8 Common Problems With Automatic Watch And How To Solve It

8 Common Problems with Automatic watch

Problems With Your Automatic Watch? What’s The Cause And How To Solve It?

If you are unlucky, you might encounter some problems with your automatic or mechanical watches.

Depending on the severity, the steps to correct it will differ. Some of them can be severe that require a full service while some of the minor problems can be resolved by yourselves.

Here, I’ve listed some of the common problems with automatic watches, what causes these problems and how to solve them.

 

Table of Content (Click the subtitle to go directly to the section):

  1. Automatic Watch Stopped Working While Wearing It
  2. Automatic Watch Stopped Working After Taking It Off / Power Reserve Problem
  3. Automatic Watch Stopped Working After Dropping It
  4. Automatic Watch Running Slow Or Fast
  5. Fogging Inside Watch
  6. Minute Hand And Second Hand Not Perfectly Aligned
  7. Automatic Watch Not Winding
  8. Date/Day Display Don’t Change At The Right Time

 

Seiko SARB033 worn

As great as they are, automatic watches are not free of problems. By having some knowledge about what we should and shouldn’t do to it, we will be able to avoid costly repairs. (shown above is the gorgeous Seiko SARB033)

 

1- Automatic Watch Stopped Working While Wearing It

Ever having problem with your watch stopped working while wearing it? If its a quartz watch then most probably the battery is dead but automatic watches don’t have any battery and supposed to be powered by your movement right?

Well you are correct but there are some reasons why a watch can go dead. There are 3 common causes of why an automatic watch can stop working:

 

Cause 1 – Not Enough Power Reserve

Something that most people don’t know it the watch might not have enough power reserve even though you are wearing it regularly.

But aren’t automatic watches are recharged by wrist movement?

The reason is because you are not active enough to wind the mainspring fully.

Try this: take a watch with an exhibition caseback and shake it to see whether the self-winding rotor rotates or not. It is easy for the rotor to moves?

Some watches can have a very smooth rotor that rotates lively even with a slight movement. But some watches have rotor that requires more effort for it to rotate.

Due to this, just wearing your automatic watch to office might not be enough to wind it fully. Consider wearing your watch when you are jogging, swimming or going to gym (if your watch is a sports watch.

Don’t do this with a dress watch though. You don’t want to scratch that pretty thing lol).

Another method that I like and personally use is to manually wind your watch once a while. This will make sure the watch has full power reserve as just wearing it might not be able to recharge it fully.

Just be careful to not over-wind it or wind it too often as you might break the delicate parts inside.

 


A video showing how to wind an automatic watch. Shown in the video is the gorgeous Rolex Submariner

Cause 2 – Magnetic fields

Exposing your watch to strong magnets such as in speakers, fridges, etc will magnetized the steels inside your watch.

The result?

The small steel components inside your watch will tend to stick to each other or repelling each other (depending on the pole) and reducing accuracy of the watch (the watch will run slower or faster).

But for extreme case of magnetization, the watch will completely stop. Bring you watch to a watch maker to check for magnetization and then demagnetize the watch.

 

Cause 3 – Serious Problems With The Movement

If your watch still stops even though you wind it everyday and no magnetization is known, then there could be a serious issue with your watch’s movement. Bring the watch to a watch maker and let him check the watch for any problem and servicing.

If the watch is still under warranty, you can bring it to the seller for inspection or replacement. Bear in mind that full servicing can cost some money depending on the watch make and severity.

Popular and affordable movements such as Swatch ETA, Seiko and Orient movements are easier to be serviced by just about any competent watchmaker. Costs of parts are also cheaper for these.

But if you have a unique in-house movement by luxury or independent brands, then the official service center is the most recommended avenue. I certainly won’t trust my $10k Rolex on any normal watch shop…. you get what I mean right? =P

 

(Read also the 10 Best Affordable Automatic Watches Under $200 – who said that automatic watches need to be expensive?)

 

2- Automatic Watch Stopped Working After Taking It Off / Power Reserve Problem

You wear your watch for some time, then put it off and when you want to wear it back, it is dead? How could this happen?

The reasons for this to happen are exactly the same as the first problem above i.e lack of power reserve (you can refer above for its causes and solutions). Another thing to note is the power reserve of you watch.

 

Orient Star Retrograde

If you are paranoid about your watch’s power reserve, then get one with a power reserve indicator like this Orient Star Retrograde. As you can see, the top subdial displays its remaining power reserve which is really handy

 

Even though your watch’s movement might have 40 or 50 hours of power reserve, the watch might stop working even before that.

Why is this so?

One thing that we need to know is the power reserve of any automatic is the time for the watch to stop working after it’s been recharged to full capacity.

As I’ve stated above, usually, wearing it for a day (normal 10 to 12 hours on the wrist) will not be enough to charge the watch to full.

Not to mention most watches don’t have power reserve indicator which can be a huge help in telling the power reserve capacity at any moment.

In fact, most experience owners state that the remaining power reserve of the watch is about 2 or 3 times the last duration we wear it.

So for example, if I’m wearing my watch for 12 working hours today, it will tick for 24 to 36 hours after I put it down. 

 

What should we do then?

For me, I’ve always manual/hand-wind my auto watches before I use them. A few turns (15-20) is enough to start the movement and then I just wear it.

The key is to NOT only depend on the self-winding of the movement. As mentioned above, the rotor movement might not be sufficient especially if you’re working a desk job without many wrist movements.

In addition, this will keep the accuracy high as the watch has more juice in it.

What if I’ve tried that but it didn’t work!

Then there could be a bigger problem in the watch. Try to handwind it for 40-50 crown rotations and lay the watch down. This will make the mainspring full of power reserve.

Keep record of what elapsed hour the watch stops. If it’s less than the published power reserve for that movement, there could be a problem with the movement itself.

At this point, we should bring it to a watchmaker for him to have a look at it. Depending on the case, we might only need a servicing, cleaning, or a change of the mainspring.

