Due to its exclusivity and mechanical nature, automatic watch is more expensive than the typical normal quartz watch. So for those wanting to buy one, the question of where to buy is one of the most common question. There are many ways to buy an automatic watch which I’ll divulge in this article, as well as the pros and cons of each option.
So where do you buy automatic watch? You can buy automatic watch from an authorized dealer store, at the department store of your local mall, an online store/website or purchase it directly from the brand/manufacturer.
I’ve tried all the buying options above and I found there are some pros and cons to each of them. Hence, your choice of place to buy your watch will depend on what you want and need.
Where To Buy Automatic Watch?
There are 4 ways that you can buy an automatic watch:
In any big cities, there will be stores dedicated to sell watches, either just for one brand or few brands. These kinds of stores are called authorized dealer stores and is one of the best places to survey watches. Brands don’t sell to anybody, and when they do, they will only give their watches to some sellers – hence why it’s called authorized dealer (or just AD).
AD stores can be split into 2 categories: AD store for a single particular brand and AD stores that carry multiple brands. Some brands have such exclusivity that there is a demand for an AD store to carry only that particular brand, such as Rolex, Patek and other luxury brands. However, such stores are rare and far in between.
The more common AD stores will typically carry multiple brands inside them. These stores will display the watches in cabinets around the walls segregated into brands which really make viewing and searching for a watch much easier.
If you’re in for shopping an automatic watch but in a lost on what watch will work for you (classic issue with first timer), then these stores will provide a good avenue to be exposed to lots of watches in a single store. In addition, I find that the store keeper usually have good knowledge on the watches and can recommend a watch to you depending on their history of best-selling watches and what people generally buy. This well translate into better customer service than others.
(Though I still recommend that you figure out for yourselves what watch do you need to avoid regret later on. Check out my 10 step-by-step guide on how to choose the correct watch for you.)
It is due to this that AD stores are generally easier to be trusted as compared to online stores, as you know you will be getting the real stuffs and not some cheap imitation. The store keepers are more well-versed with the warranties and this will definitely help you especially if you’re new to buying watches.
Speaking of warranties, buying from AD stores have the biggest advantage of brand-backed warranties as you’re essentially buying from an official channel (as compared from gray-market in online stores, but more on that later). Again, this will be very comforting to those that is buying their first hundred dollars automatic watch.
But AD stores do have a big disadvantage as their prices are always on the high side due to the structured pricing set by the brands. But in response, you’re buying from a trusted seller with the full warranty that the brand will give you. Not to mention that you can walk from the store while wearing your new watch as no waiting time is needed (as with buying online) which will be a big plus for those needing a watch urgently.
The last advantage that I’ve personally experienced from buying a watch from an AD store is the store keeper will let you inspect the watch before buying as well as help to resize the metal bracelet for you.
If you’ve had a watch with metal bracelet, you’ll know that it isn’t a walk in the park to resize (don’t trust me? Check out what you have to do here). Thus, getting the store keeper to meticulously do it for you when you bought it is one of the advantages that you can get.
Official channel for the watch brand ensuring the watch is original and not fake
You can inspect the watch before buying it
Carries many models making it easier to survey watches in one place
Will get the original warranty from the brand
Knowledgeable store keepers will be able to assist you better
Easy to buy a watch (if you’re living in a big city)
You can get the watch instantly after payment
Store keeper can help to resize the watch strap/bracelet for your
Higher prices compared to other places
Not all models can be carried by a store (depends on its size)
Buy from Authorized Dealer Store if:
You’re new with automatic watches and would like to get face-to-face explanation about how to use it
You want to get the watch from an official channel to ensure its origin and get official warranty
2- Department Store In Malls
The next place where you can buy automatic watch easily is at department stores in malls. I’m pretty sure you’ve stumbled across some booths showcasing automatic watches while shopping in the malls, usually in the fashion section.
I personally am not a fan of buying from department stores as I often found that the selections are lesser than a dedicated AD store. Moreover, they often stock normal quartz watches that are easier to sell, though some higher-end department stores do sell more expensive automatic watches though not luxury or high end watches.
In addition to that, the hustle and bustle of department stores are not the perfect environment to view and appreciate the beauty of these machines. I mean, you can’t exactly look closely over that Tissot Visodate when there’s a noisy women’s clothes section right behind you lol!
The knowledge of store keepers in the department stores are also not up to par with an AD store. Usually, I found that department store’s employees are rotating around the various sections and they don’t have much knowledge about the watches under their care. At worst, you might be getting conflicting info about any particular watch that you inquire (which is why I always emphasize on researching for yourselves about any watch before deciding to buy it).
Despite these drawbacks, department stores are some of the easiest places to buy a watch as it can be more numerous located compared to AD stores that can be hard to find everywhere (again, this will depend on where you live). If you’re shopping for the holiday season for your family, getting a watch will be easier as you can buy everything in one store. In addition, the generous discount offers will usually apply to the watches as well.
First timer will be more comfortable to view the watches at department stores as it’s less intimidating to view watches there. You’re basically under the same store which is not the case with AD store as you’ll need to go into the store. Depending on the store, you will also get the same original warranty from the brand too.
Widely available and accessible even for those living outside big city
Ease of buying at the same time as you’re shopping for other stuffs
Carries many models making it easier to survey watches in one place
Will get the original warranty from the brand
You can inspect the watch before buying it
You can get the watch instantly after payment
Can take advantage of the generous discounts that department stores usually offer
Not all department stores carry higher-end automatic watch
Shop assistants are not really well-versed with the watches
Buy from Department Store if:
You want to buy watches with the convenience of while shopping for other stuffs
3- Buy Directly From Brand/Manufacturer
Sometimes, the watch that you like might not be available in a store – it could be the watch was quite expensive that your local watch shop don’t think they can sell it. Or it could simply be that particular watch model is not made available in your country, for whatever reasons the brand might have. In these instances, you can buy the watch directly from the manufacturer through their websites.
Although online stores were usually associated with gray market watches (more on that later in the next section), watch brands had embraced online stores. Well, they would be nuts not going for online as that’s where most people shop nowadays. Till date, I noticed that some brands such as Tissot, Citizen and Swatch, just to name a few, have included a buy option from their official website.
By having an official online store, watch brands can ensure their buyer of authentic watches, which is one of the biggest concern whenever buying online. You’ll get the real thing, alongside with the official packaging, boxes and warranty – all without taking a step from your home. The brands will be able to maximize profit and ensure their stocks can be cleared in time.
However, there are some disadvantages with this method.
Firstly, the price that you’ll get from buying online with the official website is almost the same as what you will pay at a store. In addition, you still have to pay for additional shipping charges that will wildly vary depending on where you live. And then you’ll have to wait for your watch to come to your doorstep.
Another major disadvantage is something inherent when you’re buying online – you can only inspect the watch when it arrives and if there’s some issue with it, you’ll have to claim warranty, post it back and wait for few more days to receive the replacement. Because of this risk, buying online is not something that I’d recommend if you need to get your watch as soon as possible.
Easy way to buy watches without going out of your home
Ensure you’ll get the authentic watches
Can browse and compare prices of various models easily
Can buy rarer models that are not available at your local watch stores
Prices can be higher after including shipping charges
Will need to wait for few days before the watch is delivered
Possibility of getting a lemon/malfunction unit and have to go through hassles to get replacement
Buy from Department Store if:
You would like to get that exact watch that is not being sold in stores anywhere near you.
4- Online retailer
Last but not least, online retailers, one of my favorite way to buy a watch. There are various types of online retailers that can be segregated into groups such as e-commerce sites (e.g jomashop.com, longislandwatch.com), online stores (such as Amazon, Ebay, etc.), forums and even Facebook groups.
The similarity between all of these online channels? Most will sell many watches at huge discounts and they can really help to get you the watch that you want with huge savings. But then again, how did they do that? Well, basically these watches are called gray market watches.
Watches sold on these online channels are often called gray market watches because their are not the official channel. The thing is the brands control the pricing of the watches as they want to ensure that there is enough profit for them and their authorized distributors. Having watch shops cutting prices is a sin as it will distort the field making it unfair to their other distributors.
Gray market sellers get their watches from the other countries and then sell it elsewhere. It’s definitely legal to do so (though the brands will say otherwise) but the fact is the watch is totally legit and you’ll get the real thing, at 20% to 30% off the MSRP prices, even after adding shipping costs!
The downside with this is you won’t get the official warranty coming from the brands so you’re on your own if something happens to the watch after you buy it. Luckily, most retailers have their own warranty or replacement policy so you’re covered in that regards.
Now, I’m not saying that all online retailers sell legit gray watches, even the sites that I’ve mentioned above. Some do sell fake watches disguised as real ones (which are scums of the lowest level!) and there are cases like that happening. Thus, do your due diligence on which sellers would you buy from. Comb through online reviews for red flags and such prior to buying from them.
Ensure the sellers has a clear warranty/replacement policy that will replace your watch like-for-like or full refund in case of lemons. Inspecting the watch when you get them is then more crucial so that you can act as fast as you can. Do compare the watch with known pictures of it online from other owners to get a real feel of how it should be.
All of this means that buying from an online retailer carries the highest risk of all the places where you can buy an automatic watch. However, it comes with the high reward of huge discounts off it, which can be cumulative to the tune of thousands of dollars if you’re an avid watch collector.
Another rule that I always use is to not buy an expensive watch from these online retailers and stick to official channels. This threshold can vary from person to person, though I’m using a $1,000 mark personally. As there is a huge risk with buying these watches from online, you really want to reduce the risk as much as possible. Besides, anything below $1,000 means the watch does not use any complicated in-house movement so I can always get it fixed from my local watchmaker.
Easy way to buy watches without going out of your home
You can get the huge savings from buying gray market watches
Most online retailers stock huge amount of watches, even those already discontinued
Easy to compare prices and watch models
There are some retailers selling fake watches
There will be waiting time before the watch arrives
No official warranty from the brand so you need to ensure the retailer have their own warranty policy
It’s best to limit the value of watch bought from gray market sellers
Buy from Department Store if:
You want the best value for money watches and am perfectly fine with the additional risks involved.
There are many ways for one to buy an automatic watch and all of them comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice of where to buy your watch will depend on which buying channel that you prefer the most.
If you want the least risk, then an authorized dealer store will be the best method to buy your watch. However, if you want the cheapest watch, then online is definitely the way to go.
I hope this article will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if there are other things you need to know.
Automatic or mechanical watches are one of the hottest trend nowadays. It’s mechanical-based inner workings are sought after due to its novelty and difference with current digital world. However, what’s the lifespan of these automatic watches? As a fellow owner, I decided to find out and will share it with you in this article.
How long does automatic watch lasts? Automatic watch can last a very long time as long as it’s been taken care of properly and serviced regularly.
In addition, there are some must-do tips to ensure your watch can last for a lifetime. You also need to know the correct way to store your unused watches as it has a huge role to play in maintaining it. Lastly, selecting a good quality watch is also important to get the most out of your watches for the longest time.
Automatic Watches Can Last For A Very Long Time As Long As…
If you take care of your watch properly and service it regularly, you can bet that it will be able to last long. Now, our watches are just like cars in which it can last thousands of miles IF it’s taken care of properly.
One of the biggest enemy for automatic watches is lack of servicing. As with cars, this is a must with watches too. Inside the watch, there are hundreds of small components that continuously move 24/7/365 – all year round. The thing with mechanical stuffs is the movement will generate friction and this friction will eat up some components and this can be handled by regularly servicing your watch.
The next big enemy is improper care of the watch. If you think that automatic watch can be used as rough as normal watch, then you are wrong. Even the toughest marketed automatic dive watch should be used with care and gentler than any ordinary quartz watch.
Servicing Your Watch Is A Must To Keep It In Good Condition
Throughout its lifetime, a watch inner workings (or called movement) is subjected to thousands if not millions of cycles of movement as it ticking away to show you the time. These will create lots of friction inside the watch and its components, hence causing wear and tear in it.
In addition, the oils used as lubricant for the components will generally go bad in few years, and will not be as viscous as it need to be. These factors are the reason why servicing the watch regularly is a good idea to keep its lifespan long. Not to mention a watch that is not serviced will not be accurate as you want it to be – another reason why regular servicing and adjusting its accuracy is a good idea.
So how often should automatic watches be serviced? The rule of thumb is to service automatic watches once every 3 to 5 years. However, do bear in mind that some manufacturers may suggest otherwise (e.g Rolex with its 10 years servicing interval) so I fully recommend checking the small user manual that you get with your watches to confirm on the service interval for your model.
Upon servicing, the watch will be taken apart where the components will be cleaned and re-oil. The parts will also be inspected for any problems and if anything is faulty, it will be replaced. Lastly, the watch will be closed back and you will get yourselves a watch that runs like new. (read more about servicing automatic watches in my previous article here).
Some Useful Tips On How To Take Care Of Your Watches
Actually taking good care of your automatic watch is also another important factor that will determine if your watch can last a lifetime or just a couple of years. As this is a very important topic, I’ve already written an entire post about this (read: 13 Tips On How To Take Care An Automatic Watch So That It Can Last Long) but here are the 3 topmost tips that I religiously share to anyone new with watches:
1- Don’t Drop It!
The first and foremost rule is to never drop it. I don’t think I can stress enough about this and how damaging a drop can be to your watches. The thing is our watch is not a small round object. Instead, it’s actually made up of hundreds of components in the movement – those are the things that cause an automatic watch to tick.
Any sudden fall of the watch onto a hard surface will cause an impact that can shake these small components out of place or worse, damage some of them. Thus, you should always handle your watch as a fragile item, just like a glass jar by carefully taking it, wearing it on your wrist, and putting it down at the end of the day.
Yes, it might seem cool to just throw off your watch onto the bed/table after a long day at work but you never know if it will bounce and fall on the floor. A 3 feet drop is enough to cause havoc on most automatic watches so be very careful when you handle it in future or it will not last long!
2- Moisture Is Your Watch’s Enemy
There are 2 reasons why I’m always be very careful when my watches are in contact with water (even though most watches nowadays have at least 30 m water resistance).
First, watches are made of metal and moisture presence might cause it to corrode, especially if you kept it in a wet place. In addition, water can wet and weaken your expensive leather strap or other cloth base straps which is definitely not something that you want to happen. Even with a metal bracelet, the small links on it will be a place where water can accumulate and wreak havoc in the long run.
Secondly, water intrusion into the watch is one of the most common problems with not just automatic watches, but to normal quartz watches as well. If you see fog inside your watch glass, then that’s the sign of moisture intrusion. For an automatic watch, this is a more critical problem as this means you have to bring it out for service or else the parts will get rusty and can cost you more to get the whole movement replaced.
The watchmaker will have to disassemble the watch, clean it up and re-oil it. He then have to close it again and changed the water proofing gaskets to avoid the same thing happens again. All of this will cost you money and if you neglect this, you can be sure the watch will not lasts long.
However, there’s few easy things that you can do to avoid all of this. Number one, avoid any contact with water when you’re wearing your watch. Number two, in the event that you cannot avoid water, ensure the watch’s crown (the round knob at the side for setting time) is tightly secured and pushed all the way down to the watch body. Number three, don’t use any of the watch’s functions (chronographs, etc.) while in the vicinity of water.
If you do all of these 3 things, you’ll be able to avoid the terrible moisture intrusion into your watch.
3- Avoid Magnets and Electronics
Another important thing that many don’t realize is magnetization of your watch is possible and one of the most common issues on why your automatic watch can have gross inaccuracies.
As you already know, the components inside a watch movement are mostly made of steel and there is a possibility that the steel components will be magnetized by being held close to strong magnets or some electronics.
While being magnetized is not harmful to your watch, but it will severely reduce the accuracy of it and only a trip to a watchmaker can rectify this which will cost you more money to maintain it.
(I’d like to note that you can also rectify magnetization of your watch by yourselves by learning about it from various sources in the internet)
For more tips on how to take care of your watches, check out my previous post where I’ve detailed out the 13 best tips that I’m to keep my automatic watches in good condition (link here).
Keep Any Unused Watches In A Proper Watch Box
For those with more than one watch (I know there are many of you out there lol!) keeping the unused watch should be done properly as it could be the deciding factor on its longevity.
An automatic watch, like any other small appliances, should be stored in a dry and cool place, free from any moisture or sunlight that could degrade it.
The best way that I found is to use a proper watch box to keep your unused watch. It’s more secure and you can see all your watches at the same place, thereby making it easier to spot any missing watch. In addition, some watch box also comes with locking mechanism for protection against theft.
Quality Of The Watch Also Plays A Role
The quality of the watch in question is also a very big aspect in determining if it can lasts for a lifetime or not. While you can do everything in your ability to ensure your watch stays in perfect condition, the inherent quality of the watch plays a big role.
A more sturdily built watch with robust movement will be able to weather the storms without much fuss, hence making maintaining it a much easier effort. On the other side, a watch with cheap movement is like a ticking bomb – it can go faulty with even the slightest knock!
But don’t get me wrong. Although buying a watch from well-known watch brands will undoubtedly serve you well in terms of longevity, such watches are going to be very expensive and can be out of budget for most of us.
If you don’t want to spend too much on a watch but still wants a great degree of dependability, you can also go for the likes of Seiko, Citizen, Tissot, and other famous low-end brands. Although they are more affordable, their automatic watches are still great machines that can last for years of use. (check out this list of the affordable automatic watches that you can buy).
However, beware of the smaller niche brands that you don’t often hear with questionable origin and history, especially if their offerings come at such low prices. Often times, these brands uses low quality China-made parts that won’t last as long as the other automatic watches can. If in doubt, do a quick internet search for any feedback on these watches before forking your money for it.
Automatic watch can have a long lifespan provided the necessary precaution and maintenance were performed on it. It’s not uncommon for automatic watches to go on for decades with some even being passed of as heirloom to the next generation (incidentally that’s what Patek Philippe’s slogan is about).
For me, it’s all about trying to ensure my prized watches are kept in pristine condition. Without a doubt, an automatic watch is not a cheap purchase and I’ve bought my watches after countless web searches, visit to shops and trying it out on my hand.
It is because of this I feel that all of my watches are special with special bonds created between me and my watches that fueled me to try to ensure my watch can lasts for a long time. If you’re the same as me, then don’t let it all go to waste and start taking care of your watches!
Automatic watch has been around for centuries, and there is no indication it will go away even with the advent of smartwatches. It’s a truly unique piece of device devoid from any electric/electronic elements. If you want to own one of these, then brands are very important. The question then is what automatic watch brands are around?
So what are some good automatic watch brands? Below is the list of the 50 top automatic watch brands currently:
Bell & Ross
Arnold & Son
International Watch Company (IWC)
Baume & Mercier
A. Lange & Söhne
Let’s have a look at each of them and see what have made them who they are today. I will also try to list down some popular models of the brands for your information. Do bear in mind that the price range listed is an indicative and can vary from what’s stated here, depending on where and what model you’re buying.
The Seiko brand is a watch brand that I don’t think I need to introduce further. For those new to watches, you might think that Seiko is only producing normal quartz watches and wall clocks – and this is where you’re wrong. Seiko is one of the most versatile watch company in the world with products ranging from the cheapest quartz watch to luxurious watches (Grand Seiko and Credor brands. I’ll touch on these separately).
