What Happens If You Don’t Wear Your Automatic Watch?

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.

Moon phase watch and perpetual calendar watch are some of these special watches that require the day of the watch to correspond exactly to the current day for it to function properly.

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:

  1. ETA 2824-2 & Sellita SW-200 (common for low-mid range Swiss automatic watches): 38-41 hours.
  2. Seiko 4R36 (found in low end Seiko watches): 41 hours
  3. Seiko 7S26 (found in older Seiko watches e.g SKX, etc.): 41 hours
  4. Seiko 6R15 (found in low-mid range Seiko watches): 50 hours
  5. 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.

(I’ve written an entire article about how best to store your watch depending on your needs. You can read it further here)

How Often Should You Wear Your Automatic 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.

(Read this article that I’ve written on some of the best & useful tips on how to use automatic watch)

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 =)

Related Questions

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.


6 thoughts on “What Happens If You Don’t Wear Your Automatic Watch?”

  1. I recently purchased a Buliva Frank Sinatra series watch. I have many watches, one Victronix I wear as my daily because I do physical work and do not want to damage the Bulova. The Bulova seems to stop working after not wearing it for a few days. This I assume to be because it is a self winding watch? I may go 2-3-4 weeks without wearing the Bulova. How do I determine if it is an automatic self winding type of watch. The mechanics of the watch is exposed on the back side and i see no cisible battery.

    • Hi Robert. To my knowledge, the Bulova Frank Sinatra usually comes in automatic movement, which means it is self-winding when you wear it. It will stop working after 30-40 hours (depending on the movement) and this is normal. If you still keep the user manual that comes with the watch, you can flip through it and there should be some statement on how it is automatic self-winding and how many hours its energy reserve is.

  2. Hi,
    I have a vintage Omega watch(564). Two years ago, it sometimes stop a short moment at night and run while I was wearing it. I did not know when did it stop because it suddenly half or one hour slow behind the time. Then I took it to lubricate. It still stop but I discovered that it stopped around10:15 to 10:45 at night. If adjusted the time, it would not stopped again. I think it is not related to the winding mechanism or the mainspring because it did not stop at the day time. What is the problem?
    Thank you if you can reply me and solve the problem.

    • Hi Eric. As you’ve already discovered that the Omega stopped at a specific time, then I think it may be related to the time display mechanism which causes it to stop at that particular time. You can ascertain this by figuring out if the escapement & balance wheel moves or not when the watch stopped. If you can hear the ticking sound from inside the watch when it stopped, it means the movement is still running but somehow the time display mechanism just stopped – this will indicate something is not right (could be a misalignment in gears, something blocking the needle movement, etc.). It’s best to bring it to a watchmaker for full inspection.

      However if you find that there is no sound coming from the watch when it stopped, then it means the whole movement stopped. You can try to manual wind it or wear it continuously longer to fill up the power reserve and see how it behave.

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