CHIYODA Double Watch WinderCHIYODA Double Watch Winder

By the way, it might also be a good idea to invest in a  watch winder which is a great alternative for those that don’t want to have to reset or handwind their watches before they use it.

The watch winder functions by rotating the watch via a motor. Just place the watch inside the winder’s slot and plug it in.

It will then rotate the watch, and the self-winding rotor inside it to charge the power reserve.

The watch winder is a great way to ensure the power reserve is still full without us having to do anything. It also prevent from issues due to winding (which can happen to some ETA movements).

By the way, did I mention the watch winders can also be a nice storage box for your watches? =)

 

I like to also add that the Sistem51 movement by Swatch boasts a 90 hours power reserve. For those that don’t want to spend on a winder or just want a watch with great power reserve, you might want to check the Sistem51 watches.

 

3- Automatic Watch Stopped Working After Dropping It

This cause is easier to understand. You drop the watch, it get into a sudden impact and suddenly it goes dead. Well chances are your watch might have some internal damage in it.

The inside of an automatic or mechanical watch is made of hundreds of parts that work seamlessly to run the watch. These parts can be as small as 1 mm in thickness or diameter. Any sudden impact could put these parts out of place or worse, even break them.

The part that are more prone to impact damage is the balance wheel. The pivot/staff of the wheel balance is a very critical part because it holds the weight of the balance wheel which is continuously moving at a high speed.

 

Seiko SARB017 Alpinist Diashock

This Seiko SARB017 (or Alpinist) has a built in shock resistance system developed by Seiko – i.e Diashock – to protect its balance wheel jewel from severe impact damage. All good outdoor or diver’s watches should always have this to protect it from costly repairs

 

Most damages due to impact is because of broken wheel balance pivot and/or its jewel.

If your watch stopped working after dropping it, try hear if there is any sound in the watch to know whether your balance wheel is functioning or not.

If your watch has exhibition caseback, you can just confirm this by looking directly at the balance wheel to spot anything wrong with it. The only solution is to bring the watch to a watch maker for a repair.

Some shock protection system has been designed to protect automatic/mechanical watches from impact damage, specifically the jewel.

Incabloc (from Swiss), Diashock (Seiko) and Parashock (Citizen) are some of the shock protection systems that have been devised by watch companies. All of them have some sort of spring at the jewel pivot of the balance wheel to protect it from impact force.

If you are a rough person that tends to get his watches damaged this way, you might wanna check out those watches with a shock protection system in them.

 

balance-wheel

Balance wheel is the part inside an automatic watch which is most prone to impact damage

 

4- Automatic Watch Running Slow Or Fast

Automatic and mechanical watches will always run slow or fast after some time. The most accurate watches are the COSC certified chronometers that can have a -4 or +6 seconds per day accuracy.

Other watches can have a lesser accuracy than this and you have to check the official numbers by your watch manufacturer. But generally the accuracy values is within +/-25 seconds a day for a low end range of automatic watches.

If your watch have a lesser accuracy than this then this indicates a problem with your watch. There are 5 reasons why automatic watches will run slower or faster than acceptable accuracy:

 

Cause 1 – Not Enough Power Reserve

Accuracy of a movement is tracked at maximum power reserve, after a watch has been fully wound. If a watch is not fully wound (or power starved), then the accuracy will be slightly lesser than what your watch manufacturer advertised.

Try to at least wind it once a while for it to have a full power reserve. You will notice a difference with the accuracy compared to when the watch just relied on wrist movement.

 

Cause 2 – Temperature

Another important thing that most people don’t know is that your watch have different accuracy in different temperatures.

Too hot (more than 38 degrees Celsius) or too cold (less than 15 degrees Celsius) will affect the metal parts inside the watch. Steel will expand at high temperature while contracting when it’s too cold. Coldness can also affect the lubricants inside the watch.

Most of the times it’s the coldness that affect the accuracy since it will take a very high temperature to make a difference – not all of us live in scorching hot desert.

But coldness especially during winter can change how the watch behave. It will run slower a bit if exposed to cold weather and might have shorten power reserve. But the effect of coldness will not be apparent if you are wearing the watch though as our body temperature will heat the watch up.

 

Cause 3 – Position

Watch movements accuracy is highly affected by the balance wheel and escapement. These systems can be affected by the position of the watch due to gravity. Examples of watch positions is flat with dial/watch face looking up, dial down, vertical positions with different locations of crown.

As you can suggest, the dial up or down is basically when you put the watch on a table/closet after wearing it during the day. The vertical positions are during wearing the watch.

During each of these positions, the effect of gravity will cause the balance wheel to have a slight change in movement causing some inconsistency. Most watches are most accurate at one or two of these positions.

When you put the watch at other positions, the accuracy will suffer. This is the main reason why chronometer is highly sought after – they are designed and adjusted to be accurate for all positions.

My suggestion is to keep track of what position your watch is most accurate and what position it isn’t. You can use apps to help with this. Just search for watch accuracy in appstore/playstore.

Normally these apps will have you set the watch to accurate time in the beginning and then you can record the time at intervals and it will report the accuracy in seconds per day. By doing this, you will know what position your watch is most accurate and use it consciously.

 

Cause 4 – Magnetism

As stated above, magnetism of watch can greatly reduce accuracy. It’s highly recommended to avoid placing your watch next to any digital or electronic devices to avoid magnetism.

 

Case 5 – Due For Service

Just like a car, automatic and mechanical watches also need to be serviced after some time based on manufacturer’s recommendation. This is one of the biggest flaw of automatic watches versus quartz watches.

Because of the high number of moving parts inside it, automatic watches need to be serviced to keep the movement well oiled and also to adjust the balance wheel and escapement. Generally, 3 to 5 years are the normal service interval. Don’t skip this if you want to keep that watch as heirloom for your grandson =)

 

(Read also the 30 Best Automatic Watches Under $1,000)

 

5- Fogging Inside Watch

Some watches especially dive watches has screw down crown for added protection. The dial window and caseback is easily guarded from water ingress by gasket and seals.