The company started way back in 1881 in Tokyo, selling watches and jewelry. It was one of the earliest and still surviving watch companies in Japan. What’s interesting is that Seiko is not just focusing on watches like what we thought all this while. Under its Seiko Group, it has numerous companies under it manufacturing various consumer products, electronics, jewelry and even printers (the Epson company is apparently under Seiko as well).
For automatic watch, they have lots of models starting from the most affordable (such as the less than $100 Seiko 5s), more refined Presage and Premier line ups and its sports models under its popular Prospex line.
Another kicker is they also produced almost all of their parts in-house including the movements – this is something that put it in a special position amongst watch brands as most brands will outsource the movement as it’s quite hard and not economical to design and manufacture it in-house.
Early fans will recognize Seiko’s models of the SKX007, SKX013, Monster, Samurai, Sumo, etc. as some of the most value for money automatic watches. These are highly popular automatic watches with ISO 6425 dive watch compliant that is not just affordable, but also looks cool with robust movement.
If you’re just getting started with automatic watches, you just can’t go wrong with a Seiko. In-house movement & parts, reputable brand name, long rich history – all in an affordable price point.
Another Japanese watchmaker on this list is Orient. Just like Seiko, if you think they only produce wall clocks then you’re wrong. Orient is also another full fledged watchmaker making their own movements and parts in-house. Unlike Seiko, they came a bit late to the game in 1950, being founded in Tokyo. One interesting thing about Orient is it’s actually a subsidiary of Seiko.
Many watch fans love how Orient bring to the industry an alternative to Seiko’s dive/sports watches with their Mako/Ray designs. Although being the same company, Orient managed to bring forward their own distinct design language, much to the liking of watch fans. They also have another sub-brand called Orient Star that uses better quality material and movement.
I personally love how Orient like to implement complications such as power reserve indicator and AM/PM indicator on their watches – all for just less than $500! If you search around, you’ll see that no other watch brands do this as usually for less than $500, you’ll just be getting a vanilla 3-hands analog automatic watch.
The next affordable automatic watch brand is Fossil. Unlike the 2 brands above, Fossil is relatively new in horology having been founded in 1984 in Texas, US. Even though it’s widely known as fashion watches (quartz-based) and leather items brand, Fossil also produced automatic watches, some of the cheapest in the market right now.
Their design theme is in the use of open dial whereby you can actually see the inner workings of the movement from a cut on its watch face, with various combinations of subdials for date, day, seconds resulting in many cool watch designs. In addition, as it’s a leather accessories brand, you’re guaranteed to have various handsome leather watch bands for picking.
The next Japanese watch brand in this list is Citizen. Like other Japanese brands, most people only know it by being a wall clock maker. But that is not the case as Citizen is a watchmaker with a rich history. Founded in 1918 in Tokyo, it has over 100 years of experience in watchmaking, encompassing mechanical, automatic, quartz and solar watches – its most popular product right now.
In terms of automatic watches, Citizen seems to be taking a step back, presumably due to stiff competition from its competitors (both local Japan – Seiko & Orient – and overseas). Instead, they have been making great progress in terms of their solar watches with the very popular Eco-Drive line up. They are one of the market leaders in solar watches with some of the most cool looking and affordable models out there.
As relatively new watch brand, Stuhrling is quite popular as a cheap and affordable automatic watchmaker. Established in 1999 in New York, the American brand was actually based on the name of a Swiss watchmaker, Max Stührling. Their watches are adventurous, with open/skeleton dials showing its internal movements. Without a doubt, their affordable automatic watches are quite enticing, with most going below $400.
What’s interesting with Stuhrling is they also have tourbillon collection, even though they are a small brand. For those that don’t know, tourbillon is a complication devised to negate the effects of gravity to increase accuracy. The balance wheel and escapement assembly are placed in a cage that will continuously rotate and averages out the positional errors (watch this video to see how it works).
Say what you might want about this Chinese-based tourbillon movement, but such effort is highly commendable. At around $1,500, their tourbillon is one of the cheapest that anyone can get (though you might want to look out for their used toubillons which can be had for way less than that price…).
It’s no secret that there is a Chinese manufacturer for almost everything on earth, and automatic watch industry is not an exception. For watch fans, you’ll surely be aware of the Chinese company called Seagull that manufacturers affordable automatic watches for the masses.
But one thing that impressed me is the history of this company. If you think that the brand is a new brand, then you’re wrong as the company Tianjin Seagull Watch Group Co. Ltd. (yes that’s its full company) was founded way back in 1955 on the order of the People’s Republic of China to have a Chinese watchmaking company in their country. In its 74 years of existence, Seagull have grown to be the biggest manufacturer of mechanical movements in the world, supplying to various brands.
Like Stuhrling, Seagull also sells automatic watches in quite a large price range – from the cheapest $100 watch up to $1,500 automatic watch with tourbillon. But unlike Stuhrling, Seagull actually manufactures their movements which is definitely something that we should give credit to.
In terms of design aesthetic, I personally think it’s a hit or miss. While many of their watches are good looking, some of them can be quite off-putting to say the least. In addition, the brand is also infamous for using other popular watches as inspiration. Some people love this as they can purchase a homage with a good movement at cheaper price but some (especially those that own the original watches) abhors this practice.
If you’re a Rolex Submariner fan, then you should be aware of a brand called Invicta which produced a very similar watch to the Submariner. Indeed, their diver watches such as the 8926 model looks just like the famous Rolex watch, but with slight change on the dial and of course, huge changes in overall material, quality and internal movement).
Love it or hate it, there’s no mistake that their Rolex homage watches had propelled them to more exposure among watch fans. What I like is that Invicta does not just sit on their laurels but instead try to come up with their own designs, which is definitely a good thing for the industry.
But perhaps, the most shocking is about the company’s history. Initially, I thought it to be a company recently established judging from their use of popular watch designs. But I was mistaken as the company was actually founded in 1837 in Switzerland! Bet you also don’t know about this lol!
Tissot is a brand that I’d say as among the most affordable “real” Swiss watch brands in the market right now. Starting at $400, you can get a good quality automatic watch with Swiss famed quality and craftsmanship from the brand (in fact, I’m owning and very pleased with their Visodate watch – read what I think about the watch here).
Founded in 1853 in Le Locle Switzerland, the brand is definitely rich in history and is one of the few Swiss watchmakers that had successfully endured the Quartz crisis in 1970s. The brand is currently nestled inside the Swatch Group right now – where all brands have their own place and target demographic- and for Tissot, it’s the middle range price of watches.
But what’s special about the brand is it’s wide array of products, numbering over hundreds of current models. Of course, there’s the mechanical and automatic watches that were its origin and they are very proud of that. In addition to that, there’s also sports-centric watches using quartz movement. And to top it off, they also have a touch-based watch with their T-Touch collection. With such a wide range of watches, you’re sure to find something that you like with Tissot.
Victorinox is more widely known as a Swiss knife manufacturer but do you know it also produces automatic watches? Founded in 1884 in Ibach, Switzerland, the company was initially focused on manufacturing utility knives for the use of the Swiss army. It was only in recent times that it ventured into other products such as cutlery, travel gear and even fragrances. I kinda like their travel gears as it was manufactured by the same guys that produced the famed army knives (see the marketing there?).
The brand ventured into timepieces around 30 years ago and have been going strong till now. Their watches uses ETA’s robust movement and looks primarily utilatarian to complement their brand image as a producer of the indestructible army knives. In other words, it looks cool as hell! But I feel that there’s a lack of dressy options in their inventory, as they only produced a small number of collections as compared to Tissot which is a dedicated watch brand. If you want something more obscure but still affordable with Swiss quality, Victorinox might be the one for you.
The next watch brand is a popular brand that was featured in my movies, the brand Hamilton. Just by looking at its name, we can infer that it’s an American brand, which is correct as it was founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, US. Unfortunately, the brand was sold off to the Swiss Swatch Group a few decades ago, thus ended the american ownership of one of its most illustrious watchmaker.
Putting that aside, Hamilton has grown into a global watch brand making beautiful watches for the mid-range of prices. And if you’re a fan of Hollywood movies, then you might have glimpsed over their watches in many a feature films. For example, their watches were used in the box office films Interstellar, The Martian and even Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And for fans of the late King of Rock n’ Roll, surely you must remember the iconic V-shaped Ventura watch worn by Elvis (of which Hamilton had created a homage for that with modern movement). With such a rich history and culture, a Hamilton watch is definitely a good choice for watch & film fans.
Alpina is another watch brand with a rich history, having been established way back in 1883 in Switzerland. I like how their watches have their “Alpina” signature and logo at the center of its dial. Coupled with their distinct design which is kind of minimalist but practical with frequently over-sized numerals, their watches are definitely a good choice for those preferring more tool-like timepiece. There’s also more trendy designs but I don’t think I’ve seen a dressy Alpina.
One interesting bit about the brand is it not just designs and manufactures the watch case/dial, it also tinker with their movement, placing them on an exclusive group of watchmakers that produce an in-house movement for their watches. With this being said, some of their cheaper watches still use other famous movements such as Sellita SW200 or Valjoux 7750 chronograph. This effort in movement technology firmly places Alpina on a different level than the other watch brands.
The first German watchmaker in this list is Junghans, famed for their simple and clean watches. Seriously, if you want to find an automatic watch with a sleek look, and built with such great craftsmanship, then Junghans should be one of the brands that you look for.
The brand was conceived by Erhard Junghans, a German watchmaker, in the year 1861. From then on, it grew to be one of the largest German firm in watchmaking. Itching for a clean minimalist watch? Then a Junghans watch would really fit the description. Some of their popular models are the Max Bill and Meister line ups.
Next we have Oris, which was founded in 1904 in Switzerland by a duo of watchmakers, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian. The brand was quite successful since its inception and was one of the largest watchmakers in the 1960s-1970s. But due to the quartz crisis, it hit rock bottom, so much so it had to resort to be part of the Allgemeine Schweizer Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG), the former name of the Swatch Group.
But being part of a group meant that they would have to cooperate and focus on areas that might not be suitable for them. Some say they were forced to produced low-mid range quartz movement, something that not really part of their DNA. Thus, in 1982, Oris, lead by the duo Dr Rolf Portmann and Ulrich W. Herzog became independent again through a management buyout.
Since then, the brand had been focusing solely on automatic/mechanical watches. While most of their lower priced watches use movements re-branded/upgraded from Sellita, their higher priced timepieces usually feature an in-house movement, such as the 10-days power reserve handwound Caliber 110. Some of the Oris models that I really love to own are the Aquis (dive watch), Big Crown (aviation) and the dressy Artelier models.
Being one of the more famous watch brands from Swiss, one can’t never guess that Raymond Weil is actually a family owned company, instead of one of the brands in a huge watch groups. It’s actually a wonder how the brand could’ve such serious progress even after only being established in 1976 (short of 50 years ago!), all the while being an independent brand without the backing of a watch group.
Being an independent and comparatively new brand means their styling can be quite different than what the other older Swiss brands have. Their watches mostly fall to the classy simplistic styling, with little over-the-top decorations and designs. And at their price point, it’s easily one of the more accessible Swiss automatic watches in this list. Perhaps their most “outrageous” models were their music icons line ups, where they paid homage to The Beatles, ACDC and Bob Marley – If you’re a fan of these legends you definitely should check it out.
Movement wise, Raymond Weil usually use an ETA or Sellita movements in their watches – well, can’t expect much from an independent brand with a small size such as them. What I like about them is they also did some improvement over the base movements such as adding a moonphase module on a stock ETA 2824.
Such endeavors are proofs of their technological effort, that culminated with their first proprietary automatic movement, the Freelancer 1212 that was released in 2017. Although Sellita was the manufacturer for the movement, the design was entirely by Raymond Weil and is a testament of the brand’s pursuit of technical know-hows. Frankly speaking, I’ve been rooting for them since the day that I learned about this =)
The next German watchmaker firm in this list is Sinn, which is more widely known as the maker of functional chronograph watches for pilots. But they also produce some classic/dressy and dive timepieces but in my honest opinion, their strengths lies in their chronographs.
Compared to typical 3-hands watch, a chronograph is much harder to do it right: you’ll need the technical knowledge, more fine parts as well as the ability to make it those busy dial elements with lots of subdials, needles, scales (tachymeter, telemeter, slide bezel rule) look presentable and cool. And Sinn have managed to balance this all out to create some of the best automatic chronographs around.
Founded in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in 1961, its founder, Helmut Sinn, was a pilot which kinda explained the brands emphasize on aviation watches.
Next automatic watch brand is Rado, which hailed from Lengnau, Switzerland and was founded in 1917. Well, actually, its watchmaking company Schlup & Co. was founded in 1917 by the brothers Fritz, Ernst and Werner Schlup. Rado, as a brand that we know today, was first used by the company to market its watches in the 1950s.
While other watchmakers strive to innovate the movement, Rado instead focuses in watchmaking material, moving away from the typical stainless steel to more novel materials such as high strength ceramics and sapphire crystals. Their watch designs are distinctive, with many pieces using a simplistic design while some have unique shapes.
Zodiac’s brand name is not as popular as other watch brands, despite being founded in 1882 (137 years ago) by watchmaker Ariste Calame in Le Locle, Switzerland. It was a popular sports automatic watch brand back in the early to mid of last century with their Sea Wolf and Autographic watches.
However, the company went bankrupt in 1990s after an acquisition of it by private investors went awry. It was largely not present for at least a decade until Fossil Group purchased the company and released new Zodiac models in 2002. However, their Sea Wolf watches were only re-released in 2015, much to the delight of their fans. The current Sea Wolf line up have very distinct retro look to it but within a modern case and movement. It’s not really my cup of tea but then again, tastes will vary from person to person.
The Zodiac watch that catches my eyes are the Olympos watches with unique unsymmetrical case which kinda look like a shield. It looks superbly stunning especially with the highly polished multi-faceted case. It’s quite funny that Zodiac might have been popular with their sports watches, but the watch that I adore from their collection is this dressy model LOL!
Tired with the same old automatic watch design and yearn for a modern, simplistic look? Then Nomos might be the watch for you. With thin bezel, short profile and huge watch face in mono-colour, Nomos watches are very modern looking, just like those watches from Daniel Wellington. But unlike the former brand, Nomos is a watchmaking company hailed from Germany with only either automatic or manual watch movement in it.
Unlike most watchmakers, Nomos is one of the few brands that actually design and manufacture their movements in-house. And to make it more impressive, the brand was founded in 1990, which is just 29 years ago! That’s like a toddler’s age in horology! The fact that they can achieve so much in just a short span of time is nothing but exemplary!
One thing that I love about Nomos watches is how they never want to copy other watchmakers and stick to their DNA in watch design: almost bezel-less, thin profile, thin hands & markers and monotonic color pallet. These are the recipes for a very modern, clean and simplistic design. I can say that I’m a classic dive watch’s guy but their watches are refreshing and cool to look at. Definitely a handsome piece that will grab attention to your wrist =)
Another “new” watchmaker in the game is Frederique Constant, having been founded in 1988 in Switzerland. And yet, the brand had grown into one of the bigger Swiss brands currently. With the motto of “Accessible Luxury”, the brand had some of the value for money Swiss automatic watches around, with prices starting at lower than $1,000 for their entry level pieces. It goes all the way up to $30,000 for their finer pieces with precious metals and gemstone embedded watches.
In terms of movement, Frederique Constant was seen to be quite ambitious in developing their own calibers with some new movements coming up since they started doing research and design in 2001. With that being said, their own calibers are only available in their pricier watches as the entry level stuffs are mostly equipped with either ETA or Sellita movements (presumably to keep costs down).
Longines and its winged logo might need little introduction to watch fans. Founded in 1832 in the Swiss, the brand is one of the oldest watchmakers in this list, so yeah, it definitely have lots of history in its over hundred years of existence. Currently, it’s one of the brands under Swatch Group and is marketed at the luxury level of watches.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that a watch brand with long history typically have huge amount of watch models and collections in its stable. And that is certainly the case with Longines: it has everything from classic to dressy to sports/divers to chronographs. For a watch brand that put elegance at its fore, it’s collection is mostly in the form of classical and dressy watches although their sporty watches (such as the popular Hydroconquest dive watch) are definitely worth checking out too.
A cool trivia about Longines is that the world renowned scientist, Albert Einstein, actually owned one of its watches during his lifetime. And what’s more interesting is the watch was auctioned in 2008 for a cool USD 596,000, hundreds times over the price that the auction house expected for.
The name Breitling is so synonymous with chronograph watch, even though they were not the one who invented it first (that prestige went to the Frenchmen Louis Moinet who invented it in 1816. It all started by its founder, the Swiss watchmaker Léon Breitling that focused on chronographs as it was very popular for timekeeping uses in the industry. It also had contributed to the development of automatic chronographs in the 1960s, further cementing their name in the hallmarks of watchmaking.
Founded in 1884 in the Swiss, Breitling is one of the brands that is famed for aviator watches. Their Navitimer models, for instance, is one of the iconic watches for pilots and those that love functional chronographs with cool dials, slide bezel rule and the like. From there, the brand has many other line ups consisting not only of chronographs but also diver watches and some classic dressy timepieces.
The next brand is Montblanc, which is more widely known as an fountain pen brand. But just as Victorinox, it had ventured into other things apart from its original product and now, Montblanc has a wide range of luxury products from leather goods, bags, accessories, and yes, watches.
Founded in 1906 in Hamburg, the brand’s watches are more towards classical design: simple, sleek and handsome without any out of norm styling. The movements are usually either normal watches or chronographs.
Just like Breitling, this next brand is also famous for its chronograph movement. Zenith was founded in 1865 in Le Locle, Swiss, and is currently one of the sought after brand if you’re thinking of getting a great Swiss automatic chronograph. It was founded by young Georges Favre-Jacot, and is now one of the brands under LVMH Group.
Zenith watches mostly consists of clean & cool chronographs though there’s also the dressy Elite line up featuring normal dial or moon phase complication. Without a doubt, the legendary El Primero automatic chronograph movement is one of the defining element of the brand, so much so it’s still popular till today, 50 years after it was first launched in 1969.
If the brand’s history is of importance to you, then you will definitely like this next brand. Blancpain, is one of the oldest surviving watch brands in the world, having been founded in 1735, about 284 years ago. So yeah, the brand is about as old as you can possibly get. Currently, it is one of the top tier brands in the Swatch Group.
To me and most watch fans, Blancpain was well regarded as the first to introduce a real working dive watch to the world. It’s Fifty Fathoms watch (so called because it has water resistance rating up to 50 fathoms or 91 meters) was developed in 1953 with input from the French Navy unit. It’s design elements continue to be used by other dive watches from then on.
Another important watch line up for the brand is the Villeret Collection, which was named after Blancpain’s original site (the brand is now headquartered at Paudex/Le Brassus, Switzerland). Unlike the Fifty Fathoms, the Villeret collection is a huge line up of classical/dressy watches with almost all complications such as normal automatic, chronograph, tourbillon, moon phase, etc.
If you’re thinking about what is Tudor and its relationship with Rolex, then rest assured that you’re not the only one having this question. The fact of the matter is Tudor is currently a subsidiary of Rolex, although historically this is not the case. You see, Tudor was founded in 1926 in Geneva by Veuve de Philippe Hüther on paper. The thing is Hans Wildorf, Rolex’s founder, intended to use Tudor as a sister brand to market watches with Rolex-like quality but at more accessible prices.
