient, but mechanicals are usually a bit more accurate, sturdy and slimmer, since they dont need extra room for the rotor. For some reason in most or maybe even all Orient watches that are automatic two important features are dropped/ommited – Hacking and manual wind option. I wonder what happend is rotor breaks or gets stuck – since there is no manual wind option. On the other hand Orient watches have a long history of their own high quality in-house movements that rival some of the top Swiss ones and I never had a problem with Orients. But still – it would be nice to have a manual option in the automatic watch – if nothing else – for people that have more than one watch – it is easier to just wind one you are not wearing on regular basis every morning just to keep it working than have to wear it every other day. Plus it is important to keep your watch running so movemnts are kept on good condition and oils dont thinken up. Notice that those few manual Orient watched featured here are on a more expensive side – pretty clear that they are better/more accurate. Yet, my Orient is an Automatic one – wish I could afford a manual one too. That SDT00001S – Retro 60 looks mighty nice!

  13. By William Hoffman on Jan 14, 2012

    This paragraph may not have been written as clearly as it might: “It is important to remember that a hand-wound mechanical watch should be wound while worn. Before winding, take it off.”

    “…wound while worn.” seems to contradict “Before winding, take it off.”

  14. By Stephen Cummings on Nov 10, 2012

    Watches are meant to be wound and kept running to avoid any possibility of not keeping accurate time. I recommend watch being wound daily as a preventive maintenance. This only takes a couple seconds per day. I also recommend watch winders for automatic watches. There is one on sale at amazon for four watches holding an extra twelve for around $115 plus shipping.

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