Since the crown is used for manual winding and setting the time, it has a staff that is connected to the movement inside the watch. The small gap between the staff and the casing is the perfect place where water can get in.

Screw down crown solves this problem by screwing the crown into the case, and eliminating any possible gaps between them.

 

seiko-skx009-screw-down-crown

Shown above is the Seiko SKX009 with its crown unscrewed. Remember that screw down crowns MUST ALWAYS be screwed properly at all times even when storing the watch – except when using the crown of course.

 

But it has to be reminded that the screw down crown must always be screwed in tightly when you are using the watch for any activity especially swimming or diving. The crown must not be operated while underwater for, well.. the reason is obvious right.

It is also recommended to get your dive watch to be tested for water resistance after a few years. It is worried that the gasket and seals of the watch has already worn out.

If you are a serious diver, then it is very important to ensure your watch is always in perfect water resistance condition to avoid any unwanted problems.

 

6- Minute Hand And Second Hand Not Perfectly Aligned

A common issue with automatic watches is the minute hand and second hand are not perfectly aligned.

For example, when the second hand is at the 12 o’clock position, the minute hand is not perfectly on top of any minute marker.

 

Sumo SBDC003 hands not aligned

An example of how not setting the time correctly can cause the minute hand not sitting directly on the minute marker when the second hand is at 12 o’clock. By the way, there’s no problem with the watch and this can be fixed easily.

 

This is caused by improper setting of the time when first bringing the watch from stop.

To be honest, this does not mean there’s any problem with the watch. The watch is running fine but to people with a keen eye for detail, this is not acceptable.

Personally, I also don’t like this, but not because it doesn’t look nice. For me, a watch need to be easy to tell and having a non-perfectly aligned minute hand makes the time telling unusual and weird.

So what do I do to avoid this problem?

I’ll stop the second hand exactly at the 12 o’clock position and then move the minute hand to be perfectly on top of the minute marker.

While this is easy to do with a hacking movement, it’s a bit more difficult with a non-hacking movement (such as the 7S26 inside Seiko’s SKX watches).

For those movements, we need to be more precise as the second hand does not stop. So the moving of the minute hand need to be on-point when the second hand passes the 12 o’clock.

 

7- Automatic Watch Not Winding

If you feel there’s a problem with the hand-winding function, try to let the watch stop on its own.

Then pick it up and give it some hand-winding. The watch should start after a few turn of winding the crown. If it isn’t, this means there’s a problem with the movement and a visit to your watchmaker is need to resolve it.

 

8- Date/Day Display Don’t Change At The Right Time

A common issue that I’ve personally faced is the date and day indicator don’t change correctly.

I’m sure those using analog watches with either one of this feature will experience the date/day suddenly change around noon.

The only reason for this is incorrect setting of the day/date.

We need to remember that automatic watch is not like an electronic watch. It does not know the current time (i.e am or pm). Which is why the day/date will simply change once the hour hand completes 2 rotations (or 24 hours).

So what’s the correct way of setting the day and date display?

Below is the step by step guide on how I change my date/day display on my watches:

  1. When first picking up the watch, move the time until the hour hand is at 12:00. See if the day/date change or not.
  2. If the day/date change – means the watch just enters AM mode
  3. If the day/date does not change – means the watch just enters PM mode
  4. From there, you can set the time according to your current time.
  5. For example: if you move the hour hand to 12:00 > day/date change means the watch just enters AM mode > but you’re in the afternoon > move the hour hand a full rotation (12 hours) to enter PM mode > then set time and day/date.

 

[UPDATE]

Currently I don’t use the method above when setting my watches and prefer another method. Below are the steps of this method:

  1. Change the date and day to ONE day before the current day. E.g if today is May 15 Sunday, then we need to change the date to 14 and the day to Saturday.
  2. Move the time needle to 12:00 and notice the change in date/day window.
  3. If there is no change, that means the watch’s internal time is in PM mode. Another rotation of the watch will change it into AM time of the current day. We can adjust accordingly from here.
  4. If the day/date change, it means the watch just enter today’s time in AM mode. Again, we need to adjust the watch accordingly.


Watch the video about for the summary of the common problems with automatic watch

 

End Thoughts

Automatic/mechanical watches are a delicate piece of engineering and should always be treated delicately. Not to mention they cost way more than normal quartz watches. So I’d put them as the fancy sports car – expensive but have to be properly taken care off lol!

Thus, it is important for all automatic watch owners to know what can be done and what cannot be done to prevent from any unwanted and costly problems to their prized watches.

Do let me know if you need any assistance with the problems above. I’ll try my best to help you out.

 

 

I hope that you guys will find this post beneficial to you. Let me know if you have any comments or thoughts on this matter.

Don’t forget to share this article if you like it =)

Till next time. Cheers!

Isaac

Automatic Vs Quartz Watch Movements : Which Is The Right One For You?

Automatic Vs Quartz Watch Movements

Automatic Vs Quartz Watch Movements Infographic

 

In recent times, the advent of smartwatches have brought new attention to the watch world. But prior to these new technology-filled watches, watches were divided into only 2 major categories: automatic and quartz.

Well, that’s quite a summary because as I’ve written before, watches can even be divided into 20 types.

While that list consists of all things that made up a watch (movement, style and function), the majority of people only relate to what type of movement a watch has, and for that, the automatic and quartz movements are the most commonly used and known.

For simplicity, I’ve grouped the automatic and mechanical movements together because they are basically the same, with the difference of the self-winding capability of the automatic movement.

So are you ready to know about the difference between these the automatic and quartz watches? Let’s find out!