It was not until 1936 when Hans Wildorf took over the brand entirely under him and went on to found the Tudor company as it will be known right now. In the beginning, Tudor watches were usually parts sourced from Rolex when sometimes Rolex signature can be seen on the watch’s parts. But as the brand matured, it began to become independent from its older sibling and is now one of the respectable watch brands in the world.
Actually, the story of Tudor and Rolex is quite an interesting one as not many watch brands will venture into a lower price range. The marketing tactic by Hans Wildorf was a genius move as it will enables Rolex to sell good watches at lesser prices without jeopardizing the good name of Rolex – which truly paid off as Rolex is one of the most sought after watch brand in the world right now. Fancy having a Rolex but can’t / don’t want to pay huge amount of money for it? Then a Tudor is a really good substitute then =)
Tag Heuer is a brand that is iconic and synonymous with motorsports, having sponsored many superstar drivers from around the world. Their watches such as the Carrera, Monaco and Aquaracer are some of the coolest sporty automatic watches that you can find.
But do you know that the brand Tag Heuer is not what it was originally?
Actually, Tag Heuer was a combination of the brand “Tag” and “Heuer”. Heuer (or its full name Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG) was the watchmaking company founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer. Over the century, Heuer was one of sports oriented watchmaker with specialization in chronographs. After WWII when motorsports become popular, it was naturally roped into that scene and soon become a favorite among drivers and fans alike.
It was not until 1985 that Tag Heuer was formed after Heuer was purchased by the company TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde). Tag was a parts manufacturer for Formula One cars and it inserted its name into the watchmaking company after the purchase and the name sticks until now even after Tag Heuer was bought by the luxury goods maker LVMH Group in 1991.
So now you know the history of the brand, I’d appreciate if you’ll stop calling the brand “Tag” as its totally not respectful to the founders of the watchmaker i.e Heuer. Consider referring them with their full brand name “Tag Heuer” or just “Heuer” =)
The next brand is a newcomer to the industry, having just set up shop in 1992 (27 years ago!). Now that’s a very short time for a watchmaker but Bell & Ross had shown that with tenacity and business acumen (and of course, great watches) they were able to flourish in a very competitive industry.
The brand name is actually a combination of the names of its founders: Bruno Belamich (“Bell”) and Carlos Rosillo (“Ross”). Bruno was an intern at Sinn, and it was due to this connection they managed to secure some Sinn watches to be repackaged into their own watches. This initial arrangement lasted for a decade or so, before Bell & Ross proceeded to manufacture their own watches in the beginning of this century.
Bell & Ross watches most popular watches are the utilitarian military and aviation watches with distinctive square shaped case and perfectly legible hands and markers.
Omega is a watch brand that I’m sure most of you will know of. It’s one of the quintessential modern watch with cool and beautiful designs. And add to that their huge marketing efforts (featured in James Bond films, lunar landings and numerous public figures) and you get a legendary watch brand that not many can compete with in terms of brand name and popularity.
Founded in 1848 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland by Louis Brandt, Omega has many popular models so much so even someone new to watches can recognise. In part, this is due to the heavy product placement of the brand in various industries such as movies, golf masters, yachting and the olympics.
But without a doubt, their most prized and coolest (at least, according to me) is the Speedmaster chronograph watch, the watch that was chosen to be used by US astronauts to land on the moon. I mean, how much more street cred you’ll need from a watch that actually was used to go to outer space, being used on the moon, and get back down to earth? In addition to that, the watch is beautifully designed and looks seriously good!
Omega also have a very successful marketing campaign by promoting their watches in the James Bond movies starting from the 1990s. Their sports oriented watches such as Seamaster, Planet Ocean and Aqua Terra benefited greatly from being associated with a dashing super spy. And yes, having great design and movement do help to sell those watches!
Although Switzerland,Germany and France were some of the biggest watchmakers in the early years of horology, England also has it’s fair share of legacy in Arnold & Son. It was founded in 1787 – 232 years ago, much earlier than most of the brands in this list! The technological advancement brought by the company was astonishing and can be tributed to John Arnold, the brands’ founder.
John Arnold was a celebrated watchmaker in the early days of horology and had been instrumental in improving the mechanical movements as we know it. But his most well-known contribution would be to invent a reliable and robust chronometer which was used extensively by the seafaring community for their expeditions.
The brand suffered a setback as it was discontinued in the 1850s when John Roger Arnold (the founder’s son) dies and the ownership of it were purchased by Charles Frodsham. Perhaps due to little know-how, the firm cannot continue on and closed shop. It was not until 1995 when the brand was resurrected and relaunched nearly 140 years later.
Arnold & Son current watch line up features classical dress watches, either in simple movement or with complications. I particularly love their moon phase watch (Tourbillon Chronometer No.36) – those deep blue dial looks majestic with beautiful finishing. But of course, the star of the show will go to their Tourbillon Chronometer No.36, a tribute to John Arnold’s original Chronometer No. 1/36, his first chronometer watch. With an open dial, the watch showcases the chronometer and tourbillon movement in all its glory!
Bulgari (or popularly spelled as Bvlgari) is an italian brand founded in Rome, Italy in 1884. It started as a jeweler, and have been involved in everything luxurious – from leather goods, accessories, fragrances, and even hotels! Since a few decades ago, it was also involved in watchmaking, another case of a jeweler turned into making watches.
One of their best known invention is the Serpenti ladies watch that features a very unique circling body to hold the watch in your wrist instead of the traditional watch band (watch this video to look at it). Truthfully, this is a really novel design which looks really great. Of course, I don’t think I will wear one but I was just astounded at how sleek and beautiful the watch is.
In terms of men’s watches, Bulgari line up comprises of Octo (with octagonal shape case), Bvlgari Bvlgari (a line up with call back to its Italian roots) and Haute Horlogerie (as the name suggests, a line up of luxury watches with fine craftsmanship and advanced movements).
Girard-Perregaux is another Swiss luxury watchmaker hailed from La Chaux-de-Fonds. It was founded in 1852 by Constant Girard, initially as Girard & Cie. The watchmaker then married Marie Perregaux and the manufacture changed it’s name into Girard-Perregaux Manufacture in 1856. In 1906, it acquired the Bautte Watchmaking House which interestingly had a longer history having been founded in 1791 by watchmaker Jean-François Bautte. The brand had been going strong since then and is currently under the Kering Group.
The brand is one of a vertically integrated watchmaker from its roots since the 1800s. One of its achievements is the creation of the first mechanical movement with 36,000 vibrations per hour, the highest in the world at that time. This enables the watch to be theoretically more accurate than the usual 28,000 vibrations per hour movements and also have a more sublime sweeping seconds hand action. The Gyromatic HF movement paved the way for hi-beat movements from other watchmakers to do the same.
Perhaps their most notable design is the tourbillon with three golden bridges, which was first unveiled in their pocket watch in 1884. The thing is tourbillon and bridges are not uncommon in watches. But what Girard-Perregaux did was to align the three bridges holding the barrel, gears and tourbillon in a parallel direction across the watch, creating a unique and symmetrical design that is technically as well as aesthetically pleasing (the dial is open, hence showcasing the movement in all its glory)
Currently, the tourbillon with three golden bridges are also available in their wristwatches in various designs. In addition, there’s also the 1966 collection (classic dressy watches), Laureato (octagonal shaped case), Cat’s eye (beautiful timepieces embedded with diamonds and gemstones) and the Vintage 1945 collection (squared shaped classic watches).
The Graham watch brand was named after celebrated English watchmaker, George Graham. He was the partner of Thomas Tompion, widely regarded as the “Father of English Clockmaking“. The Graham watch brand was started in 1695 (324 years ago!) which is definitely one of the oldest in this list. But unfortunately the brand was closed sometime in the 1700s. The current Graham watch brand is restarted by The British Masters company in 1990s.
Due to its short life, the current Graham watch brand does not have much models in its name. There are currently three collections in its stable: the big sized chronograph “Chronofighter” with (gaudy?) crown protection, sporty racing inspired chronographs “Silverstone” and novelties Geo.Graham which features tourbillon and moon phase models.
Jaquet Droz is a watch brand named after the genius Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet Droz. The current watch brand was resurrected by the Swatch Group in the 2000s and focuses on haute horlogerie. Now, one very interesting thing about Pierre Jaquet Droz is he was not only a master watchmaker (he lived in the 1700s) but instead of turning into jewelries like other watchmakers, he has a penchant for mechanical engineering, creation of robots (or automaton as it was called then).
Pierre Jaquet Droz, with the help of his son (Henri-Louis) and adopted son (Jean-Frederic Leschot) built many interesting engineering pieces, building from his watchmaking endeavor. For instance, there was the repeater watch using bird chimes! Now that is something entirely different than whatever every other watchmakers were doing at that time.
But perhaps their most popular work is their humanoid automatons (yep, this was in the 1700s!). There are 3 variations of the automaton dolls: The Draughtsman (a boy doll which can draw 4 different images beautifully), The Musician (a girl doll that can play a custom made organ) and The Writer (a boy doll that can write some 40 letters long sentences, using real ink!). The degree of automation in these dolls were enormous and is one of the earlier effort by mankind in the realm of robots.
Currently, Swatch Group tried to capture the prestige of the Jaquet Droz’ great watchmaking history by making novel watches. There is the Automaton watch lineup with novelties such as a bird repeater watch, a watch that can show lotus flower opening and my personal favorite, the Magic Lotus Automaton watch that showcase beautiful scenery of a lotus pond (watch this video to see it!).
This next watch brand is interesting as it’s history is a bit different than the other Swiss watch brands in this list. For a start, IWC (or International Watch Company) originated from Schaffhausen, which is the North Eastern part of Switzerland, in fact, the only watchmaking company in this part of the country. This is interesting as most of the other Swiss watch brands originated from the Western part of Switzerland (Tissot & Zenith at Le Locle, Omega at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Blancpain at Villeret, Breitling, Longines & TAG Heuer at Saint-Imier).
Due to this, IWC are usually said to have more in common with German’s brands (due to its location proximity with Germany) than with other Swiss brands. The second interesting thing about it is its founder is an American (watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones) rather than a Swiss or a European. Mr Jones actually wanted to capitalize on Swiss low wage workforce to manufacture watches for the American market (which could explain the reason why the brand’s name is as such).
Like other watch brands at this price range, IWC watches use a combination of modified base movements (from ETA/Sellita etc.) for their lower priced watches and in-house developed movements for their higher end pieces. Their watches usually have clean and crisp dials. There are also chronograph models to be chosen from.
Some of IWC’s popular collections are the Portugieser (the classic IWC watch), Pilot (watches designed for the physical and functional needs of aviators) and the Ingenieur (rugged watches with high technical specs).
Ulysse Nardin is one of the older watch brands in this list. Being founded in 1846 in Le Locle by the watchmaker Ulysse Nardin (yes, the brand’s name is taken after its founder), it played an instrumental role in advancement of chronometers which indirectly helped making automatic watches more accurate for us. Currently, it resides under the Kering Group, alongside other luxury brands such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and others.
The brand has a long history with marine/navy so much so at one point of time, they were one of the main suppliers of marine chronometers to many of Western Navies. Due to this, it does have a long collection of great chronometers with impressive performance and craftsmanship. In addition, they also produced beautiful timepieces such as the Genghis Khan, Moonstruck and Sonata watches – which is just like an art on a watch.
But perhaps their most interesting watch currently would be Freak watches, born in 2001 under the leadership of the duo Rolf Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin. The Freak watch was and still is one of the more futuristic watch around, even if compared with the swathes of smartwatches in this days. It does not have a dedicated hands but instead the time is indicated by the movement as it moves! Yes it’s quite hard to imagine so you can just check out this video to see it for yourselves. In addition, the watch also uses silicon in its movement, one of the first brands to do it.
Grand Seiko – this is the Japanese’s answer to luxury Swiss and Germany watches. Any Seiko fans would instantly know that Grand Seiko is not just your normal Seiko watch. It’s usually considered to be at par or some might say even exceeds the quality in most luxury watch brands in this list. And yes, since it’s a Seiko, you do get that value for money proposition with Grand Seiko pieces.
Although Seiko is an old company founded in 1881, it was not until 1960 when Grand Seiko was conceived as a way to showcase that the brand’s craftsmanship and watchmaking is at par with the Western brands. What I like about their watches is how it’s not over the top aesthetically. Grand Seiko’s design language remains fairly the same over the decades – crisp and simple designs – and this actually makes their watches such good everyday beater watches.
Movement wise, Grand Seiko has the best that the large company has to offer such as hi-beat movements with long power reserves. But one thing that makes the brand sticks out is it also houses Seiko’s spring drive movement, one of the revolutionary movements right now. Spring drive combines the best of automatic and quartz technology, creating an entirely new type of movement that is truly astonishing (If you want to learn more about spring drive movement, read about it further on my article here).
The quintessential Swiss automatic watch brand, Rolex. Almost anyone would instantly recognized the brand with its pointed crown logo. Most people would associate Rolex with being the pinnacle of luxury even though that’s not truly the case – for instance, many watchmakers in this list have more expensive watches than Rolex. They do make ultra-luxury watches, but they also have many watches at the entry level luxury with practical design such as the Oyster Perpetual and Submariner stainless steel models.
Who would have thought that Swiss watch poster boy was actually founded in London, UK in 1905 by the duo Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. At that point of time, the company was called Wilsdorf and Davis and was actually an importer of watch movements and then putting it into their own case (kinda like the fashion watch brands nowadays). It was not until 1920 when the company moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1920 right after the WWI to avoid the higher taxes imposed by the UK to fund its post-war recovery. At this point of time, the company adopted the Rolex officially.
Another interesting thing is the brand name “Rolex” is not named after anything, anyone nor it even has any meaning. It was reported that they chose “Rolex” because it’s easy to be pronounced in any language, which is quite far-sighted I would say. In addition, having a short brand name also makes it easy to fit it on the dial instead of a long name taken after the founders’, like some of the other brands.
Currently, Rolex is one of the most well-known watch brand around the world. Just like the other well-established brands, you can see the distinct Rolex styling on their watches: the clean dial with immaculate craftsmanship. Although you can never get it wrong with a Rolex, do note that it’s also one of the most counterfeited watch – so tread carefully especially if you find a great discounted deal that just too good to be true =)
Jewelry and watches often goes together and it was said that back in the early days, a watch is a form of jewelry for the well-to-do. This fact is certainly true to Chopard, which in addition to being a watchmaker, is also selling luxury jewelries. Chopard was founded in 1860 in Sonvilier, Switzerland by Louis-Ulysse Chopard. It is currently owned by the German family Scheufele since the middle of last century.
Coming from a firm that also make luxury jewelries, you can expect that their watches to be stylish, but not overbearing. You can also expect rare materials and gemstones on their watches. Movement wise, they usually use base ETA/Sellita movements in their lower priced watches but equipped their higher priced timepieces with in-house movements.
Although it is the first Italian watch brand in this list, Panerai is not uncommon among watch fans. While other luxury watchmakers have sleek, classic watches, Panerai watches are distinguished by its huge pillow shaped large cases (42 to 44 mm in diameter on average) and its distinct crown protecting bridge. Without a doubt, their unique design language is going to be quite polarizing – you’ll either love it or hate it. But for those that has big enough wrist that can wear such big watches, it’s definitely going to look great on them.
Having deep history roots with the Italian Navy, Panerai is also one of the watchmakers that first utilized radioisotope as watch lumes, specifically the substances Radiomir (Radium-based) and Luminor (Tritium-based). Both of these had great impact on watchmaking and paved the way to the use of safer lume paints nowadays.
At the pinnacle of Japanese watchmaking, sits Credor, a sub brand of Seiko. In a way, Credor and Grand Seiko are cut from the same cloth as both will use the same Seiko movements (either mechanical or spring drive) and some of them actually come from the same factory.
But perhaps the biggest difference between these two that I can see is their design language is different. While Grand Seiko has a distinctively Seiko’s design format (e.g sharp sides, clean cool look), Credor watches typically is less pronounced and not as Seiko-like. Perhaps it’s their intention after all to make their watches different to please different markets – which will fit well into the reason why they created a totally different sub-brand in the first place.
Which one is better? Honestly it will really depend on the watch. For example, the Credor Eichi II and Grand Seiko 8 Day are 2 similar watches. Of course, they are different in terms of looks but are actually made from the same factory and have the same price range. Without a doubt, getting any one of these 2 watches will be a good deal but then again, it will depend on which watch’s look/design that you like the most (for me, it’s the Eichi II with gorgeous white dial and blued hands).
In terms of pricing, Credor and Grand Seiko watches are usually priced within the same range – but do bear in mind Credor are not readily available outside of Japan so it will cost you more to buy it. It seems that Seiko only wants to push Grand Seiko as their representative in the luxury watch department. But in terms of the most luxurious Japanese watch, Credor will take the lead. For instance, their Credor Node Minute Repeater cost a whopping $200,000!
The next Swiss automatic watch brand in this list is Baume & Mercier. It’s one of the older brands, having been founded in 1830 – a good 189 years ago. The brand was originally called “Frères Baume” as it was the brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume that founded the brand in Jura. It was not until 1918 that the brand name changed into Baume & Mercier as Baume’s successor, William Baume partnered with Paul Mercier and relocated the company to Geneva.
Currently, the brand is one of the luxury watch brands under Richemont Group, and targets the middle luxury space. In terms of design, Baume & Mercier gravitates towards the normal classical dressy watches that you just can’t go wrong in choosing them. Their watch line ups such as Classima, Clifton and Linea have the basic designs, the Capeland watches is sportier with chronographs/worldtimer/GMT and Hampton with square shaped cases.
Considered one of the important watchmakers in history, Jaeger-LeCoultre is definitely one of the watch brands that fans need to know about. Like many watch brands nowadays, the brand historically was a combination of 2 different entities, that of the LeCoultre & Cie watchmaking workshop founded by the Swiss Antoine LeCoultre in 1833 and Edmond Jaeger, a French watchmaker. The official union of both parties were done in 1937, giving birth to the current Jaeger-LeCoultre. As of now, the brand is under the Richemont Group.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been credited with being a watchmaker’s watchmaker, having been a movement supplier for many brands, including the holy trinity of Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin – now that’s quite a resume, mind you. In addition to that, the brand also has a huge amount of calibers under their archive (more than 1200 calibers as claimed by them) and various important horological inventions that made them an important figure in watchmaking.
The brand has many popular and beautiful watches in its stable such as the Master, Rendez-Vous, Polaris but one watch will always be associated with them: the Reverso, created in 1931. The Reverso is a rectangular shaped wrist watch that has one very unique feature: it can be rotated to hide the dial. As the story goes, Jaeger-LeCoultre was asked to produce a watch that is able to withstand hard impacts during a game of polo.
Rather than making the dial and case stronger, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a watch that the wearer can flip the dial 180 degrees via a hinge design. This will make the glass surface of the watch facing the inside backing, and the caseback of the watch on the top – protecting the watch from impacts. In addition, the caseback can be personalized making it an even unique watch. Till today, it’s novel feature is still one of the most interesting concepts in an automatic watch.