 

Differences Between Automatic And Quartz Watches

(I’ve written some detail posts about automatic watches and how automatic watches work. You can have a read of those posts by clicking the links for the detail stuffs)

 

Automatic and quartz watches differs by the way it keeps time. What this means is how the movement mechanism inside it, or in other words, how it track one second.

To turn the clock through the seconds, minutes and hours is very simple and can easily be achieved by gears.

But how to make sure the second hand on the watch dial/face moves precisely one second and corresponds exactly to one second in real world?

This is where automatic and quartz watch differs. Automatic watches uses mechanical parts (balance wheel and escapement set to be precise) to keep track of time while quartz watches uses quartz crystal oscillation which is powered by electricity.

Automatic Watch = Mechanical Parts, Quartz Watch= Electricity Driven

Automatic watch has been around for more than a century. So as you can guess, there’s no electricity back then. How do the watches at that time function then?

It’s due to the use of springs. Inside all automatic watch, there’s a mainspring that is wound tightly to contain potential energy. This spring is then released slowly (by un-wounding itself) to move the gears inside the watch.

 

Advantage of Automatic movement

An example of an automatic/mechanical movement. You can see how it’s actually consisted of  many small parts inside it and run entirely by kinetic and potential energy

 

The timekeeping is controlled by the wheel balance and escapement that ensures the watch speed is not too slow or too fast.

 

(Read my detailed explanation on how automatic watch works for more info)

 

Quartz watch on the other hand was invented in the 1960s. It uses a quartz crystal that vibrates swiftly when subjected to electric current to keep track of time.

The integrated circuit in the watch then detects the frequency of the vibration and then consequently assign the motor to move one second based on the vibration.

The usage of high frequency quartz crystal ensures the higher accuracy of the watch (+-15 seconds deviation per month) as compared to the older automatic watch (+- 15 seconds per day).

 

advantage Quartz movement

Above is an example of a quartz movement. It’s much smaller than its automatic counterpart which contributed to its lightweight and slim profile

 

Surely, the newer quartz watch movement has higher accuracy (well, that’s the main reason why it’s being invented in the first place) but this does not mean automatic watch is not without any advantage.

 

Automatic Vs Quartz Watch Movements

If you’re new to the world of watches, or just want to buy one for yourselves or as a gift, I believe it’s fairly important for you to know the pros and cons of both automatic and quartz watches.

That way, you can make a better decision on what type of watch you REALLY need to get, as opposed to buying based on marketing campaign or word of mouth.

In this section, I’ve listed out the advantages and disadvantages of both automatic and quartz watch movements so that you’ll have an idea of what to expect from both.

 

Automatic Watch Movement
Advantage Disadvantage
Does Not Need A Battery To Function Lower Accuracy
Sweeping Second Hand More Expensive Than Quartz
Unique Characteristics of Automatic Movement Typically Bigger and Heavier
Different Than The Digital World Around Us Most Automatic Watches Have Low Power Reserve
Generally More Beautiful Than Quartz Watch
Quartz Watch Movement
Advantage Disadvantage
Much Cheaper To Get Need Battery To Operate
Very Accurate Ticking Second Hand
Slim And Light

 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Automatic Watches

Let’s see the detail explanation for the pros and cons of an automatic watch.

Advantages Of Automatic Watches:

 

1- Does Not Need A Battery To Function

Automatic watches are self-winding and does not need a battery to run like quartz watch. The mainspring (equal to battery) in automatic watches is recharged by the movement of our wrist while wearing it.

The trick is in the rotating semi-circular rotor at the back of the watch. As the watch moves (either while strapped to our wrist or while being shaken) the rotor will freely rotates.

Subsequently, this tighten the mainspring further, increases it’s potential energy and power reserve.

In addition, we can also manually wind the watch by rotating the crown.

As someone who had used a quartz watch before, I know how inconvenient it is to suddenly realized your watch was dead without any warning whatsoever.

It’s more frustrating when you’re in a busy day working to catch that deadline or important meeting. A dead watch can totally jeopardize this by giving a wrong time to us. Totally troublesome!

With an automatic watch, this is no longer a problem as the power reserve is replenished with your every use.

Just make sure to give a good manual wind every now and then to keep the power reserve at full. No more surprises of a dead watch =)

 


An excellent video showing the difference in the second hands of quartz watch (left) and automatic watch (right)

 

2- Sweeping Second Hand

One thing that automatic watch has that is hard to be replicated in a quartz watch is the sweeping second hand.

This is the unique characteristic of the automatic movement, by virtue of the balance wheel and escapement set.

The quick movement of these parts causes the fluid and smooth movement of the second hand as compared to the jerky tick-tick action of quartz’s second hand.

The sweeping action is actually not that different from the tick-tick action. It’s just that the second hand moves at a high rate, up from 6 beats per second (meaning in one second the hand “jumps” 6 times).

Because of this, the second hand appears to be moving smoothly though if you look at it closely, you’ll notice the minute movements.

There are also automatic watches that have 8 beats per second and even higher than that. The higher beats per second movement will gives a much smoother second hand action as it’s moving at a faster rate.

This cannot be seen in a normal quartz watch due to design. Should a quartz watch make this feature (which is possible), the battery will deplete quickly because of the amount of electricity needed.

I should also add that in recent times, there are also quartz watches that have been designed to reproduce the same sweeping second hand such as the Bulova Precisionist that has a 16 beats per second sweeping second hand.

It’s possible for a quartz watch to have this feature but it’s definitely a rarity and not common.

 

A battle of sweeping second hand between a Rolex Datejust (automatic watch, left) and Bulova Precisionist (quartz, right). The Bulova is a quartz with a special movement that can produce the sweeping second hand and have an amazing accuracy – at a few seconds per YEAR

 

3- Unique Characteristics Of Automatic Watches

Another advantage of the unique characteristics of an automatic watch. First of all, it is a heritage brought by century old of innovation.

Out of touch with recent technological advancements? Perhaps. But no one can deny how these little mechanical watches have a huge attraction to it for being what it is – an elegant timepiece brought to life by no more than moving pieces of steels.

The mechanical things inside this watch is something that is very different and refreshing. Not to mention that most of automatic watches are assembled by hand (with the exception of mass produced Swatch Sistem51 and Sistem51 Irony).

This is very different that quartz watches that are mostly assembled by robots.

Seiko SARB033, one of the most gorgeous automatic watch I’ve ever seen. Seen to the right is the exhibition caseback showing its Seiko 6R15 movement caliber.

 

Some automatic watches also has an exhibition caseback (such as these Seiko SARB033 and Hamilton Khaki King) which shows the beautiful mechanical parts moving around.

It’s totally beautiful and magnificent to look at. You will always wonder how the watchmaker actually make those tiny parts and assemble them together into a fully functioning watch. This is definitely not available even it the highest end of quartz watches =p

victorinox-infantry-vintage2-2

Victorinox Swiss Army Infantry Chronograph is one example of how an automatic watch is able to be a stopwatch. Without a doubt, a quartz watch can be a better stopwatch but the mechanical precision and detail needed to make an automatic chronograph is simply stunning.

 

One more unique characteristic of automatic watches is the complications. It is basically extra functions the watch can perform such as showing day/date, moon watch, chronograph/stop watch, perpetual calendar, even chiming the time.

With every extra thing the watch can perform besides just showing time the more complex the mechanism will be – thus the name “complication”.

A quartz watch can easily achieve all of these for sure but the electronics of it just don’t have the same awesomeness as this.

 

(Check out these long list of the 30 best automatic watches under $1,000 to $200 that you’ll absolutely love)

 

4- Different Than The Digital World Around Us

Another advantage that automatic watch has is how it’s totally different than the current digital world that we’re living in.

Almost all parts of our lives are in digital: our computers where you read this blog, our smartphones where adults stare almost 3 hours everyday, our cars, television, etc.

Basically everything around us is in digital format, one way or the other.

Thus, the mechanical parts of automatic watch is a breath of fresh air as it does not depend on any digital or electronics to run with.

Personally, I feel that my automatic watch gives me a good place to de-stress after hours of working on my computer. Sometimes, you just need something different to prevent accumulating stresses from our everyday lives.

And if you’re afraid of any apocalypse scenario where no digital/electric stuffs work anymore, the automatic watch might be a good backup – just in case =)

 

5- Generally More Beautiful Than Quartz Watch

Just look at the most beautiful watch and you’ll surely notice that most (if not all) are automatic.

I’m not really sure why this is so but if I’m going to take a guess, I believe it has to do with the manufacturing process of automatic watches itself.

For lower priced automatic watches, it’s possible that the manufacturing will involves mass production.

But for higher grade timepieces with superior movements, it’s almost certain that it will be assembled by hand.

Since its cost is higher due to the hand assembly, it’s only logical for the design, ornamental and aesthetic of the watch to be of a high level so that the company can market it for a higher price.

Sure, there’s also beautiful watches with quartz movements, especially the ladies’ watches because of the need to keep it small.

But if we’re talking about men’s watches, dressy automatic watches with beautiful dials are the norm.

And if you’re thinking of using a watch to complete your style, an automatic might just be what you need.

 

(Read also the 10 Best Automatic Watches Under $200)

 

Disadvantages Of Automatic Watches:

We’ve looked into the advantages of automatic watches. I would be lying if I say that automatic watches don’t have any disadvantages – it do!

Here are some cons that came to my mind:

 

1- Lower Accuracy

Even the most accurate automatic watch with COSC Chronometer are only 4-5 seconds accurate per day.

This means that it will gain or lose 4-5 seconds per day. And this is only at the more expensive automatic watches. Normal automatic watches are can actually have 15-20 seconds accuracy per day.

Before you go into panic mode, these numbers might seem a bit too much but it’s still 99.977% accurate considering we have 86,400 seconds in a day, which is very outstanding for something that’s made of moving steel parts.

It’s definitely much inferior to quartz watches that can be a few seconds accurate in a month.

I’ve made it a habit to reconfirm my watch’s time with my smartphone every morning or before I strap it on.

I also need to add that automatic watch is NOT my main timekeeping device. For that, I have my trusted smartphone which is always right beside me (who doesn’t??).

For me, the watch is used to for it’s convenience to tell time and I personally don’t really care if it’s off by a few seconds or minutes.

 

2- More Expensive Than Quartz

Due to its high amount of minuscule parts, the costs of it can be substantially higher than an equivalent quartz watch which have lower part counts.

Not only that, some automatic movements can only be assembled manually by human leading to high labor costs.

This could be due to differing movement caliber and the design of the watch itself. You just can’t automate large number of different products at the same time.

Because of these factors, a good automatic watch is usually more than $100 in price, though there are some minimalist designs that is more affordable.

By the way, I have to add that Swatch was able to make a simple movement that can be assembled by robots which is the Sistem51 movement.

They are able to do this by using a simplified movement with only 51 part count. A significant improvement as the number of parts in a normal automatic watch usually is more than a hundred.

If other manufacturers can increase their production line automation level, we might be able to see drop in the price. Let’s hope for that shall we =)

 

3- Typically Bigger And Heavier Watch

Automatic watches typically is bulkier and heavier compared to quartz watches. This is due to those stainless steel parts used in it.

For a quick comparison, an automatic watch uses gears to move the energy from its mainspring to the timekeeping device.

On the other hand, a quartz watch uses a small battery (instead of the mainspring which is larger) and some small wires instead of the gears.

In addition, it also depends on the complexity of the movement: automatic watches with complex complications such as chronograph will be much bigger than a normal three-hands auto watch.

But some people actually prefer a heavy watch because it feels more solid and can withstand more punishment.