Perhaps to most, this next watch brand is more popular for being a jewelry maker instead of a watchmaker. However, in addition to jewelry, Cartier do have a rich history in watchmaking, having been involved in it since its founding in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier in Paris, France. It currently resides under the Richemont Group.
Cartier is one of the most prestigious jewelry manufacturers in the world, having had hundreds, if not thousands of customers from the rich, famous and royalties throughout its long 172 years of history. In fact, King Edward VII of Great Britain once called Cartier as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers” do to its huge swathes of innovative and beautiful jewelry pieces.
As a watchmaker, Cartier traditionally outsources watch movements from movement makers such as Jaeger-LeCoultre (and formerly the LeCoultre workshop), Piaget, etc and fitted it into their case. This changed during the 2000s as Cartier invested into in-house movement making and successfully with various innovative mechanical movements coming out from them every year. However, these movements are usually reserved for their higher end watches while their entry level ones usually were fitted with movements based on ETA/Sellita.
Some popular models from them are the Tank, Santos de Cartier and Mysterious watches. The Tank is a rectangular shaped watch that looks really sleek with small width (so called Tank due to its similarity with actual tank..). This is different than the more squarish Santos de Cartier watch, which has a rich history being one of the first wristwatches made for men in 1904 for aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont.
But the model that I’m personally most fascinated at? That should be the Mysterious watch. Originally invented in the early 1900s in the form of a clock, the Mysterious watch evolved into a wristwatch, and what a watch it is (look at it for yourselves here). It’s fascinating how Cartier managed to make a watch with transparent movement (though the secret is the “hands” were actually part of transparent sapphire discs that are rotated by the movement). Although other watchmakers did manged to recreate the same thing, none of it can compare with the original Mysterious watch.
The top echelon of fine watchmaking is usually filled with brands with rich history, and Breguet is no exception. Founded in 1775 (244 years ago!), Breguet is as old a watch brand that you could have. It was founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris and remained the Breguet’s family company until the end of the 19th century when it’s ownership changed to the Brown family. Turbulence during the modern era saw the company’s ownership to change a few times until it settled into the Swatch Group in 1999 till today.
From its inception, Breguet had been at the forefront of horological inventions, most notably credited with creating the tourbillon in 1795. It was a novel invention then, and is still today. In a tourbillon, the balance wheel and escapement are located in a cage that will slowly rotate over time. The idea is with a rotating balance wheel, the effect of gravity pull will be cancelled out hence improving the accuracy of the watch. The fact that Abraham-Louis Breguet thought about this in 1795 is mind-blowing as it’s so much ahead of its time!
Although current watchmakers had been able to create accurate watches without tourbillon with the help of technology, tourbillon is still one of the centerpiece of automatic/mechanical watchmaking. I mean, who wouldn’t fell in love when your watch can show a rotating balance wheel right? It’s also a sign of watchmaking expertise, hence the reason why many brands love to showcase their tourbillon movements.
Breguet watches have some of the most distinctive character from a brand, thanks to its long running tradition and being a very old watchmaker. For instance, hands with open circular tip are called Breguet hands due to the fact that it was Breguet who used and popularized it first. This hand is currently used on almost all current Breguet models (the Classique, Tradition, Heritage) except for the Type XX/XXI/XXII military/aviator watches. Other elements such as Breguet numerals and case fluting can also be found regularly on their watches.
What do you say to an expensive watch with 18k gold case but having a rubber strap? Totally illogical right? What if I say such a watch do exist and it also has a garish looking, totally not in coherence with the traditional classic dress watch look? You might say that I’m a fool but I kid you not – Hublot watches are all like that, with the caveat that they did it so well so much so the watch is really cool to look at.
Founded in 1980 by industry veteran Carlo Crocco, Hublot design language is one of the weirdest in horology. I mean why would someone make a gold watch only to pair it up with rubber straps? Turns out Crocco was behind all this as he wanted the strap for his watches to be black. But of course, Hublot’s rubber strap is not your run of the mill strap – it’s a high end strap with various finishing ranging from simple matte black to leather cover even to jeans, all can be had in various colors!
Hublot’s watches are also distinctive. The use of octagonal shaped case with exposed screws on it bring a very industrial look to it, which I admit is very cool to look at. Fun fact: Crocco actually wanted his watches to look like a porthole (the windows of a ship with exposed screws) which is why he named his brand Hublot (or porthole in French). This peculiar combination of watch design and rubber strap are coined as the art of fusion, something that Hublot had build up till today with their newer watches such as the Fusion and Big Bang.
Indeed, Hublot is definitely not the brand for those that want an understated elegance and sleekness usually associated with luxury watches. I mean, those big watches with fancy color schemes will definitely attract attention. But then again, the brand never intends to make watches like the older brands of horology – they were only conceived just 39 years ago after all! Hublot is a young watch brand, and their watches showcases that perfectly. After all, it would be quite boring if all watches look the same right?
Piaget originally was a movement manufacture, from its inception in 1874 by its founder, Georges Edouard Piaget. Its movements were sought after by many luxury watch brands. But just like Jaeger-LeCoultre, it began to venture into making whole watches starting from the 1940s, which undoubtedly helped to raise its status as one of the few vertically integrated watch company in the world.
Currently residing under the Richemont Group, Piaget is well-known for its ultra-thin automatic & mechanical watches, with 2 to 3 mm movement thickness, making the actual watch about 3 to 4 mm! Such an effort is extraordinary especially considering they invented these movements (Calibre 12P and 9P respectively) in the 1960s – without the help of accurate steel cutting technology that we have today.
Till today, their ultra-thin watches are at the forefront of Piaget’s collection within their Altiplano watches, with various designs and complications. For those that want something different, there’s the majestic Emperador in either rectangular or squarish cases with jeweled case and dial.
One of the most sought after Germany watch brand is A. Lange & Söhne, which literally means A. Lange and Sons. The brand was founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange (hence the “A. Lange”) in Glashutte as A. Lange & Cie. It was not until 1868 when Lange’s sons (Emil and Richard) joined the watchmaking company and the brand name changed into A. Lange & Söhne.
It’s history is not as smooth sailing as other watch brands though. In 1945 during the WWII, Lange headquarters were bombed by the Soviet and completely destroying it. In 1948, Lange and several other watchmakers were nationalized and merged into the VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, and wiping out Lange’s name on their watches since then.
Fortunately, the brand came back into existence after the reunification of Germany. Walter Lange (A.Lange’s gread-grandson) and Günter Blümlein re-established the brand in 1990. From then on, the watch brand changed ownership and become part of the Richemont Group till today.
Like other top watchmakers, Lange’s history is filled with outstanding innovations and creations that helped furthering watchmaking technology over the years.
Since their re-establishment, their watch lineups are rather small and concentrated, which can be attributed to its low number of production per year.
Among their current lineups, my attention were squarely on the Lange 1 models, featuring very distinct asymmetrical dial layout. There’s the main minute and hour dial, then you have the seconds hand subdial, a subdial for power reserve/moon phase/AM-PM and there’s the date indicator. This watch is as unique as it can be, all the while being well placed and outstandingly good looking.
Want to get more fancy watch? Then perhaps the Zeitwerk might get your attention. Long before digital watches came about, Lange had been producing watches with watches with digital numeral display with the Zeitwerk. In actuality, the watch is still a mechanical watch but instead of normal hour and minute hands, they placed counters to show time (much like the typical day/date displays nowadays).
Audemars Piguet is one of the rarer watch brands. Having been founded in 1875 by the duo Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, the company is still being owned by both families, making it independent of the few luxury groups that control most of the watch brand nowadays. Well, being a very sought after watchmaker certainly did helped with them being independent.
Throughout history, Audermars Piguet have many inventions worth mentioning. For instance, the first minute repeater (a watch that can chime to tell time) was created by them in 1892. Since then, the brand had been releasing more breakthroughs in the form of complex watch movement making.
This article won’t be complete if I didn’t mention about Audemars Piguet’s best selling watch, the Royal Oak. Originally conceived in 1972, the Royal Oak was one of the modern era luxury sports watch. It has a unique octagonal shaped case that was inspired by diving helmets. The case is the most interesting as it defies all the norms about a watch.
In addition to the non-circular case, there are no lugs with this watch. The watch has a unique case-strap/bracelet integration method in lieu of the usual lugs. The dial uses beautiful tapisserie guilloche design and can be had in many variation and colors.
Although they also have some other watches such as the Millenary, Jules Audemars and CODE 11.59, the industrious Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore (the bigger version with 42 mm diameter.The original has 39 mm diameter) both can be said to completely define Audemars Piguet watches in this modern era.
The next automatic watch brand is a name that might not need to be mentioned: Vacheron Constantin. Founded in 1755 by Swiss watchmaker Jean-Marc Vacheron, the brand only became Vacheron Constantin after François Constantin became partner in the company in 1819. It has the prestige of being the oldest continuously operating Swiss watch company. Currently, it resides under the Richemont Group.
Vacheron Constantin’s motto “Faire mieux si possible, ce qui est toujours possible (Do better if possible, and that is always possible)” strikes a chord within me. I personally love it as it give the strong implication that we can always do better, always improving in all aspects of our lives. Perhaps that’s what propelled the brand to push forward and giving us beautiful timepieces. This is exemplifies with their Reference 57260, which is currently holding the record as the most complicated watch in the world.
Now, the Reference 57260 is not a wristwatch but is a pocket watch, so it has more space to hold those complications. But then again, putting 57 complications (time measurements, tourbillons, perpetual calendars, Hebrew calendars astronomical calendars, chronograph, alarm, minute repeater and others) into the small footprint is no joke. To put things into perspective, the previous record holder is Patek Philippe Calibre 89 with 33 complications, 24 less than the 57260. Price? Undisclosed but some sources say it’s around USD $10 Million.
Of course, they don’t just make highly technical pocket watches. Vacheron Constantin has many wristwatch models that are popular such as the very sleek dress watch Patrimony, the highly technical Traditionnelle with complications, hybrid modern-traditional FiftySix, and the Métiers d’Art watches with gorgeous colorful art displayed on its dials.
And last but not least, Patek Philippe. Together with Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, they made up the 3 best Swiss watchmakers currently (the so-called “holy trinity”). One might argue to put in other watchmaker such as A. Lange & Sohne and Jaeger LeCoultre in there, but if you ask most watch fans which are the top 3 brands, the holy trinity names will be mentioned most often. And out of these 3, Patek Phillippe is usually going to be at the top. (again, opinion varies..)
There are many reasons for this high regard for the brand. For a start, they make really really great watches. Their craftsmanship are one of the best in the industry and they will not cut corners in any step of the process. Their designs are quite understated and not as flashy as other brands, but that’s the Patek DNA for you.
In addition to the technicality of watchmaking, Patek Philippe is one of the watch brands that is investment grade i.e your watches will only go up in value. The reason for this is its high demand for its watches. As the world prosper, more and more billionaires were created and these high-net individuals would want the very best in watchmaking (association with various personalities and royalties certainly do contribute to this). To make things worse, it’s manufacturing is quite constricted, at just around 62,000 pieces in 2018. That’s the problem with luxurious products like this – you will need skilled craftsmen which will take years to be trained. No machine can do these kind of detailed workmanship.
Adding to the brand’s glory, it also have the honor of having the most expensive watch ever in its Henry Graves Supercomplication. The watch is actually a pocket watch with 33 numbers of complications in it. It fetched a whopping $24 million in 2014 to an anonymous collector. It is a super-complication watch originally commissioned by Henry Graves Jr in 1933. With a huge amount of complications, it sets the high standard for a super-complication, no less due to the fact that it was manufactured without the aid of computer (CAD) such as nowadays.
Patek Philippe current watches are subdued and exemplifies the notion of discreet style. Without a doubt, there are some artsy models in their collection with colorful dials and jewels, but in general, their watches are sleek in appearance. At the center of their watch collection is the Calatrava, their basic dress watch. It’s usually features a typical 3-hands dial but such simplicity is certainly outstanding – without a doubt a great choice as the basic foundation in any fan’s watch collections.
Then they have the Nautilus, which kinda look like Audemars Piguet’s Royak Oak and Hublot’s watches, albeit with a cleaner aesthetics (it does not have the screws like others and have a sleeker design). Fun fact: the Nautilus was designed by famed Swiss designer Gérald Genta, who was also responsible for the design of the Royal Oak. Huh, no wonder both watches look alike!
What are the top 3 watch brands? The top 3 watch brands are Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin – the so-called holy trinity of horology.
Why are automatic watches so expensive? Automatic watches are expensive due to the amount of material and workmanship needed to manufacture it, as compared to the mass-produced quartz watches. For luxury watches, the brands will employ high art watchmaking (or haute horlogerie) whereby precious materials and exceptional craftsmanship will be used causing its price to go way above our imagination.
Is buying a watch a good investment? In general, buying a watch as investment is not a good idea except you’re buying a watch with very high scarcity value such as Rolex or Patek Philippe. A novelty is almost always a good fit for investment – the rarer the watch, the higher the price will increase in future.
There are lots of watch brands that you can choose from. Most of the brands in this list have a wealth of history, having been founded decades ago and have produced countless watches. But which one should you choose will depend entirely on your taste and price range.
My advice for those new with automatic watches is to buy cheaper ones first and see if you like it or not. Bear in mind that automatic watches are not as maintenance-free as some other bloggers would like you to believe. In fact, it will take more money and time to own one, because you need to pay close attention to it and maintain/service it, just like how you own other mechanical items such as cars (read more about automatic watch’s characteristics in my post here). Thus, buying a cheaper one at first will help you to test the waters before making up your mind to buy more expensive ones.
I hope you like this article about automatic watch brands. Do let me know in the comments below what you think about it, and if I missed any brand.
Automatic watch has become more popular over the years, despite it being a higher priced type of watch out there. I was introduced to it few years ago and was hooked. From then on, I tried to learn everything that I can about automatic watch, which I will write about in this post.
So what is an automatic watch? Automatic watch is a type of watch that doesn’t need a battery to function and is instead powered by wrist motions of the wearer (so called self-winding) that is stored as potential energy inside it.
In this post, I’m going to share all the important information about automatic watch that you should know before getting one yourselves.
Automatic watch is defined as a watch that uses mechanical movement for its timekeeping. If you’re not aware, “movement” in horology refers to the device responsible to keep track of time inside a watch. Hence, an automatic/mechanical movement relies solely on the mechanical parts to do its job and is different from quartz movement which relies on the electric/electronic parts (which we will see later).
One thing that make automatic watch stands out is its ability to recharge itself just by being used by its owner. Inside the watch, there is a weighted rotor which will rotates following the motion of the wrist as the watch is being used. This rotor will recharge the watch hence why automatic watch movement is also referred to as the self-winding movement.
How Does Automatic Watch Works?
The inner workings of an automatic watch can be broken down into 5 major systems which are:
Energy source and storage
Gear train or wheels
1) Energy source and storage
The energy source of the watch comes from the weighted rotor. This half-circular rotor, that you can see on a watch with transparent caseback, will move freely with any movement of the watch. It’s part of the self-winding mechanism which will tighten the mainspring. The mainspring is a very long spring with the purpose of storing the energy for the watch.
Wearing the watch will cause this rotor to move and spin, hence effectively tightening the mainspring in the process. Thus, we can say that the energy generation for any automatic watch is from kinetic energy (weighted rotor moving) to be stored as potential energy in its mainspring.
Depending on the watchmaker, the feel of the self-winding mechanism will differ. Some watches have a very pronounced self-winding characteristics that you can easily feel the rotor winding as you move your watch. Some are quite subtle so much so you don’t the rotor moving (even though it is!). As this is very much a personal preference, I’d suggest to try wearing the watch to see if you like the feedback from the self-winding rotor or not.
By the way, some automatic watch is also equipped with manual winding capability which you can use to directly recharge the mainspring’s potential energy by rotating the crown and winding it (just like on a toy car). This is very useful if you don’t have time to wear your watch sufficiently so that it will have ample power reserve to last to the next day.
2) Gear train or wheels
The mainspring is directly attached to a set of gear train or wheels which main purpose is to transfer the potential energy throughout the watch movement. As the mainspring seeks to elongate and retract, the gears will be forced to rotate. Gears are used so that just a small elongation of the mainspring will cause a huge movement of the gears. This is very important so that the watch has sufficient power reserve – there’s only so much mainspring that can be fitted into the tiny movement after all!
Escapement consists of an escape wheel (a wheel with odd looking teeth) and a forked lever, which have the purpose of regulating the movement of the watch’s timekeeping, based on the input from balance wheel. Without escapement assembly, the watch will freely move and its power reserve will deplete in no time!
The escapement and balance wheel works in tandem to keep the movement of the watch in check.
4) Balance wheel
The balance wheel is responsible for the timekeeping of the watch i.e to determine how fast is one second – which is the whole basis of timekeeping. It might seem easy in this current world of digital watches but centuries ago, determination of one second is very hard to do for the lack of advanced equipment.
The balance wheel consists of a thin hairspring in a round enclosure. As energy was supplied to it, it will bounce back and forth in a regular interval. This interval (usually 6 or 8 times per second), form the basis of timekeeping in an automatic watch. Due to its importance, the balance wheel can be said to be the heart of an automatic watch (both literally and figuratively).
5) Time indicator
The last component is the time indicator i.e the needles that you see on a watch face/dial. The seconds hand is directly connected to the balance wheel/escapement. From there, the minute and hour hands are connected via gears. It is these gears with its fine teeth that will do the conversion from one second to one minute and one hour respectively.
(If you want to learn more about how automatic watch works, then you can read this post where I’ve delved deeper into this topic)
All of these systems must work in unison to make the watch work. If any of it is faulty (either due to damage or wear & tear), then the watch will not work as smoothly and that’s when you will notice issues with the watch such as bad timekeeping (lack of accuracy), watch keep on stopping etc.
Automatic Watch vs Mechanical Watch: A Look Into History
The ONLY difference between automatic and mechanical movement is the self-winding mechanism. An automatic movement is the same as mechanical movement but with the additional self-winding mechanism to “automatically” wind its mainspring with each watch-wrist movement. That is its main difference while the other timekeeping components (gears, escapement, balance wheel, etc.) remain the same.
As of now, mechanical watches are not as easily found in the market due to it being a less popular choice: you need to manual wind it daily or else it won’t work. This is a huge inconvenience with mechanical watch and it seems not many watchmakers are willing to design and market one, at least not for the lower end market (I do know that Hamilton has one affordable mechanical watch in their line up though).
But the lack of self-winding mechanism means that mechanical watch uses less parts so it is less expensive that an automatic watch. It’s also lighter, has thinner profile and will be easier to service which corresponds to lower service fee down the line.
Because of these advantages, mechanical movement is often incorporated by higher end watchmakers for their more adventurous movements with many complications in it (case in point, the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 57260). At that price point, usability is less of a concern – artistic, engineering and craftsmanship are the main driving factor.
It’s incomplete to talk about automatic and mechanical watches without looking at their history. Below are a few major milestones in the development of these watches:
Peter Henlein, a Germany watchmaker, was credited with creating the first watch that can be carried by people (a pocket watch) in 1510.
Swiss watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Perrelet, invented the first self-winding watch (also a pocket watch) in 1776.
An automatic wrist watch was only created in 1922 by John Harwood, a British watchmaker.