It gives a bit of a manly feeling with that heavy piece of steel strapped on your watch. If you also feel the same way, do let me know in the comments section below! =)

From my own experience, the first few months of wearing the watch will put some stress on your hand because of the added weight.

But after a few weeks, you will get accustomed to it and might even started missing it when not wearing the watch.

 

4- Most Automatic Watches Have Low Power Reserve

Even though we can recharge automatic watch by simply wearing it, it also has its own power reserve to keep it running.

If the power reserve is used up, the watch will stop working until we give it a good shake or manual wind it.

A common problem with most automatic watches is the low power reserve – I’m talking about 38 to 40 hours equal to less than 2 days.

This is only a problem for those that have more than one watch in their collection. Surely, he/she will like to wear different watches depending on the occasion, or just want to rotate wearing it.

And in just less than 2 days, the watch is dead and you need to restart and adjust the time again.

If you’re wearing your automatic watch everyday, this is not a problem for you.

There are two ways if you want to keep the watch running even without any wrist time: manual winding and watch winder. Check out my post (click the link) to find out more about these two methods.

By the way, I have to add that some companies do make automatic watches with a higher power reserve.

For example, Seiko’s 6R15 movement has 50 hours (slightly more than 2 days) while ETA’s Powermatic 80 has an outstanding 80 hours!

Best part of all, both movements can be had in the low-middle range of prices! Check out some of my reviews in this site to find out more about it.

 

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Quartz Watches

We’ve seen the pros and cons of automatic watch. Now let’s see what does quartz watch has in store for us.

 

Advantages Of Quartz Watches:

1- Much Cheaper To Get

One of quartz watch biggest advantage over automatic watches is the much cheaper price.

Easy to manufacture due to lower part counts and not to mention widespread automation makes it very affordable.

A $10 quartz watch is very easy to get, though of course the quality is another different matter. On the other hand, a $10 automatic watch is near impossible to get LOL!

Without a doubt, if you’re just looking for a nice watch for your kids as their first watch, then a quartz is the perfect choice.

 

 

2- Very Accurate

Another great thing about quartz watches is its high accuracy. Due to the high frequency oscillation of the quartz crystal, quart watch retain a much higher accuracy than its automatic counterpart.

The normal standard for its accuracy is +-10 seconds per month, with more expensive quartz watches can be to the tune of +-10 seconds per YEAR (such as this Bulova Precisionist).

It’s totally on a different level than automatic watch in terms of accuracy. If you are looking for a no hassle watch that will show the exact time at any moment, than a quartz could be the perfect choice for you.

And unlike automatic watch, you don’t even have to reset the watch at all (except for when you change the battery of course).

 

3- Slim And Light

Another good advantage of quartz watch is how it’s much lighter than a typical automatic watch.

Well, this is not surprising since the watch is made from small number of components and don’t take up much space as compared to the automatic watch.

Try to pry open a quartz watch and you’ll see how small the components are. Do the same with an automatic watch and you’ll notice how starkly different these two are built.

Not to mention most automatic watch’s case is made of steel – another factor for its weight.

Quartz watch on the other hand, can be made from plastics which also reduces the weight of the watch.

Thinking of buying the first watch for your kid? I’d suggest stick to the quartz watch since it’s less straining on the wrist.

 

Disadvantages Of Quartz Watches:

Now, let’s see what are the cons of quartz watch.

 

1- Need Battery To Operate

Unlike automatic watches, quartz watches need battery to operate. This is one of the main disadvantage of it for a few reasons.

One, the battery will need to be replaced every few years or so. This might be a nuisance for some to do this.

Not only that, most watches don’t have a power indicator to know when your battery might die.

It can be totally unpredictable and depending on when, it can disrupt your day totally. Just imagine you are changing to go to work and wear your watch.

While in commute you check your watch and see that it’s still early so you take a detour to a local cafe for some coffee and sandwich.

When you arrived at your office, your colleagues asked why you were late. In turns out your watch is already dead and you don’t know it…. (it’s a true story that happened to me btw lol..)

Another thing that we need to be wary of is when using complications such as chronograph that can sap the battery faster.

Fortunately the Japanese released this and produced some inventions such as kinetic watch and solar watch.

Seiko has produced its Kinetic watches that can recharge your watch by the movement of your wrist while wearing it.  Meanwhile Citizen is famous with its Ecodrive solar watches that are powered by light.

The beauty of these watches are the battery can lasts for months after one full recharge. This makes them a very useful watch especially for those that don’t like the hassle of changing batteries but still want a quartz watch for its accuracy.

 

(Read here to check out the 10 Best Solar Watches Under $200)

 

2- Ticking Second Hand

Another thing that make quartz watch a bit lesser valued is the ticking second hand. It can be annoyingly loud or quiet, depending on the quality of the quartz watch movement.

Personally, I feel that this is an area that automatic watches really triumphed over quartz watches.

The sweeping second hand is just better to look at compared to these ticking hand.

Of course, there are some watch manufacturer that managed to produced a quartz watch with a sweeping second hand that does not reduce its battery life significantly.

But such watches (such as the Bulova Precisionist) are rare and can command a hefty price tag due to this feature.

 

Bottom Line

Technical and functionality wise, quartz is definitely a step up from the legacy automatic movement.

It features a more accurate timekeeping that’s much superior. In addition, the cost to produce these quartz watches is low and very affordable to everyone.

Wait…

Does this means automatic watch is useless in this age?

Like all questions, it depends..

If you’re one that need a cheap, accurate and no frills watch, the quartz might be the best watch for your.

But if you don’t really mind about the accuracy of the watch since you already carry your smartphone around (like me and literally everybody that I know), then the automatic watch can be an option.

Looking to up your style? What’s better than that good looking automatic watch. It can even be a conversation starter with fellow watch fans.

Irregardless of which, I believe that there’s no right or wrong in this debate. Don’t be swayed by what people tell you about which watch is better to buy. Do your own research and make your own mind yourselves.

Or you just ask for my opinion on what’s the best watch for your situation. I’ll be glad to help =)

 

 

If you have any thoughts about the differences between automatic and quartz watches, please write your comments below. I would love to hear what you guys think.

Till next time then. Ciao!

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Review – A Perfect Second Watch

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Review

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches was launched 3 years ago to huge interest from the watch community.

When I first read the news about it, I thought it was just an automatic movement inserted into a plastic Swatch case aka a marketing gimmick.

How wrong was I!

The Sistem51 is much more than that. Just like how Swatch has revolutionized the watch industry more than 30 years ago, the Sistem51 is something truly different than any other automatic watches ever made.

Not just that, with lots of colors and styles typical of Swatch watches, you will definitely be able to find something that you like. Now, let’s get on to the review of this amazing wrist watch.

 

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Review

 

Update: I’ve recently featured the Swatch Sistem51 in my list of the top 10 automatic watches under $200. You guys can check the article HERE.

 

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Specification:

Diameter: 42 mm
Thickness: 13 mm
Lug To Lug Width: 50.6 mm
Case: Plastic
Strap: Synthetic silicone with buckle
Movement: Sistem51 Automatic self-wind movement
Power Reserve: 90 Hours
Water Resistance: 3 bar/ 30 m/ 100 feet
Other Features: Date display, Lume on markers and hands

Who Is It For: Those looking for a cheap second automatic watch for casual use

Best Place To Buy: Amazon

What Is Sistem51?

The name is coined from the 51 parts of the automatic movement of the watch. The Sistem51 line is a line of automatic watches from Swatch that uses their proprietary automatic movement.

It is not to be confused with the “Sistem51 Irony” that uses premium material such as leather strap and stainless steel case.

Another automatic watch line from Swatch is the “Irony” line that uses ETA 2824 movement with stainless steel case and bracelet (just like other automatic watches out there).

The Sistem51 is a revolutionary of some sort. The 51 parts of components are the least number of parts in any automatic or mechanical watch ever!

Typical number of parts for a basic automatic watch is around 100 to 200 by the way so to design a watch with only 51 parts is nothing short of extraordinary.

The simplification process and innovation done by them is truly outstanding. The production also uses fully automated system, i.e using robots instead of human which is also a first in the automatic watch world.

Not only that, the usage of plastic casing to house an automatic movement is also something unheard of before. This, and many more reasons make the Sistem51 a truly revolutionary automatic watch.

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches – The Cheapest Swiss Automatic?

Swatch customers are usually the young people looking for a cheap, funky and affordable watch in the range of $50.

It is because of this the company has marketed the Sistem51 to be around $100 to $150, with plastic casing that their normal customers already used to.

The idea of a watch that don’t need to be changed battery, as well as having a mechanical movement instead of a typical quartz is very enticing.

Even though it is about double or triple of their normal watches, it is still very affordable and is the cheapest Swiss automatic watch currently.

And considering the cheapest Swiss automatic starts from $300, it is a very good price.

But how are they able to reduce the price so much? The answer lies in the production process of the Sistem51.

By simplifying the watch’s components to only 51 parts through major design change (only one screw to hold everything, break everything into 5 modules, etc), the assembly process becomes much easier so much so that an automated assembly line is conceivable to be used.

The reduction of manpower, as well as cheaper parts and usage of plastic case and strap cut down the cost.

The final result is the cheapest Swiss Automatic Watch ever but still has that stamp of high quality Swiss made watches, albeit in a plastic case.

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Review

 

Truly Innovative Movement

The Sistem51 automatic movement is very innovative. Designed by ETA, Swatch’s own movement production company, it is still a true Swiss movement.

The 51 parts and fully automated assembly are just one of the first in the industry. Not only that, it boasts a 90 hours power reserve, something that is very outstanding for automatic watches.

Typical power reserve is around 40 hours (8 hours short of 2 full days) which is less than half of what the Sistem51 has. How is that for an $150 watch eh?

The automatic movement is also regulated using robots and laser precision. This means that the room for error is very little, unlike traditional automatic movements that are regulated manually.

Once it’s assembled, the watch is hermetically sealed, ensuring it is airtight and wont allow any water, dust or other things to get into it. Swatch claims  that the Sistem51 automatic movement is accurate up to +-10 seconds per day which is not bad at all.

They also claim that the watch can go for a full 20 years without needing any service whatsoever. Now that’s really huge as normal watches have to be serviced every 3 to 5 years depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The innovation is very welcomed but I feel the movement is not as refined as any normal Swiss or even Japanese automatic movement.

I’ve tried it a few times and feel the Swatch Sistem51 movement produced quite a loud noise. The sweeping second hand is beating at around 6 beats per second I believe (I’ve tried to find this info but so far I can’t get a hold of it. Swatch is silent on the movement’s specifics).

But the loud noise of the movement is very obvious, though not as loud as quartz movement but still not as quiet as other Swiss or Japanese movement.

Some people feel that the watch lack a “soul” because of it’s mechanized assembly and lack of human touch but to me that’s not a really important factor.

I think an automated assembly of the movement is better than a human assembly because there is little room for any error in assembling the movement.

Though of course this is very hard to achieve because a typical automatic movement contains hundreds of parts and the assembly process is very hard to be automated.

 

A video showing the Swatch Sistem51 in action. You can see and hear that the movement is not as refined as other Swiss automatic watches. But then again, this watch costs less than $150, a very huge discount from the other Swiss watches.

 

A Disposable Automatic Watch?

One thing that everyone need to be wary about is since the watch is hermetically sealed, the watch cannot be opened and repaired or serviced.

Well, its a Swatch after all.. But this concept really goes against the traditional principles of owning an automatic watch – that is you are buying something that you can use and keep for a long time.

It is important to note that vintage watches are still very sought after. They can still be kept running after going through a full service.