Electric watch was invented in the 1950s.
Seiko invented the quartz watch in 1969, which revolutionized the watch industry thanks to its accuracy and ability to be mass-produced.
How Is Automatic Watch Different From Normal Watch?
Although an automatic watch looks the same with other watches (see the next section on how to spot them), there is a huge difference in its movement or the driving mechanism for the watch.
Currently, quartz watch is the most common watch around, which can be said to be the “normal watch” nowadays. Quartz watch is based on electronics and that’s why you will notice that it requires battery to work. Inside it, there is a quartz crystal that acts as the oscillator for timekeeping (basically the job of balance wheel in an automatic watch).
A microchip is used to control everything in the watch, based on the input from the quartz crystal. There is also a motor to move the hands to display its time (in analog watch). Thanks to these elements, quartz watch can be mass-produced, hence lowering its price to very affordable levels. (Read more about how quartz watch works in my previous article here).
This is where the difference with automatic watch lies. Instead of relying on electronics like the common watch, automatic watch is fully mechanical powered. It uses the concept of energy conservation to top up its power reserve, drive the timekeeping and show the time on its dial.
And since the movement is quite complex, a full mass-production for automatic watch is not feasible. Some, especially the higher-end brands, will utilize manual labor to assemble and finish the watch. Without a doubt, this increases its cost of production. In fact, most automatic watches starts from $150 (with $500 mark is the starting point for most Swiss brands). You can get one cheaper than this but it’s usually from less established brands.
For that price, an automatic watch has something that a quartz watch don’t, that is character. The automatic movement requires some attention from the user to wind the watch (either through manual or self-winding), set the time and keep it in good condition.
Although the same need to be done with a quartz watch, its very different on an automatic because the whole thing revolves on mechanical parts. You need to be gentler and cannot force things or else it will break. I also love the faint grinding sound of the watch whenever I manual wind or change its time – its like the watch is alive!
Another advantage of automatic watch is it does not need a battery to operate, unlike quartz watch. This is an advantage especially for those that don’t want to have surprises such as a quartz watch drop dead due to having no battery. I personally like this because there is no concern on the battery leeches when I least expect it.
How Can You Tell If A Watch Is Automatic?
The easiest giveaway to tell if a watch is automatic is by looking at its dial/watch face. Generally, there is the word “Automatic” inscribed on the dial of most automatic watches. This is done so that people will easily know that the watch is an automatic watch, hence the reason for it being priced higher that other watches. Likewise, if you see the word “Quartz”, then that watch is a quartz watch.
But sometimes, the watch might not have the “Automatic” word inscribed on it. So in order to verify if its automatic or not, we can do these:
See if its seconds hand is sweeping or not. Automatic and mechanical watches have sweeping seconds hand which looks to be gliding instead of jumping every second like a normal/quartz watch. The sweeping seconds hand is actually jumping very fast (6 to 8 times per second) due to the characteristic of the movement.
If it has a transparent caseback, check if you can spot a half-circular rotor on it that will moves even with a small motion of the watch. The rotor is the best way to spot an automatic watch but not all automatic watches have a transparent caseback.
When you’re holding a watch that is completely stopped, try to give it a few shakes and see if this will bring the watch to life. Automatic watch will only need some motion to move the rotor and convert it into potential energy inside the watch to start it. While doing this, try to sense if you can feel the rotor moving (especially if the watch doesn’t have a transparent caseback).
Additionally, you can also try to manual wind it just to see if the watch is manual windable. This is done by rotating the crown upwards (on most common movements. Other watches might need to be rotated downwards to wind it). If you feel a faint gear noise and the watch springs back to life, it is an indication that the watch is manual windable. (I personally prefer my automatic watch to has this feature. Read my article here to find out why this is a good thing to have).
Is Automatic Watch Accurate?
So is automatic watch accurate? Accuracy of automatic watch varies depending on the movement maker, design and grade. In general, we can expect, at most, a +/-30 seconds per day variation for most automatic watches. What this entails is the watch will lose or gain time of up to 3.5 minutes every week – not really a big issue right?
But as I’ve mentioned above, the actual accuracy of an automatic watch will depend on the movement itself and can be referred to in their published specification. For example, I notice that Japanese movements (from Seiko, Orient) have a bigger limit up to +45/-35 seconds per day while Swiss movements (such as ETA) has a tighter accuracy range of +/-12 seconds per day.
And based on my personal record of my watches, the actual accuracy will usually fall within the published specification. So if a good accuracy is what you need (say, +/-10 seconds per day is a good number), then paying premium for a Swiss movement is definitely a good idea.
In addition, to this, there is also a type of automatic watch with the distinction of being “chronometer”, which is only conferred to the most accurate automatic watches out there. For an automatic watch to be labeled as a chronometer, it has to pass a stringent test from the certification body COSC which limits its gain/lose time to just +/-6 seconds per day.
To top it off, this accuracy needs to be adhered to in all possible positions the watch might be and various temperatures. Most chronometers can be found upwards of $1,000 but Tissot did design one of the cheapest Swiss chronometers in the market right now, the Tissot Powermatic 80 Chronometer for less that $1,000 (check out my review of the watch here).
Durability of automatic watches is usually good, as long as you are keeping a good care of the watch. One good thing that I’ve noticed is most automatic watches on the marker nowadays are encased in a stainless steel case which can last for a very long time, as compared to cheap quartz watches that are mainly made of plastic.
Stainless steel is frequently used because the automatic watch movement is heavier that normal because (surprised!) the movement parts are also mainly made of steel or metal. With a steel part and case, we can be assured that our automatic watches will stand the test of time.
There are some good reasons for this. Firstly, steel is tough and does not break as easily as plastic, another common watch material. I mean, if its good enough to be used to build buildings and ships, I’m pretty sure it will be a good material for a watch.
Another thing to note is that stainless steel can be easily cleaned with chemicals or some scrubbing if there’s a lot of dirt on it. It also can be polished or refinished again if there’s any dent or scratches on it. These are the usual things to be done on vintage watches, some have been around for decades.
While the exterior of an automatic watch is durable without much effort on the owner’s part, the internal movement is quite tricky and needs regular service for it to last long. I’ll go into detail about servicing an automatic watch in the below section.
Servicing Your Automatic Watch
Most automatic watches need to be serviced every 3 to 5 years, depending on its manufacturer’s recommendation. Some, such as newer Rolexes, can even go up 10 years interval. So its best to check with the brand on your automatic watch’s service interval to know for certain (you can also read up on the user manual supplied with the watch as this info is usually stated inside it).
But why do we need to service our automatic watches? It’s just a watch right?
The reason is automatic watch is not like normal quartz watch. It has hundreds of small parts that are constantly moving. Like changing the engine oil for your motor vehicle, the same need to be done for the lubricants in the watch movement (lubricants are used to reduce the friction inside the various moving parts). In addition, some parts do experience wear and tear even along the years and might need to be changed.
All of this can only be done by servicing the watch, whereby a watchmaker will open up the watch, take it apart, clean it, change the parts, re-oil it and then put it all back together. In addition, the watchmaker will regulate the watch so that it will achieve a good accuracy.
And yes, all of this will involve some cost, often times about 10 to 30% of the watch price. And this is one of the things that most people often overlook with their automatic watch purchase and (gasp!) collections!
Often times I see my friends buying their higher-end “grail” watches after saving for months, without knowing that watch will need outrageous amount of money to be maintained every 3-5 years. To make matters worse, some of them even buy new watches to add up to their collection – while still oblivious that these watches will need to be maintained in the future!
Although its not wrong to chase after your dream watch, I’m a proponent of sustainability in owning a watch. I personally calculate in advance the total cost of ownership of the watch, i.e initial buy cost plus maintenance costs in the future, before deciding on purchasing one. That way, I will always be able to service my watch in time and increase its lifespan.
Another thing to think about is the cost of service will increase depending on your location vs the brand’s service center. For example, if the country you’re living in does not have the service center for that particular brand, you might have to post it to another country and this will increase the maintenance cost.
Is Automatic Watch Water Resistant?
Almost all of the automatic watches that I’ve seen nowadays have water resistance to some degree. You can easily check on this by looking on its dial or caseback for water resistance indication such as “30 m water resistance” or “3 ATM” which means the watch can be dropped into 30 m water depth, in theory.
In real life, I don’t dare to use any of these watches to go into water unless it has a high water resistance rating (200 m or more) and is designed to be used for dive watch and tested based on ISO 6425. The reason is not all of these water resistance rating is tested and some small issue during manufacturing can render its water resistance rating not valid.
That’s why I’ve always used a dedicated dive watch for outdoor and swimming because its been designed for that. It will be tested for it with better material used. In addition, I always like the screw-down crown used in dive watches as it gives a higher degree of protection from water ingress into the watch.
A good practice to ensure your watch is well protected from water ingress is in keeping it always dry. That means don’t put it near to water source and always wipe it off if some accidental water splashes on it. In addition, always keep the crown pushed down tight to avoid water seeping through the small clearances around the crown stem. Lastly, don’t operate the chronograph function when you’re inside or near water. With all of these best practices, you will be able to keep your watch away from water problems.
Can You Wear It For Sports?
Can we wear automatic watch for sports? Yes we can. I, myself, have worn my automatic watches to gym, swimming, jogging and other outdoor sports/activities – but I only wear my dive watches for these.
The reason is automatic watch is a more delicate device that your normal quartz watch and its more prone to breaking. While the exterior case will be fine, some damage might be picked up by the internal movement during all the fast swinging of the watch following your hand.
And that’s why a dive watch is a good choice for sports because its designed for swimming and diving. Inside most dive watches, there are usually some shock resistant bearings/jewels that will act as shock absorbers to soak all the impacts.
But with that being said, its usually better to leave your automatic watch when it comes to sports and pick up a fitness tracker instead. Firstly, even on the best dive watches, there will be some impacts on it, so much so the watch do have a possibility to be damaged internally. And even if its not damaged, there could be some effect on its accuracy (read about my experience with my Seiko Sumo dive watch on this issue here).
Another thing that I want to add is an automatic watch is heavier that normal watch and might go in the way of your sporting activities. For instance, while you can golf while wearing an automatic watch, it will feel a bit weird and can disrupt your swing due to the added weight. In addition, it usually has a high profile/thickness and this can dig into your hands when doing activities.
So although you can wear an automatic watch for sports, I’d advised to wear a dedicated fitness tracker instead to protect the watch and also improve your sports performance (as well as giving the peace of mind that you won’t break your expensive watch during the activity LOL!).
The Very Important Power Reserve
One very important thing that you need to know about automatic watch is power reserve that will define how you can use your watch.
What is automatic watch power reserve? Power reserve is the remaining power or energy that an automatic watch has before it will stop completely, and this depends on its mainspring design. To be precise, a quartz watch also has power reserve but it will depend on its battery capacity.
The main thing that we need to understand is that usually a quartz watch will have much higher power reserve that an automatic watch. A 1-3 years of power reserve per battery is normal for quartz watch while an automatic watch will have a much lower power reserve – at just 38 to 80 hours!
This is because of the mainspring inside an automatic watch is only finite in length, due to the limited space that it has in it. A 38-40 hours power reserve can be expected from most of the entry level automatic watches nowadays. Some watches also has higher power reserve such as Seiko 6R15 movement (50 hours) and ETA/Tissot Powermatic movement (a good 80 hours).
So why is power reserve so important? It’s because that’s the duration that the watch will continue running after you’ve put it down. Do remember that automatic watch’s self-winding mechanism will directly increase its power just by using it on your wrist, so you’re basically topping its power reserve up when wearing it. So once you’ve put the watch down, its power reserve will deplete.
So basically, if you put your watch with 40 hours power reserve down at 9 pm on Friday, then it should last until 1 pm on Sunday. And that’s one issue with automatic watch – most of them will not be able to last an entire weekend on the drawer until the next Monday/work week. (well, its not an issue to me because I usually just pick up another watch in the coming week Lol! Read more about how I use my watches for efficiency here)
A common issue or actually misunderstanding that most people have with their automatic watches is it seems to lack power reserve that what was published. With the same example as above, you noticed that the watch drops dead even before the morning of Sunday, which is less that 40 hours stated. What gives?
The reason for this lack of power reserve lies in how many percentages of power reserve were available when you take off your watch. The 40 hours (or whatever number of power reserve) will be there if your watch has 100% power reserve when you put it down. The problem is most automatic watches don’t usually have that 100% power reserve because the self-winding mechanism needs many rotations for it to work.
In addition, sedentary lifestyle such as working on a desk without much wrist movement means the watch is not winding as much. So if your power reserve is less that 100% when you take it off, the watch will stop working faster that the published power reserve capacity.
If you’re worried that your watch might stop working or you just want it to be always running, you can consider getting a watch winder. Watch winder is a simple motor device that rotates the watch, mimicking wrist movement so that its self-winding mechanism will kicks in. Or another way is to just manual wind the watch. Read my article here to know more about the difference between these 2 techniques.
Automatic Watch Will Be Heavier From Normal Watch
Being made almost entirely out of steel is good for its durability, but there’s one small problem: automatic watch is heavier that normal quartz watch.
It’s a given. When you have hundreds of metal parts packed into the watch, its bound to have some weight, that is heavier that the simplistic quartz movement which consists of only few equipment.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing though. I, for one, loves the fact that my automatic watch has quite a bit of heft. It just makes wearing it feels different and cooler. And this perception is also shared by some of the watch fans that I know.
A downside with this is the watch can be bothersome to wear with when you’re working as the extra weight will disrupt your hand movement. Often times, I found myself taking out my bulkier dive watches when I need to work or use my laptop as it will be a hindrance when I type. But luckily I don’t have this issue with my smaller (38 mm to 40 mm diameter) automatic watches. But again, that’s just me and this will vary depending on your body and preference.
There’s also titanium watches out there that will be much lighter that a typical stainless steel automatic watch. So if lightweight is your preference, then you can get one of these (for a bit of premium of course).
Thus, my advice is to test out the watches and feel for yourselves if its something that you can wear or not. Do remember that watch diameter will heavily influence its weight, so if you want a light watch, then most often that not, a small diameter is what you need. And as I’ve touched above, watches with a titanium case can also be a good choice for lightweight watch.
Automatic Watch Price: Why Is It So Expensive?
Automatic watch usually can be had for upwards of $150 (for Japanese and non-Western brands) and upwards of $500 for Swiss/Europe/US brands – with very high upper limits, going into hundred of thousands of dollars and some even millions!
So why is this very expensive price for a piece of watch?
Firstly, we need to understand that the automatic watch movement consists of over one hundred of minuscule parts, hence the manufacturing cost of these parts will be much more that what a normal quartz watch has. In addition, the movement will usually need some human intervention in its assembly, thus increasing labor costs associated with its production.
Since that is the case, automatic watchmakers know that they have to give more value to their watch to separate it from the run-of-the-mill quartz watches. Hence, the use of better materials (stainless steel, titanium, even gold) and delicate finishing on it. This will proposition their watch to a higher price bracket to rack in more profit per watch.
And that’s why automatic watches are usually marketed towards the well-to-do people as an exclusive device, something of a higher value that normal quartz watch. After all, nor everyone can pay hundreds of dollars for a watch right?
Where To Buy Automatic Watch?
The easiest way to buy an automatic watch is by walking into a watch store. You can see, feel and try the watches for yourselves and assess if this is the watch that you prefer. Often times I’ve fallen in love with some watches that I saw on internet, only to realize that its not really something that I prefer once I’ve seen it in person. So do have a look at it in store and see the watch for yourselves.
So yeah, a brick and mortar store is still the easiest way to buy a watch as you can try it out first. These stores are usually the authorized dealers (AD) for that particular watch brand which means you will be buying something that is 100% real with full manufacturer warranty.
But if you want to save some money, especially for buying an automatic watch less that $1,000 mark, buying online is the cheapest way to buy it.
You can easily get 20% to 30% discount off your automatic watch prices if you buy it online. Online stores (either through their own website of through Amazon, EBay, Jomashop, LongIslandWatches etc.) can give cheaper prices because they don’t have to pay for the rental of the physical stores.
But its not the easiest since you do have to compare and choose a good vendor before you purchase it. This is the most important step because there are counterfeits out there but a good & reputable online store will be selling gray market watches – 100% original but since its not sold by an AD, it won’t be getting the manufacturer’s warranty.
That is another important point to understand. With a gray market watch, you will only have the vendor’s warranty (e.g Amazon, etc.) and not the manufacturer’s warranty. So if something goes wrong, you will need to send the watch back to the vendor and that will incur some costs for you and it will be a bit more complicated compared to the official manufacturer warranty.
But from my own experience, I never have any issue with my online purchases and never need to claim any warranty whatsoever. The key here is to select a good and reputable vendor with lots of positive reviews/comments from buyers. With this, you can reduce the likelihood that you’re getting a lemon unit and save time and money from the hassle of claiming warranty.
What I usually did is to scout the watch that I like on physical stores – see it, try it on and check out its prices. Then I do a comparison with online stores and see which one has the best offer. Do note that with online store, you have to add in postal price as well as any insurance or excise duty as an automatic watch purchase is expensive and you might need to pay for it (depending on your country).
Some Common Automatic Watch Brands
Below are some of the common automatic watch brands currently in the market, in order of increasing luxury, price and affordability. Do note that this is just a general guideline and not to be taken as a definite rule. By the way, some brands do produce wide range of watches encompassing many pricing levels (such as Seiko).
Entry Level: Seiko, Citizen, Orient, Invicta, Stuhrling, Fossil, Tissot, Hamilton
Mid Level: Oris, Longines, Sinn, Rado, Laco, Christopher Ward, Raymond Weil
Entry Level Luxury: Tag Heuer, Tudor, Nomos, Bell&Ross;, Grand Seiko
High-End/Ultra Luxury: Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, A. Lange & Sohne
Taking Care Of Your Automatic Watch So That It Will Last Long
With such a delicate (not to mention expensive) item, you do need to take good care of your automatic watch. Below are some of the top tips on how you should take care of it so that it will last long:
Avoid sudden shock/impact: As the movement consists of lots of small parts, a sudden impact might screw up these parts, causing damage to the movement.
Keep it clean: You need to keep it always clean from dirt or water to ensure it can last long.
Away from magnets and electronics: The various metal parts inside it might get magnetized when being in close proximity with magnets or electronic items. Getting magnetized is bad as it will cause inaccuracy to the watch.
Get it serviced when its time: Without a proper service from time to time, the watch will not run as good as its first day. The same rules with automobiles or any mechanical devices applies to automatic watches.
Store it in a proper place: It’s highly recommended to get a proper watch storage box if you intend to store your watch for long period of time.
If you want to learn more about how to take care of your automatic watches, read my previous post here.
And the answer is it depends and varies from person to person.
For me, I personally enjoy having automatic watches because of its unique character. It’s run entirely by mechanical energy without any usage of electric/electronic parts like everything else around us nowadays. For me, that’s very refreshing and I always enjoy my mechanical-based automatic watch compared to my quartz based watch. I also love the fact that it contains a cool piece of engineering and workmanship, all on my wrist.
True enough, its also more expensive but you’re getting a finer watch in that package. My automatic watches all have more refinement and greater finishing that an ordinary watch costing less that $100. So yes, for that premium price, you’re getting a better overall watch in terms of material, fit and finish.