It is evident that Swatch intends to make the Sistem51 to be a disposable automatic watch, same as its normal watches.

For me, that’s not a really bad idea. After all, the watch is relatively cheap compared to normal automatic watch, so a disposable automatic watch is not that difficult to swallow for me.

But with the claim by Swatch that the watch can still be kept running for 20 years, there really is no reason to open or service it.

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Review

Swatch Sistem51 SUTT400 Incognito. The back of the movement can be seen through the exhibition caseback and is different for each of the watch’s models.

 

Colorful And Funky Designs

Looking at the design of the Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches, you will see that it’s just the same as any other typical Swatch watches – colorful, fun and funky design with matching plastic casing and strap.

As I’ve said before, it is essentially an automatic movement in a normal Swatch watch. The dials are colorful and attractive to look at. It also has a small date display for an added functionality.

On the back is an exhibition caseback to display the Sistem51  movement. You can see the big main screw that at the center of the watch.

Swatch has make sure the whole design scheme of any model to be reflected on the caseback too, giving a nice individuality to any model.

One thing that I really love is the rotor of this watch. The rotor is the spinning bearing exclusive for an automatic watch to wind the mainspring.

When we are wearing the watch on our wrist, any movement will move this rotor, which in turn will tighten the mainspring and adding to its power reserve.

Typical rotor design is a semi-circular in shape. But in this watch, the rotor is a full circle. It is transparent in color but have a nice colorful design at the edge of the circle.

Once it moves, the rotor will make a swift rotation that is quite lively to look at. Have a look at the nice spinning rotor design in the video below.

 

A video showing the spinning rotor of the Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watch. Notice how fluid and effortless the rotor spins inside the movement. The rotor edge design really adds up to the characteristic of this watch.

 

Swatch Sistem51 = Second Watch For Automatic Only Guys

I have to admit I really like this watch. I like how it is different than a normal stainless steel automatic watches normally around.

The colorful plastic casing and silicone strap that is very light and superbly comfortable on wrist are big pluses. Not to mention that it is an automatic too. In short, it is a perfect alternative watch for guys that will only wear an automatic watch (for example, me).

I believe Swatch target two groups for this watch: the usual young people that buy their normal watches and automatic watch guys.

The young people will be attracted to the Sistem51 because it is automatic movement, does not need a battery to operate and has the unique movement and rotor seen through its caseback. Automatic watch guys on the other hand will be attracted because of its different design and material use.

It’s also very cheap compared to any other Swiss automatic out there. This will make it a perfect second watch for these guys (Swatch is actually an combination of the words “Second Watch”).

 

Various Variation And Styles For Anyone

There is a huge number of variation and styles offered and it is growing year by year. The colors range from traditional black/blue to more outrageous color for a watch such as orange and pink – very true to Swatch designs.

They also feature different dial designs, different markers (numbers, index, dots, or no markers) as well as different caseback design to suit the watch.

With so much styles to choose from, it is like a huge offering of different watches by Swatch! Below are some of the styles of the Sistem51 automatic watches:

 

The gallery above shows just some of the styles Swatch has released for the Sistem51 line.. and it is growing year by year!

Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches Advantages And Disadvantages

I’ve summarized the pros and cons of this watch for your easy reference.

Pros:

1- Funky looking and beautiful design.
2- Exhibition caseback shows colorful and decorated movement at the back. The ring rotor is simply gorgeous and captivating
3- Very light and comfortable to wear
4- Even though it is made from plastic, the material is of high quality feels good to touch
5- From $100 to $150, it is the cheapest Swiss automatic watch
6- 90 hours power reserve is very outstanding and useful
7- At only 51 parts, it the automatic watch with the least parts
8- The first entirely machine assembled automatic watch

Cons:

1- Plastic casing might turn off some people
2- 30 m water resistance is too low
3- Lume on the markers and hands are quite weak
4- Movement is not refined as other Swiss automatic watches
5- Since it is hermetically sealed, servicing is not possible

 

Looking To Buy The Swatch Sistem51? Get It Cheapest From Amazon!

If you are looking to buy the Swatch Sistem51 Automatic Watches, check out the various offers on Amazon.

Amazon currently lists the watches ranging from $100 to $150, arguably the cheapest right now. Click the link below to check out the best deals on Amazon.

–>>Click The Links Below To Check The Best Prices On Amazon<<–

SUTB402 Sistem Chic White dial with black case/strap
SUTR400 Sistem Red Black dial with red case and black strap
SUTS402 Sistem ClassBlack dial with blue case and black strap
SUTG400 Sistem GreenGreen and Blue dial with matching case/strap
SUTN400 Sistem NavyWhite dial with blue case/strap
SUTS401 Sistem BlueBlue and Black dial with blue case and black strap
SUTT400 Sistem Incognito Blue dial with white case and nato army blue strap
SUTO401 Sistem TangerineBlack dial with orange case/strap
SUTB403 Sistem NotteBlue and black dial with blue case and black strap
SUTM400 Sistem Cream Black dial with white case/strap
SUTR401 Sistem Pink Blue dial with pink case/strap
SUTN401 Sistem GridWhite dial with blue case/strap

Conclusion

Swatch Sistem51 is not your typical automatic watch. There is no metal casing, no leather strap or bracelet and no typical black or white dial.

It is essentially a funky and colorful looking Swatch, with a 90-hours power reserve automatic movement inside.

Just like Swatch’s original intention 30 years ago, it is created to be a “second watch” to be used for a more casual events outside of the office and black suit events.

At $100 to $150, it is cheapest Swiss automatic watch that you can get. Don’t let the title “The Cheapest” fool you though.

Just like any other Swatch, the Sistem51 is a high quality watch built up to the Swiss quality benchmark.

 

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I hope you guys enjoy this Swatch Sistem51 review. Which one of the many Sistem51s do you prefer? Let me know in the comments section below =)

Cheers!

Isaac