But just be warned, its still an expensive purchase so I always advice those new with automatic watch to buy an affordable one first and see if you like it or not. Automatic watch does has its own flaws and you need to know whether you can live with it. By buying a cheaper automatic watch first, you won’t lose out too much money if you decided that its not suitable to you.
For some of the cheaper automatic watches out there, check out my list of the affordable watches under $200, under $500 and under $1,000 that you can grab today.
I hope with this information, you will be know more about automatic watch, how it works, its advantage and, most importantly, its disadvantage. Without a doubt, an automatic watch is an expensive purchase and that’s the reason why you should know everything about it before you make the decision to buy one.
If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact me by commenting below. Till next time.
These are the best practices that I’ve personally used to maintain my own watches. With these tips, I’ve been able to avoid any costly repairs and issues with my watches and I really hope that this information will help you to avoid that too.
1. Take A Good Care Of It From Being Dropped Or Taking Any External Shock
The very first and most important thing that you have to do to take care of your watch is to be very careful not to drop or subject it to any external shock.
Dropping the automatic watch on the floor, bumping it onto the wall, or dropping hard objects on the watch are some of the accidents that can easily happen when you’re not aware and being careful with your watch.
The impact from these accidents can range from nothing to really major, especially regarding the delicate internal workings of the watch. As the automatic movement is made up of more than one hundred parts, any big shock can cause damage on the assembly or even damaging the parts itself. The effect of this is a damaged movement that can be costly to repair or change out totally.
In addition to this, there could be damage on the exterior of the watch. Unless you drop the watch from a very high place or subjected to high impact forces, the damage could be in the form of scratches on the case and crystal as the watch is actually quite sturdy.
It might seem small, but trust me, a scratched case/crystal will be devastating to the aesthetic of the watch. You certainly don’t want to have a highly polished watch that have some deep grooved scratch on its side which is very unsightly!
2. Keep The Watch Away From Moisture
The next tips in maintaining your automatic watch is to keep it away from moisture as water is a great enemy for mechanical devices.
One thing I want to highlight is this does not mean the watch cannot be in contact with water. Most of the watches in the market right now has some water resistance rating that enables it to even be submerged inside water for a specified depth. There are also dive watches with screw down crowns that is much more robust against water.
The main issue is with constant exposure to water, especially on where you’re storing the watch when not in used. As the watch is usually made out of steel, constant exposure to water can make rusting happen even for stainless steel. It’s recommended to wipe the watch and store it in a dry place after it came into contact with water.
In particular is the steel bracelet of the watch that has many small spaces and crevices that can be places where water might accumulate. You need to ensure these places are always dry to prevent from any rusting.
With leather or cloth based straps, moisture is a great concern as it can significantly reduce the strength of the material and cause it to be susceptible to tear. I’d be very particular about this and will try to dry out the straps as soon as possible before storing it.
Thus, keeping these straps dry from being near to wet areas is definitely a good idea. You certainly don’t want to wear a damp strap on your wrist right?
3. Don’t Place It Near Electronics Or Strong Magnets
The next tip to take care of automatic watch is not place it near electronics or strong magnets. This is a very important thing to remember as automatic watch will be severely disrupted if its magnetized, all because it’s run entirely by moving metal parts.
The various moving parts will be disrupted from magnetization and this will cause the watch to lose accuracy.
While this is not really a concern before, it has become a big issue as electronics are everywhere nowadays. Electronics can be the cause of magnetization if you place the watch near to it. Hence, it’s important to know where you’re storing the watch so that it’s not near to any electronics.
4. Do Remember To Service The Watch
Next tip is about servicing the watch. Just like other mechanical items (car engine, etc.), automatic watch also needs to be serviced to clean and re-oil the various parts. Typically, an automatic watch will need to be serviced every 3 to 5 years, though this will ultimately depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation (one good example is Rolex where it has a new 10-year service recommendation which is very good in my opinion) and whether you believe something is wrong with your watch.
I do believe that this is the tip that most people are not wary about when they buy an automatic watch. Although automatic watch is a great watch with many benefits, its mechanical nature with many moving parts means that servicing it is inevitable to keep it running without any issue in the long run.
Not servicing the watch can cause a lot of other issues with the movement so much so you might be having a trouble with it later on. I do note that some Seiko dive watches have been running fine even without any service but I can bet those watches have horrendous accuracy, more than 10++ seconds deviation per day.
Coming to accuracy, that’s also another benefit of sending the watch to service as you can ask the watchmaker to adjust the watch to your use pattern with higher accuracy. In short, servicing an automatic watch will ensure that your expensive automatic watch will be well protected and can be used for years to come. In addition, the better accuracy will help you make the most of your automatic watch as well.
Having many watches is fun as you can have a nice collection with myriad of watches. But then a big problem will crop up – you suddenly realized that you only can wear one watch at a time so much so only few watches will be worn frequently.
The thing is you will never be able to give ALL your watches the same wrist time. I noticed that once my collection grew, there are some watches that I like or prefer over some other watches. This can be due to many factors i.e look, weight, how it wears, etc. which are not something that you can know before you buy the watch.
Due to this reason, there are only 2 or 3 watches that I’ve worn regularly and there are other watches that don’t see any wrist time for weeks which is not ideal for an automatic watches. The main issue with this is the watch’s lubricants will be left idle for long time and might be coagulating when the watch is not in use. This will reduce its accuracy or might even cause the watch to not work properly.
Thus, it’s important to ensure your watch is ticking once in a while although you might not have enough time to wear them. Simply wind it manually or give it a good shake to jump start it and have it running.
6. Keep It Clean
The next tip on how to take care of your automatic watch is to keep it clean. Often times, the watch might get dirty from normal use (sweat is one of the biggest contributor to this) and it’s important to keep it clean so that it will be able to be kept for a long time.
Luckily, most automatic watches are made of stainless steel so cleaning them is a breeze. A piece of cloth or tissue will do to wipe out any dirt or sweat in contact with the watch. Depending on the dirt, you might have to use some water to assist with the cleaning. Unless absolutely necessary, the use of soap is not needed most of the times.
Now, while the main watch case is quite easy to clean, the strap or bracelet is a different issue. There are 4 main strap material types for automatic watch (metal bracelet, leather strap, cloth strap, rubber strap) and caring for them requires different method.
I personally love metal bracelets because it’s very easy to wear without the hassle of unbuckling it like other straps. But the way the bracelet is constructed using many small links resulted in many small openings and crevices which can be the location where dirt might accumulate. And since these openings are very small, cleaning these dirt and gunks can be quite a challenge.
You can use toothbrush to get to the hard to reach crevices but it might be too hard to do. One good way is to use ultrasonic cleaning whereby the bracelet can be dipped into a water bath with lots of water bubbles that can help to clean out the gunk.
For the other types of straps, a wet tissue or towel will do to clean it as there is no small openings or crevices with it. But do be careful with leather and cloth straps as getting it too wet will reduce its strength and you might cause some damage on it. You should also quickly dry these straps after cleaning it. For rubber strap, it’s one of the more durable straps and can be easily cleaned.
7. Be Careful When Changing The Strap
Another tips about straps is to be extra careful when changing them. I love to buy new straps and put it on my watches. It will immediately change the look and feel of the watch instantaneously. It’s like getting a different watch by only paying a fraction of its cost.
But do be very careful when changing the straps yourselves (also applies if you get the store to change it) as you can easily get some scratches on the watch.
Changing the straps involve getting out the spring bar from the lugs and you should do this very carefully or else you can end up with deep scratches on the lugs (this is me speaking from experience LOL!). Do get the correct tools to change the straps as it will make your life much easier. This also applies to adjusting bracelets.
Trying to cheap out and use the tools that you have lying around your house such as screwdrivers, needle etc. is a recipe for disaster. Watch strap removal and bracelet adjustment tools are available online for less than $10 bucks a piece and there is no reason why you should not get one!
Steel is susceptible to temperature change (contract with cold, expand with heat) and automatic watch uses a lot of steel for its movement. Due to this, any extreme temperature will cause issue with the movement.
There are many issues related to temperature. One, the accuracy will suffer as the steel parts are expanding/contracting which is not the same as it was designed for. Then, the oil could have some changes in its properties with the temperature (gunk at cold, thinning at hot). There could also be an issue with condensation around inside the watch due to temperature difference.
As such, I’d recommend to not use automatic watch when going into extreme temperature environments such as a jacuzzi, sauna, or winter area. There are sports watches that have been designed for these extreme temperatures (mostly quartz based) that you can use instead.
9. Don’t Wind The Watch When Wearing It On Wrist
One of the mistakes that I used to make is winding my watch when I’m wearing it on my wrist. This is definitely not a good practice as you can break the crown stem from doing this.
The crown is typically connected to the winding mechanism through a small stem that can be broken easily. Hence, winding it while wearing it will apply a tangential force on the stem, thus making it much more likely to accidentally break the stem.
Due to this, I strongly advise that you only wind the watch by properly holding it on your hands and applying direct force when rotating the crown.
10. Change The Gaskets And Seals When Servicing
Water resistance is a very important feature in any watch as you just don’t know what could happen. Even for dress watches, I’d prefer to have some water resistance rating on it (a minimum of 30-50 m rating) since that will ensure the watch can handle some accidental splashes of water without breaking a sweat.
This is particularly helpful as you just don’t know what could happen. Also, this feature makes it easier as you don’t have to take off your watch whenever you want to wash your hands or doing the dishes – activities that can splash some water on your watch.
Dive watches, on the other hand, have higher water resistance rating (from 100 to 300 m) as it will need to resist the water from going inside the watch whenever its owner is diving.
One thing that most people don’t know is the water resistance rating depend on the condition of the seals and gasket of the watch. These seals are located at all possible water ingress points (crown, back plate, crystal, etc.) and is the one holding out the water from going into the watch.
As it’s made of rubber, the seals will degrade naturally and you should always have it changed periodically to keep the watch’s water resistance. Some people recommend for it to be changed every 2 to 3 years but I found this to be only valid for divers. For most of us that don’t really use our automatic watches for diving, this recommendation will be overkill.
Because of this, my personal practice is to change the seals and gaskets every time I service the watch, which is 3-5 years. This will save some money and time as you don’t need to bring the watch for service more frequently.
11. Don’t Use The Crown Or Pushers While In Water
This next tip also involves with water: don’t ever use the crown or pushers while in water. That is unless you want water to get inside the watch, wreaking havoc with the movement!
Water resistance works by keeping a tight vacuum-like seal over the entire watch and anything that protrudes out from the movement for the watch to function (such as crown and pushers for chronograph) is a possible water ingress point. The workaround with this is by using seals and gaskets to keep the small openings filled up so that water can’t pass through.
But using the crown (for manual winding or setting time/date) and pushers (for chronograph or other functions) inside water will open up the openings so much so water will easily pass through inside the watch.
12. Keep Unused Watch In A Proper Box
The next tip is to keep your watch collection inside a proper watch box. It’s only logical that we should store our expensive automatic watches inside a proper box to keep it away from dust and any damage that could happen to it.
For instance, keeping the watch inside a drawer which you also used to keep your keys and other items is not recommended as these items can scratch the watch. Keeping it inside a box will also prevent from accidental magnetization of the watch from being in close proximity to electronic items.
In addition, you will be able to organize your watches and retrieve it easier rather than having to search all over the place for a watch that you want to wear.
(if you want to know more about how best to store your automatic watches, you can read my previous post here)
13. Be Minimal With The Manual Winding
Although manual winding is a good way to easily fill up the power reserve of your watch, it’s not recommended doing it frequently. The fact is, automatic watches are designed with self-winding capability and it’s not meant to be manual wind often (unlike mechanical watch).
Because of this, most brands will usually design a less robust manual winding mechanism on an automatic watch, so much so it can be broken if it’s winded often. As such, do be very careful when manual winding the watch and be minimal with it.
Personally, I only manual wind my watch for 5 to 10 revolutions, just to give the watch some extra juice when I first pick it up from the box. Then, I would rely on the self-winding mechanism from my wrist motion to increase it’s power reserve for the next days.
Do you have to wear your automatic watch every day? No, you don’t need to wear your automatic watch every day. Automatic watch that is not being worn will stop by itself when its power reserve runs out. You can then pick up the watch and use it normally after that.
How long will an automatic watch last? Automatic watch can last for a very long time, provided it’s being maintained well by periodically servicing it and keeping it clean.
How to keep automatic watch when not wearing? The best way to keep automatic watches that are not being worn is by storing it inside a dedicated watch box. You can also read my previous post to know the other options of storing the watch.
How to wind an automatic watch? To wind an automatic watch, simply rotate the crown upwards. You should be able to hear a faint gear-like grinding noise when doing so. Some watches also have screw-down crowns so you will need to unscrew the crown first before you can wind it.
I hope these 13 tips on how to take care of an automatic watch will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if you have any questions or if you have any other tips that you’ve been using yourselves.
One of primary reasons why you should buy an automatic watch is its uniqueness and character, because of its mechanical timekeeping that’s free of any electric or electronics.
Thanks to its affordability, quartz watch is the norm nowadays. And that’s the start of how electronics conquer our world. After that, phones, and then smartphones, are widespread and almost everyone have them. Coupled with TVs, laptops and other electronic devices, our lives seem to revolve around electronics.
Now while I do enjoy electronics (I did write this article using a computer), I do yearn for something different. I can’t run away from smartphones, laptops, TVs, cars, etc but I can make the decision to buy an automatic watch that does not use any electric/electronic device inside it.
And that’s why automatic watch is much more unique nowadays in the era of modern civilization where everything requires electricity to be used. Automatic watch uses a novel mechanism that’s run entirely based on moving gears and parts to keep time. This characteristic is found to be very cool and is one of the main reasons why its popular among watch fans.
2. Does Not Require A Battery
The second reason why anyone should own an automatic watch is it does not need a battery to operate. Automatic watch relies on the natural wrist motion that stores potential energy inside the watch for it to operate. There is no need for a battery inside it because everything is done mechanically.
This is quite useful as it means there is no need to change the battery every 1-2 years like a normal quartz watch. Simply strap the watch to your wrist and it will run or you can also manual wind it by rotating its crown to directly top up its potential energy inside the mainspring.
In addition, less pollution is being discharged as there is no harmful batteries being thrown away every year. This characteristic of automatic watch quite possibly makes it the most environmentally friendly watch types around as it only uses the common mechanical parts made from metals without any harmful chemicals found in batteries and electronic chips.
3. Has Sweeping Seconds Hand
The next cool features of automatic watch is sweeping seconds hand. This is one of its main characteristics that will enable you to tell an automatic watch from quartz watch easily.
An automatic watch will have a sweeping or gliding seconds hand motion as opposed to the ticktock/1 second jump of quartz watch. The reason for this lies in how their movement works.
Inside an automatic watch, the timekeeping is done by a balance wheel that is designed to oscillate in a fixed frequency (often times 6 or 8 beats per second). With each beat, the balance wheel will cause the seconds hand to move through a set of gear trains and hence, the seconds hand will move very fast, at a rate of 6-8 times per second.
This seconds hand motion give the effect of sweeping or gliding seconds hand that is very cool to look at.
For a quartz watch, the integrated circuit inside it is the one responsible for timekeeping (with the help of a quartz oscillator). The IC will then send a signal to a step motor to move the seconds hand every second, hence the jumping seconds hand.
It could, theoretically, make a sweeping seconds hand by signaling the motor to move 6-8 times every second (like automatic watch) but this will consume more electrical energy (and bigger battery) and increase the wear and tear inside the watch (cause it to be more expensive as better materials are needed to be used).
4. It Has Some Of The Best Looking Watch Designs And Craftsmanship
What does Rolex, Omega, Tag and other higher end watches with good-looking designs have in common? That’s right, most of their watches have automatic movement in it.
As its unique and has better character, automatic watch is currently positioned at the top end of watches with beautiful designs and exquisite craftsmanship. The reason for this is that watchmakers know that they can’t market and compete in terms of pricing with the very affordable quartz watch.
Which is why most automatic watchmakers design and market their watches to the rich and famous by using precious metals (gold, titanium etc.) and handcrafted parts to create some of the best looking watches in the market. By focusing in this niche market, it has helped automatic watch industry to survive despite having a cost disadvantage against the cheaper quartz watch.
Another main reason why automatic watch is just so nice to look at is because its mostly made out of metal instead of plastic. The parts need to be metal because of the high amount of moving parts which require for the robustness and strength of metal.
In order to hold the weight of the metal parts, the outer casing also need to be made out of metal. This gives the chance for watchmaker to create an exquisitely polished metal case which is truly beautiful to look at. And thanks to the heft from all the metal, automatic watch also feels heavy and has some heft in it which makes for a pleasant wearing experience.
5. To Appreciate The Great Effort And Engineering Behind It
In this current age of electronics, how can anyone create something that do a complex thing without relying on electronics?
True enough, timekeeping is very easy with a quartz watch. A small piece of quartz movement is sufficient to tell time. You just need to hook up a battery cell and it will run. In fact, many great things were born out of electronics such as smartphones and smartwatches (which is really cool btw).
But then on the other side, we have automatic watch that seeks to keep time accurately (almost) without relying on electronics. It uses mechanical moving parts in the form of balance wheel to keep time. There’s also the power reserve and self-winding module and time display module.
And then to cram all of these into a very small footprint that can be worn on our wrists. Now that’s something that not everyone can do. There are no less than 100 small parts in an automatic watch and all of them need to be designed, manufactured and assembled perfectly for the watch to run.
There’s a lot of effort put into these watches. Without a doubt, automatic watch is a culmination of centuries of mankind’s effort in timekeeping and I personally, have a great joy to wear one on my wrist =)
6. Experience Of Wearing It Is Different From Normal Quartz Watch
The next reason to buy an automatic watch is to because it has a different feeling when being worn as compared to the normal quartz watch.
I’m pretty sure most of you guys already own a quartz watch before (my first watch was a quartz when I was a kid). It’s a great piece of watch and just works without any fuss. But as I’ve mentioned above, its run entirely by electronics which kind of making it quite boring to be used. There’s no real fun in wearing one, to be honest.
Automatic watches, on the other hand, is something entirely different. Like all mechanical devices, you need to pay attention to how it performs so that you can use it correctly.
There’s the matter about its power reserve, you might need to manual wind it, there’s more resetting need to be done (especially if you have a lot of watches in your collection), you need to keep track of its accuracy, need to be aware and bring it to service, and a lot of other stuffs. While it seems like a lot of work to do for a watch, I found that this gives me a chance to interact with my watches kinda like the watch is a living being – which I really enjoy =)
In addition to that, automatic watch also has the self-winding mechanism in the form a free moving rotor that moves with wrist motion. This kind of mechanical feedback makes wearing the watch something that’s really special and not found in other watch types.
7. Can Last For A Long Time And Good Item As Heirloom
Automatic watch also can last for a long time and is something that you can keep as an heirloom for your descendants. In fact, many vintage watches on the market right now are automatic watches, with some of them can keep running. If being kept properly, automatic watch can easily outlive you and passed on to the next generation.
One reason for its longevity is because of the high use of metals inside the watch, with the stainless steel type the most usually used. Metals are robust and can last long, provided its not rusted – which is what stainless steel is all about. Just keep it out from moisture, store it in a dry place and you will be able to keep the watch intact for years.
As the movement, its not as long-lasting because the oils used as lubricant will go bad after 5 or so years. But this is not a cause for concern as sending the watch to be serviced will do the trick. In fact, many vintage automatic watches are running fine now after being serviced. When push comes to shove, you can always replace the movement entirely with a new one, provided that it will fit inside the case.
8. As An Investment Vehicle (Some Watches Only)
Quite like a vintage car, automatic watch can also be a good investment vehicle, though this only applies to some watches.
As mentioned above, automatic watch can easily last for a long time and after a few years, there might be a demand for it. This is because with changing style/trend, some watch models will be discontinued to follow the latest trend.
Case in point is with watch sizes. A few decades ago, anything bigger than 38 mm diameter is unthinkable. But now, most of the watches are in 40mm++ diameter. With clothes, watch style is continuously evolving and something that is hot now will not be so a few years later.
This creates a demand for yesteryear watches whereby some people might still want to hold on to that kind of style or watch model. They might not be able to afford these watches years ago due to many reasons and now, since they can afford it, they are willing to get these previous generation watches for their collection. This creates a thriving market for vintage watches and with the right condition, automatic watches can still keep most of their value.
But then, only some automatic watches can be regarded as an investment vehicle. This mostly revolves around the higher priced watch with a unique standing around the watch community such as stainless steel Rolex Submariner. This watch is one of the few that can be said to be an investment in itself thanks to how popular it is.
One of the key things to remember is an evergreen design from a good brand will be a sure win. And this is why the Submariner is such a hit because its design have been mostly unchanged from decades ago – proving just how popular and evergreen it is. So do your research prior to buying a watch solely for investment purpose to avoid losing out in the end.
9. Statement Of Your Exquisite Taste
If you see someone wearing an automatic watch, what do you think of him/her? Without a doubt, you’d think about how rich he is (depending on the brand/watch price) but another thing that will spring into mind is how good his taste is.
Automatic watches almost always have a good design. Though it depends on the price and brand, I found that most automatic watches are impeccably designed even for a normal low-end models, more so than a normal quartz watch.
And when worn on your wrist, it will be a statement on what your taste is much like the other elements of your outfit. Wearing an automatic watch will easily elevate your style without even trying.
10. A Good Conversation Starter With Fellow Watch Fans
I’ve been able to strike conversations with strangers just from commenting on their watch.
Yes, its unthinkable, but when you’ve been deep down into watches, did your research, own a few of them, sooner of later you can easily tell what kind of watches anyone is wearing.
But most often than not, my conversations will start by me being intrigued with the other guy and asking about their watch. Apart from the watches that I own, there are many watches that I only know from reading online and stumbling upon them in real life on another guy’s wrist will definitely get me excited.
And that’s also what usually happened with me. Often times, some guys will strike a conversation with me on a watch that I’m wearing – it can be either because he’s also an automatic watch fan or because the watch is really handsome (see point no. 4 & 9 above). If you don’t wear an automatic watch, these conversation opportunities will not exist.
By the way, have you noticed that most magazines about finance and business have full page ads featuring automatic watches? This is because most of the rich wear automatic watches and if you want to appeal and connect with them, wearing an automatic watch yourselves could be a great way to that.
Are Automatic Watches Worth It?
So are automatic watches worth it? Yes, automatic watches are definitely worth your money based on the 10 reasons above. It’s one of the non-electronically device that we can have right now and as an automatic watch owner, I’ve been very happy with my watches.
But then again, not everyone might be suitable to own one of these as it also have its own disadvantages that might be a deal-breaker for them. For example, if you’re looking for a very accurate watch or something that is very lightweight, then a quartz watch might be the best for you. I’ve written an entire post about the differences of automatic vs quartz watch that you can use (click here to read it).
In addition, I’d like to recommend that you start out with the cheaper variations of automatic watches before buying something that costs thousands of dollars and then finding out and automatic watch is not to your liking. I’ve had a couple of friends splurged on Rolex Submariner worth thousands of dollars to reward themselves only to not use the watch after some time because its not keeping a “correct time”.
Such costly mis-purchases can be avoided if you try out with cheaper watches just to test the waters and see if automatic watch is for you or not. If you’re interested in getting an affordable watch, check out my 10 best affordable automatic watch under $200. If its too cheap and you want to get something more expensive, then my collection of the top 30 automatic watches under $1,000 might be able to help you.
What is the reliability of quartz watch compared to automatic watch? In terms of reliability, quartz watch is able to keep better time compared to automatic watch. This is because it uses an electronic circuit with quartz oscillator that can keep time accurate to +/- 10 seconds per month. (Read my previous article on how quartz watch can be so accurate).
What is automatic watch lifespan? Automatic watch can last forever provided that it is not damaged and being serviced based on manufacturer’s recommendation which can vary from 3 to 5 years (read more about automatic watch service in my previous post here).
I hope this article about why anyone should own an automatic watch will be beneficial to you. Do let me know what you guys think about by commenting below.
Seiko is a giant watch company that makes all sorts of watches from automatic to quartz to solar. Its automatic watches is famous for being affordable but this begs the question of how accurate is seiko automatic watches?
I came to this conclusion based on my experience owning 4 Seiko automatic watches over these past few years. But it should be noted that, just like other brands, the accuracy did reduce after few years depending on how you used them. In addition, I’m going to share what I think about Seiko automatic watches and if it’s a good watch to buy.
Seiko Automatic Watches Have Great Accuracy
Seiko automatic watches all have great accuracy out of the box based on my experience with 4 Seikos (low-mid ranges). It’s quite hard to believe as the published accuracy specifications all show that their accuracy is quite high.
Below is the list of the watches that I own and the kind of real life accuracy that I got from them vs published accuracy specification from Seiko:
Seiko SARB033 (6R15 movement): Less than 5 seconds per day vs +25/-15 seconds per day (published accuracy spec)
Seiko SKX013 (7S26 movement): Less than 4 seconds per day vs +49/-20 seconds per day (published accuracy spec)
Seiko Sumo SBDC003 (6R15 movement): Less than 5 seconds per day vs +25/-15 seconds per day (published accuracy spec)
Seiko 5 Worldtimer (4R36 movement): Less than 6 seconds per day vs +45/-35 seconds per day (published accuracy spec)
All of the real life accuracy measurements were performed by using apps for watch accuracy check (I used the app watchcheck, though toolwatch app also seems to be a good option).
Now if you’ve read my previous article, I’ve mentioned that to me, a +/- 10 seconds deviation per day is considered a good accuracy for automatic watches (though you might want to have a higher accuracy for more expensive or chronometer watches).
This value is based on real life usage pattern in a week. Suppose that my watch will gain (or lose) 10 seconds daily, then at the end of the week, it will still be within a minute off the actual time.
This is important because I don’t want to have to adjust the time during mid-week, where I tend to get busy and just want to grab the watch and go to work without having to check if the time is off or not. Hence, the +/- 10 seconds per day accuracy works well for me.
And that’s the reason why I’m very happy with my Seikos. As you can see, the watch ranges from very affordable (the Seiko 5 @ ~$100) to low-mid range (Seiko Sumo @ ~$500) with the SARB033 and SKX013 in between. And all of them have great accuracy with less than 6 seconds deviations per day! Now that’s definitely something that I’m happy with =)
How About Its Accuracy After A Few Years?
The accuracy of my Seikos deteriorated after years of use, but most of them still within the manufacturer’s specification.
Just like all mechanical devices, automatic watch will also deteriorate and that’s the case with my Seikos. From my experience, the accuracy reduced but it depends on many factors.
As the watch was used, there are wear and tear on the various moving parts inside it. Not to mention the lubricants used in the watch will be less viscous over time – all of these are the factors that reduced the accuracy of the watch over time.
Another important factor is how heavily used and how harsh was the watch subjected to. This is very important that because automatic watch is a delicate device, using it for outdoor activities might be too much for it to handle and can wreak havoc on its movement.
For my SARB033, I found that the accuracy is still intact around less than 7 seconds deviation per day after about 2 years of use. I’m very happy with this watch as it’s my go to watch for work as it has the great quality all around with beautiful simplistic styling.
I should also mention that I never use this watch for anything outdoor – just normal regular desk job and going out socializing with friends. Since I also take great care not to bang the watch on any hard surface etc, I guess that also contributed to the great time the watch has even after 2 years.
My Seiko SKX013 is another gem with accuracy only diminished to less than 8 seconds deviation per day after using it for 2.5 years. Now, I’m most astonished with this watch because even though it has the previous generation’s 7S26 movement inside it, it kept great time, and even beat the newer 6R15s out of box!
The best thing that I love about this watch is how light it is on hand. It’s my go to watch for when I went swimming thanks to this (replacing my heavier Sumo). I would also bring this watch with me whenever I’m traveling as it’s lightweight and frankly, quite cheap (I bought it around $200) so if something were to happen during my travel, I won’t be burned much and can still manage to fork out some money to get another SKX013 LOL!
But putting that aside, this little dive watch had really impressed me with its great accuracy over the years.
The Seiko Sumo SBDC003 is another story. I had the Seiko Sumo for 4 years now and sadly, the accuracy had diminished to around 25-30 seconds gain/lost per day.
Now, I should note that I was quite brave when I got the watch. It’s one of Seiko’s Prospex watches – a line up of sports watch that give the impression that you can use it anywhere, anytime for whatever purposes. A real rugged dive/sports watch if I can say.
And coupled that with the handsome features of the Sumo, before long I found using it for anywhere. I wore it to work, to swimming, to gym, to jogging, even to doing yard & construction works!
The Seiko Sumo performed brilliantly and doesn’t bat an eye on these things. But it turns out I was actually abusing the watch as its accuracy suffers greatly. I still love it to bits but its lack of accuracy is a deterrent from me using it more frequent. Not to mention that I have other watches with better accuracy in my collection.
The takeaway from all of this is that no automatic watch, no matter how heavily advertised it is for diving or sportiness, can still work well if you wear it for frequent physical activities. In the case of my Sumo, it still works great but the lack of accuracy makes the watch less useful to me currently. I guess it’s time to take it for a service..
Last but not least, my Seiko 5 Worldtimer. This is my first automatic watch that I bought 5 years ago and now it its accuracy had diminished to 30 seconds deviation per day. I did use it as much as possible like my Seiko Sumo but I guess since it’s not a real diver watch, it does not have that robustness built into it.
Coupled with it being a bit left out from my wrist for a few years, its accuracy suffers greatly throughout the time.
All in all, Seiko automatic watches have great accuracy out of box, but how good the accuracy is after few years will depend on how heavy you use them. Not using it for heavy physical activities will definitely lengthen its life and keeps its accuracy in an acceptable range.
Do Seiko Automatic Watches Have Good Quality?
So do Seiko automatic watches have good quality? Without a doubt, my answer is yes, it has good quality. I’ve been a huge fan of them since my first automatic watch (the Seiko 5) and a lot other watch fans think the same.
At first, the mark of quality comes from the exterior of the watch. While the finishing touches depends on the watch’s price, Seiko really did a great job in ensuring their watches have good quality finishing.
But again, there are some kinks here and there such as the famous issue on rotating bezel not aligning perfectly. Notwithstanding those smaller issues, the watch is well-made and really robust for everyday use.
That brings me to my next point, robustness of the watch. As I’ve shared earlier, my Seiko Sumo and Seiko 5 was able to go through a harsh level of use, ranging from normal watch for work, to exercising, swimming, and even jogging. And both of the watches can get through all of these while still intact and working (albeit with some effect on accuracy).
Although the Sumo was perfectly within my expectations, the Seiko 5 was actually quite surprising as it’s able to keep up with the Sumo even though it’s 4 to 5 times cheaper. So yeah, Seiko automatic watches really were built to last!
And if you think they can only make tough watches, then you’re wrong. The Seiko SARB033 that I have showed me just how great their design language is. It’s very simplistic, unassuming, and yet looks really beautiful on wrist. The deep black dial works really well with the polished stainless steel case, for a very handsome watch.
And if you think the SARB033 is too bland and not for you, then check out the Cocktail Time. I’ve recently reviewed the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time and its totally opposite of the SARB033 with gorgeous eye-catching sunburst dial. If you want a watch that grabs attention, then you will really like this Cocktail Time (read here for my full review of the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time).
Seiko Watches Are Great Value For Money? Definitely!
Without a doubt, I definitely agree that Seiko automatic watches are great value for money. Consider this, when all the other Swiss/West brands (the likes of Tissot, Hamilton, Certina, etc.) priced their automatic watches over $500, Seiko manage to sell a lot of automatic watches below that price.
Based on direct comparison of watch to watch, a Seiko watch will cost $100 to $200 less than a comparable Swiss/West automatic watch.
This is mostly due to they are manufacturing in the East with lower labor and material costs. But in the end, it is the customer’s win and I certainly don’t mind where my watches are made lol!
But I also need to highlight that the Swiss watches typically have better material. For instance, a sapphire crystal is a default on most Tissots/Hamiltons that I’ve seen. This is not the case with Seiko as most of their low to low-mid range of automatic watches uses their own Hardlex crystal (an improved mineral crystal) that is not as scratch resistant as sapphire.
But in recent times, I’ve seen that the prices of Seiko watches seems to creep up, presumably as they have known about how popular their watches are among watch fans. I’m all for a higher priced watch if they can justify such price increase but if they only want to profit more, then it’s definitely not something that I will tolerate. Only time will tell on what Seiko will do in future.
What is considered good accuracy for automatic watches? An automatic watch can be said to have good accuracy if it is around +/- 10 seconds per day (read more about automatic watch accuracy in my previous post for more info).
Do automatic watches keep good time? Automatic watch will keep good time if it’s being kept in good condition and its time adjusted for accuracy. But if its being used too hard, then there is a high chance that its accuracy will suffer in the long run.
I hope this article about Seiko automatic watch accuracy is useful to you. If you have any questions or simply want to share your thoughts and experience with your own watches, you’re most welcomed to comment below.
Automatic watch is one of the unique watches available currently thanks to its mechanical timekeeping mechanism. But like all mechanical devices, automatic watch also needs to be serviced.
But how often do we need to service automatic watches? In general, automatic watch needs to be serviced once every 3 to 5 years, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.
While this is a standard guideline, there are some factors which will affect the service interval. In addition, there are also signs that the watch might need servicing even before the interval period. Lastly, we’ll take a look at how much a service will cost and how long a service will take.
Automatic Watch Service Interval
The 3 to 5 years service interval for automatic watches is one of the most recommended guideline out there. Indeed, this falls within most of the watchmakers own guideline of service interval.
Some watchmakers might even have a longer service interval. Most famous is Rolex when it announced that new watches will only need to be serviced once every 10 years! Now that’s definitely a sweet deal as the cost of servicing a Rolex can be quite huge compared to cheaper watches.
Either way, it’s highly recommended for you to check the manual or the retailer on what’s the typical service interval for that specific watch movement or brand. Certainly, you don’t want to be too conservative or too optimistic either.
One of the important thing to remember about service intervals is that it will ensure the watch is running in prime condition. In addition, you also want to avoid the worst case of the watch suddenly broke down which might mean a costlier repair bill in the future.
So what does it mean to service a watch? Servicing a watch means opening up the watch, taking out the movement, cleaning the parts, re-oiling it and then closing the watch. If there’s any broken parts, then the parts will need to be changed.
The service might also include demagnetization of the watch – which is quite important as there are many electronic items around us nowadays. In addition, you can also do adjustment to the movement to improve its accuracy which is something that I’d always recommend.
Other than that, you might also want to polish the watch case and bracelet to pristine condition. It’s very common for a heavily used watch to be damaged here and there so having these polished again is definitely worthwhile.
Factors Affecting Service Interval
There are a few factors affecting service interval with one of them, movement & recommendation by the watch manufacturer, has been stated above.
Without a doubt, sticking to the service interval recommended by the watch manufacturer is the safest bet that you can take in order to protect and keep your watch running perfectly for years.
Not to mention you can avoid costly movement repairs down the road (though this is more applicable to luxury watches and not so much on cheap low-end watches as for the latter, it can be cheaper to just buy a replacement watch rather than repairing it. More about this in the later section).
Another factor that affects service interval is frequency of use, or in other words how frequent you use the watch. If you’re using your automatic watch daily, then chances are by the third year, there is significant wear and tear on the movement’s parts after continuously running for 3 years.
At this point of time, the 3-year recommendation seems valid and a service is perfectly justifiable to keep the watch running in tip-top condition for many more years.
But if you’re someone that have a few watches in his/her collection and cycles through each of them once every few days, then chances are your watches will only be running for a few months in a year.
In this case, by the third year, the wear and tear of your watches is significantly lesser than the watch in the first scenario, and the recommended 3-year service interval is not something that you have to follow. In this case, you can push the service for another year or two.
I’d have to state that this is my opinion and what I’ve been practicing so far. If you look on the internet, there are many peoples with different opinion on when to service their watches. Some say that the oils in the watches will gunk up in 3-5 years irregardless of how frequent you use it.
But for me, I’d definitely try to be on the logical side of things – more so because I don’t want to spend huge amount of money to service all my watches every 3-5 years. I’d prefer to spend money on acquiring new & exotic watches instead (comment below if you agree with me lol!).
Another important factor for service interval is how heavy you use your watches for. For example, it is a good idea to be more conservative and stick to the recommended service interval for the watches that you use for diving, swimming, or any other outdoor activities.
Such activities place huge stress on the watch components so much so there is a high likelihood for some damage to be done on it. Thus, sticking to the 3-5 years service interval might be a good idea for these watches.
In addition, you’re better off with changing the o-rings and gaskets on your dive watches every 2-3 years as these rubber components are easily damaged and deteriorated over time. As these are very important for the water resistance rating of the watch, then keeping it fresh and usable is very important before you use the watch near water.
Signs That Your Automatic Watch Needs Servicing
While the 3-5 years is recommended for service interval, I’d suggest to always be attentive to the performance of your automatic watch.
Part of the charm of automatic watch is it’s very much mechanical in nature, and any change in the components might affect the overall watch behavior, which you can notice just from using the watch day-in and day-out.
Just like a car, you need to be attentive to these things so that you can intervene before its too late.
One such common issue is lack of accuracy. If you suddenly notice that you watch run too fast/slow than it is usually, then it might be a sign to bring it to a watchmaker.
Do keep in mind that a few seconds fast/slow is not a cause for concern, especially if you don’t wear the watch daily. For me, I’d look at lack of accuracy of outside the specifications listed for the movement before coming into the conclusion that a visit to a watchmaker is required (read my previous article here on the accuracy specification on some of the most popular movements currently).
Another sign that your watch needs service is if there’s moisture inside it. In this case, it’s recommended that you run as fast as possible to a watchmaker. Moisture inside a watch is very dangerous as it can wreak havoc and rusting on the mostly steel components.
The watchmaker will need to open up the watch and have it cleaned. Do have him fit new gaskets when closing the watch to keep the moisture from coming back into the watch.
You should also pay attention to your watch’s power reserve. If you notice that the power reserve is very low compared to what it has previously, then that’s definitely a cause for concern – though in this case you’re likely need to replace the mainspring with a new one.
Last but not least, any physical damage to the watch. It’s quite difficult to prevent any scratches on a watch, unless you’ve been keeping it secured in a watch box from day one for investment purposes.
But if you using your watch normally (like me and other people), then scratches on the watch’s case, bracelet & crystal (except for sapphire crystal which is very durable and scratch-resistant) will be unavoidable.
You can bring the watch to a watchmaker and have it polished again to keep it looks new though I personally never do this as my watches are still acceptable aesthetically, bar a few scratches here and there.
How Much Does It Cost To Service An Automatic Watch?
Servicing an automatic watch is not cheap and prices start from $50 to thousands of bucks depending on many factors.
First of all, who is doing the service? A third-party or your independent watchmaker is almost always going to be cheaper than send the watch to the brand. With your local watchmaker, you are only dealing directly with him/her and there’s no shipping cost involved. Sending it to the brand will involve a lot of people along the way and it will usually take longer.
Now, independent watchmakers works well if your watch uses common ETA or Japanese movements. But if you have a higher end or more expensive watches with obscure movement, its advisable to send the watch to the brand.
Not only will you be getting the best expertise in the movement, you will also have access to its official parts as well as official warranty after service.
You can easily get a quote on the brand’s service fee by calling them or dropping an email. Some brands also post their service fee online for ease of reference.
Another big difference between sending the watch to an independent watchmaker or the brand’s service center is in the scope of service. For a brand, most often there is a list of items to be done and their watchmaker will execute it without fail – even though your watch might not even need it.
This is different compared to an independent watchmaker that will only do what is necessary or as required by the watch’s owner. This is another reason why the brand’s service is always more expensive than an independent one (do expect upwards of $100 for brands).
The second factor affecting service cost is the watch movement type. It’s quite logical that a simple 3-hands watch will be easier to be serviced compared to a chronograph with much more components inside it. In this case, the chronograph will have a higher service fee compared to the typical watch.
Another thing to note is the water resistance of your watch. Having water resistance is a great insurance to ensure your watches are always protected from moisture ingress but it will also mean an increase of service costs.
How Long Does It Take To Service A Watch?
Servicing an automatic watch will take a few weeks to months, depending on who is servicing it. Your local independent watchmakers can usually do this in one to few weeks or so, depending on how much workload he has.
As these watchmakers are self-employed, it’s in their best interest to quickly get a service done, hand it over to the owner and collect payment so that they can start working on the next watch.
Although this would mean a faster service, there’s also a likelihood that the service might be rushed and low quality (which is honestly one of the downside for using local watchmakers to service your watch).
For the brand’s service center, the service time might take a few months per service, depending on the brand’s presence nearby you. If you live in a big city with a service center, then you can shave off a few weeks for shipping. But if you’re in a country without a service center, then you will have to wait for the shipping to the regional service center (or even Switzerland!) and that’s going to take a while.
Even so, the service center will usually need a few weeks to do the actual servicing as there are lots of watches being queued for service before yours can be worked on.
Should You Service Your Automatic Watch?
Servicing your automatic watch is not cheap and the decision to do it will depend on what type of watch you have, the price you paid for it and what you intend to do with it in the future.
For example, I don’t think I’m going to service my Seiko 5 watch that I bought for $50 a few years ago because it will cost roughly that much to service it. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly love my Seiko 5 to bits but paying $50 to service it when I can just buy another one just don’t make any sense.
Besides, Seiko’s low-end watches are respectable for being robust and don’t usually need servicing for years.
But if I have a more expensive watches with unique movements (for instance, one of the holy trinity of watch brands), then I will always try to keep with the recommended service interval.
Part of this is because I’m surely going to be keeping the watch either as part of heirloom or as investment in case something goes wrong. Either way, I need to keep the watch in pristine condition so that it will always work perfectly all the time.
Another reason to service is to ensure parts replacements are done as soon as possible before the parts become too hard to find. Sometimes, watchmakers will stop producing parts to their older movements and if you have a watch using it, then you’re in luck trying to find an affordable part.
Thus, keeping to the service interval makes a lot of sense in keeping the parts always maintained and replaced.
How often does a quartz watch need to be serviced? Quartz watch also needs a service but it’s interval is much longer at every 10-years or so. It will also need regular battery change every 1-2 years depending on the battery used. (You can read further about this in my previous article here).
I hope this article about how often to service automatic watch is useful to you. Do let me know if there’re any comments or questions about the article.
While wearing an automatic watch is enjoyable, things are a bit different when you have more than one watch as you can’t wear all of them simultaneously. This is a little problem that I had and this is my realization about this issue.
What happens if you don’t wear your automatic watch? If you don’t wear your automatic watch, the watch will stop running after its power reserve is depleted. Automatic watch depend on either self-winding or manual winding to recharge its power reserve, and without it, it will unwind and stop.
The perception that you have to wear your automatic watch daily is not correct in this time and age as nothing bad will happen to the watch even if you let it stop. You still have to ensure that you store the watch in a proper manner to keep it from any damage. In addition, not wearing the watch often might even prolong the service interval which will help you save some money, if you have a large collection of watches.
Nothing Bad Will Happen If You Let Your Automatic Watch Stop
First of all, I would like to state that nothing bad will happen even if you let your automatic watch stop completely.
The understanding that not wearing your automatic watch will cause it to be damaged is baseless, and a misunderstanding based on the automatic watch of yesteryear.
Back then, automatic watch used animal based oils for its lubricants, just like lubricants in motor engines. The watch parts and gears are moving continuously and the lubricants will help to keep its friction low, increases its longevity and its accuracy.
The problem with animal based oil is it will coagulate if the watch is not running for some time. This posed a problem as the coagulation will cause the watch to be inaccurate, and can even cause the watch to be damaged and requires a complete overhaul of its movement.
In short, coagulating oils are very bad for the watch and this is the origin of the caution to not let your automatic watch stopped for a long time.
But modern automatic watch use synthetic based oils which are more durable and don’t coagulate. Due to this, there is no issue whatsoever in not keeping the watch continuously ticking.
Consider this, watches on the stores are often kept stopped because it will take much effort to always manual wind them daily to keep it running (which can even cause damage on the sensitive winding mechanism). And the watch will sit there for sometime before it’s bought – and guess what, it will run perfectly after it’s owner buy it.
But Some Special Automatic Watches Need To Always Run To Function Properly
But then again, there are some automatic watches with special complications that need to always run or you will pay a price, not in terms of movement damage but in terms of difficulty to set it back.
For moon phase, the phase of the moon varies from day to day and normally, the setting need to be done by setting the watch to the previous full moon date, and then the day & moon phase will be advanced to the current day.
The same setting procedure goes with perpetual calendar watch. This type of watch has complex mechanism that makes the date not have to be changed as it takes care of the leap years.
As you can expect, setting these 2 watches are quite cumbersome to do and these are the types of watches that you don’t want for it to drop dead and stop because then you’ll have to set it all again every time you want to wear it (which will take a few minutes and some referencing with documents to do!)
For these watches, I’d recommend investing in a good watch winder as it will make your life much easier.
How Long Will The Power Reserve Last When You Don’t Wear Automatic Watch?
The power reserve of automatic watches is generally 38 hours to 50 hours of power reserve after fully charged. This will depend on the movement of the watch. Some guidelines on power reserve for the common movements nowadays:
ETA 2824-2 & Sellita SW-200 (common for low-mid range Swiss automatic watches): 38-41 hours.
Seiko 4R36 (found in low end Seiko watches): 41 hours
Seiko 6R15 (found in low-mid range Seiko watches): 50 hours
ETA Powermatic 80 (in some Swatch Group’s brands, denoted by Powermatic 80 in its model name): 80 hours
As you can see from the list above, typically low to mid range of automatic watches have quite low power reserve. I mean, 50 hours is not even enough to lay down my watch on Friday afternoon, and pick it up again on the next Monday morning (spanned about 60 hours).
But the Powermatic 80 movement from ETA is another story. With its huge 80 hours of power reserve, you will be rest assured the convenience of being able to lay down your watch for up to 3 full days and then picking it up with it’s still ticking!
So if you’re one that don’t like to have to set the time of your watch frequently, do be mindful of the power reserve restriction of your watch and plan accordingly =)
How To Store Automatic Watches When You Don’t Use It?
In my opinion, the best way to store an automatic watch is by keeping it in a good storage box or watch box, with the watch strapped on the small watch cushion (just like how you got it from the store).
Laying it down on the desk or drawer is one of the worst ways you can store your watch. It’s fine for a few days but I definitely won’t do that if I don’t intend to wear that watch again for sometime.
Automatic watches are delicate, and keeping it properly will ensure the longevity of this timepiece. In addition, it’s more expensive than normal quartz watches and you really should exercise some caution as it’s a favorite thing for thieves.
By the way, do make sure that the watch is also away from moisture (you can put silica gel inside the box to suck all moisture), sunlight and electronic items which could magnetize the watch.
How often should you wear your automatic watch? Personally, I try to wear each one of my watches once in two or three weeks. The longest that I’ve went without wearing one of them is about 1 month.
The reason is that I personally love my watches and want to enjoy them as much as I could (or else I could have just sold them and buy new ones lol!).
Another reason is that I want to get the movement ticking and running. Even though it’s perfectly okay to let the watch stop, I still want to keep it running for few days once in a while just to ensure nothing is wrong with it.
Automatic watches are like cars and you just can’t be too sure about it. At least, if I noticed something wrong with it, I can bring it for repair sooner before the problem or damage become worse.
It surely takes some discipline to do this because undoubtedly, you will have your favorite watch that you always wear either due to style, convenience or just how it feels on your wrist.
What I certainly won’t do is to continuously changing my watches every day. I’ve been guilty of it in the past, thinking that I should wear all of them once every 1-2 weeks.
While it’s cool to wear different watches every day. the extra effort needed to set the watch’s time, day and date every day took a toll on me. Honestly, it’s time-consuming and something that I will never recommend to anyone.
Not Wearing It Often Might Even Prolong Your Service Interval
A great reason why you should not wear your watches often or daily is it can prolong your service interval.
Automatic watches usually needed to be serviced every 3-5 years, depending on the movement and brand. While this service is not compulsory, it’s useful in keeping the watch running in pristine condition, as well as checking on any damage on the watch. This way, you will be sure to have an automatic watch that can be passed to your grandson.
But servicing the watch comes at a cost, which will go higher depending on the price of your watch. In addition, you might even need to pay more for the shipping costs to ship your watch to the manufacturer’s watchmaker site.
And if that’s the case, you will not be able to wear that watch for weeks at a time. By the way, this cost will be multiplied by the amount of watches you have in your collection!
One thing that I’ve learned is that the recommendation of 3-5 years is usually based on the scenario when you used your watch daily.
So if you’re not wearing it often, the service interval can be prolonged. This is because when you don’t wear it daily, the watch will not run every day. There will be less cumulative stress on the movement over time so much so servicing the watch at 3-5 years might be too conservative and overkill.
And the final effect? You can save some money by increasing your service interval on your watches =)
What Is Watch Winder? Watch winder is a device that self-winds automatic watches by mimicking wrist movement through rotating it. It’s a simple motor connected to a watch holder, and is usually made to be a glamorous watch box. A good watch winder need to be able to set the direction of winding, the speed of winding and has shield to not magnetize the watch when in used.
Should you wind an automatic watch? You should wind automatic watch once in a while to wind the mainspring to full capacity. Most often that not, normal self-winding mechanism by wrist movement is not enough to wind the mainspring to full. This has the effect of reducing the watch’s accuracy as automatic watch is most accurate when it’s power reserve is full.
I hope this article on what happens if you don’t wear your automatic watch is beneficial to you. Do let me know what you think about it or any questions on it by commenting below.
One of the most common questions regarding automatic watches is the accuracy. It’s a question that I also have for some time and here I’d like to share what I’ve found out about it.
So what is considered a good accuracy for an automatic watch? A commonly acceptable good accuracy for an automatic watch is around +/- 10 seconds per day, although this will vary depending on few factors.
As you will see later on, each watch manufacturers have their own published specification for accuracy depending on the movement which is the range of accuracy that you should expect to get. In addition, there are some usage patterns that can affect the accuracy of our watches.
Automatic Watch Should Be Accurate To The Manufacturers Specification
I’ve arrived at the “good accuracy” value of +/- 10 seconds per day rate based on my own personal experience as well as many other automatic watch users.
(It should be noted that accuracy rate is usually calculated as the average rate of accuracy over few days)
In my opinion, the +/-10 seconds per day accuracy limit is a good benchmark for real life use. To put this in perspective, the +/-10 seconds per day corresponds to 0.011% inaccuracy over the span of a day – which is still quite good in my opinion.
This will correspond to about maximum +/-70 seconds per week, which means you will need to adjust your watch every 1 or 2 weeks, depending on how accurate you want it to be to the real time.
Without a doubt, you don’t want to have to set your time again more than once per week – that’s just too cumbersome even though I love to interact with my watches.
While this is just a good guideline, the actual accuracy range depends on the movement itself. Some movement can have small tolerance while others (the Japanese usually) can have a bit of large accuracy tolerance.
Below are the published maximum accuracy of some of the most popular automatic movements out there:
Seiko 7S26 (inside the SKX ranges of watches): +49/-20 seconds per day
Seiko 4R36 (inside latest Seiko low-mid range of watches): +45/-35 seconds per day
Seiko 6R15 (inside Seiko mid-range of watches): +25/-15 seconds per day
Orient F6922 (inside latest Orient watches e.g Mako/Ray II): +25/-15 seconds per day
ETA 2824-2 (most commonly used movement in Swiss low-mid range of watches): +/-12 seconds per day
Sellita SW-200 (ETA 2824-2 doppelganger and used in Swiss low-mid range): +/-12 seconds per day
As you can see from above, the published accuracy range for most movements non-chronometer is usually very large. This is because most of these movements are mass market movements and the manufacturers would like to play it safe with their published accuracy.
But real life accuracy shows that most of these modern movements can perform way better. In my own watches, the out of box accuracy is lesser than +/- 10 seconds per day.
(You can read my previous posts about my Seiko SARB033, Sumo and SKX013 for some of the accuracy tests that I’ve done on the watches)
Why Are There Accuracy Differences Between Movements?
From the above list, we can see there is a huge difference between Japanese-made and Swiss-made movements.
The Japanese (Seiko and Orient) typically have upwards of 20 seconds per day accuracy limit while the Swiss (ETA and Sellita) is much lower at just +/- 12 seconds per day.
One of the biggest reasons for this is in the beat rate of the watch movements.
The Japanese movements have a low beat rate of 6 beats per second (21,600 vibrations per hour) while the Swiss movements (ETA 2824 and SW-200) have a higher beat rate at 8 beats per second (28,800 vibrations per hour).
With a higher beat rate, the movement will have a higher accuracy tolerance as the high beat rate will be able to iron out any discrepancies in the timekeeping from the balance wheel better.
Another example is in the Seiko 9S85 hi-beat movement with 10 beats per second. This upper range of movement has a great accuracy of just +5/-3 seconds per day, a great testament to how beat rate affects accuracy.
In the past, watchmakers were in the race to produce the highest beat rate movements in order to improve accuracy (some even up to 16 beats per second). But such high beat rate will take a huge amount of power reserve because of the increases times the parts are moving, so much so it’s only reserved for some of the more expensive watches.
Material quality and movement design also play a huge part in terms of accuracy.
For example, a typical Swiss ETA 2824-2 comes in 4 variations (standard, elabore/special, top/premium & chronometer – in order of higher accuracy and price). The higher end variations comes with better balance wheel material to give a higher accuracy.
In addition to this, some watches also are adjusted in the factory before being shipped. This is usually applicable to the COSC chronometer watches which need to be tested by the COSC institute with a limit of average rate of -4/+6 seconds per day.
As such, the chronometer watches will be adjusted by their watchmakers before being sent to be tested. Once it passed, a certificate will be issued with the watch to its prospective owner. As far as accuracy in automatic watches goes, these chronometers sits at the top of the pyramid.
Adjustment or lack of adjustment is also one of the reasons why most Japanese movements have such huge range of published accuracy. Adjusting each watches prior to shipment takes a lot of time and effort, and is not feasible for Seiko and Orient to do as they placed affordability as their key value proposition.
Why Does My Automatic Watch Run Fast/Slow? Here Are Some Usage Patterns That Affect Accuracy
Do you have a problem with automatic watch run fast or slow? Automatic watch run fast or slow can be attributed to many factors such as temperature, magnetism, lack of service or even damage to the movement.
Automatic watch is made of more than a hundred of small minute parts which are moving concurrently to tell time. With such a complicated and delicate device, any factor that can affect its smooth operation will be affecting its accuracy.
For example, as the watch parts are made of metal, temperature swings will play a huge role in its operation. Metal will expand at high temperature (anything above 40 degrees Celsius, such as in Sahara desert) and will contract at low temperatures.
It’s quite typical for an automatic watch to lose time at high temperatures and gain time at low temperatures due to its metallurgical properties.
Magnetism will also cause inaccuracies. This is why you should not place your automatic watch near to a strong magnet or any electronic objects (beware of your computer and smartphone). The strong magnets can affect the metal parts and magnetize it, causing disruption in accuracy.
Lack of service is also another culprit. For Swiss watches, consider sending it to be serviced every 3-5 years to keep it running optimally. While Japanese movements are generally more robust and require longer service time, it will also be subjected to reduced accuracy if not being serviced for a long period of time.
One of the things that you can do to get a better accuracy is to keep track of the position of your watch. Automatic watch is greatly affected by gravity and the placement of it (either dial up, down, worn in right or left hand) will have effect on its accuracy.
What you can do is to see how the accuracy changes depending on position of your watch at rest (do you put the dial up or down?). Then try to change it and see how it goes. As the accuracy of the watch is an average for the whole day, you can rest your watch so that it will cancel out the loss/gain time when you wear it.
Last but not least, any damage to the movement due to sports or sudden impact can impact its accuracy.
What Should You Do If Your Watch Accuracy Is Faster/Slower Than The Acceptable Limit?
One of the first things that you can do to rectify your watch’s accuracy is to manual wind it. It’s important to know that the accuracy of the watch is the best when it has high energy supply from its mainspring. From my own experience, manual winding my watches will give an immediate improvement in accuracy which is why I’m recommending this first.
With a high power reserve, the mainspring is tight and this will translate to a high driving force along the gears and movement. And one of the best ways to top up your power reserve to full is by manually winding it.
But if you don’t notice any improvement, then you can bring it to a watchmaker to have a look. If the watch is still not due for service and there is no sign of damage whatsoever, then you can ask to have your watch adjusted to your desired accuracy.
One thing that you should mention to your watchmaker is how you usually wear your watch and store it e.g on right hand, dial up on the desk at night, for how many days you usually wear the watch. This will enable the watchmaker to adjust the watch specifically for your needs which will give a much higher accuracy over time.
Do all automatic watches lose or gain time? All automatic watches gain or lose time over their entire life due to the inaccuracies in-built within the mechanical movement.
How to check watch accuracy? Watch accuracy can be checked either by manually comparing the watch time with atomic time, using an app or using a timegrapher. I’ve also written an entire article regarding this topic if you want to know more about it.
I hope this article about what is considered a good accuracy for an automatic watch will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if you have any other questions regarding this topic.