Ingenious simplicity: How to operate an automatic watch
Essentially, an automatic movement is a mechanical watch that winds itself. Without having to manually turn the crown of the watch to charge the mainspring, an automatic watch uses the kinetic energy caused by the movement of the wearer to power the watch. To be exact, a weight, or rotor, swings freely as the watch moves with the wrist, winding the mainspring of the automatic model. Before the introduction of the free-floating rotor that virtually all automatic movements use nowadays, automatic watches had a “bumper” mechanism which used a pendulum-rotor that “bumped” between springs when the watch was moved. Modern automatic watches have a ball-bearing rotor that engages the mechanism once it swings, some only wind one way, whilst others are wound regardless of which direction the rotor swings. In both cases, with regular movement on the wrist, the watch is continuously supplied with power.
The temperature of the watch on your wrist is around 30°C, which is ideal for a watch to run smoothly and accurately. Thus you should not keep your watch on cold surfaces, such as glass. In general, shock, large variations in temperature, and magnetic fields should be avoided. The proper storage of a watch is important for the longevity of its intricate mechanics.
Has your watch stopped running?
Day to day care of an automatic watch
Unlike hand-wound watches, automatic watches are charged by the movement of the wrist throughout the day. It should be noted, that even an automatic watch will need to be wound manually in some circumstances. For instance if the watch is not worn for an extended period and is therefore not wound, the power reserve may become depleted. In these cases, the simple kinetic force provided by moving the watch will not be sufficient to get it up and running again. To get it started, the watch should be fully wound by hand. In order to do this, the crown is rotated, usually clockwise, around twenty-five to thirty times.
In addition to winding, you will have to manually set the watch. If the watch has stood still for a while and is no longer running, you will have to set the correct time and, if applicable, the date. The crown will usually have to be pulled out from the zero position into its first position to set the date and into its second position to set the time. By turning the crown you will be able to set the date and time respectively.
Watch collectors often alternate between which watches they wear, so it is not unusual for a watch to run out of power. In cases such as these, a watch winder proves to be particularly useful. With the help of such practical devices, the watch will not come to a stop, as it is continuously wound by the watch winder. Keeping the watch moving also prevents the lubricants of the watch’s movement from hardening, prevents excess friction between the parts in the watch’s movement. So, by keeping your watch in a watch winder, the durability and accuracy are improved. The use of a watch winder is especially beneficial for vintage watches. To help the lubrication of the watch movement, as well as retaining the flexibility of certain parts, a watch should be completely wound every two to three months, thus allowing you to experience the joy of a watch for many years to come.
In the fight for records
Who has the thinnest automatic watch?
It goes without saying that the most renowned watch brands in the world, such as Rolex, Breitling or TAG Heuer, offer automatic models in numerous variations and excellent quality.
But it is brands like Audemars Piguet, Piaget, Bulgari or Jaeger-LeCoultre that are causing a stir in a completely different discipline: the art of making complicated automatic movements as flat as possible. The development of flat watches is not only technically demanding, it is also a challenge to keep the elegant appearance of the timepiece. In the course of time, a hunt for records developed to see who could make the thinnest watch, therefore the limits of what we understand as ultra-thin in the world of watches kept extending.
An example is the Royal Oak RD#2 Perpetual Calendar Ultra-thin - which is the world's flattest automatic watch with perpetual calendar in the Audemars Piguet collection. The watch is just 6.3 mm high.
The Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon by Jaeger-LeCoultre is currently the thinnest automatic minute repeater: its white gold case is 7.9 mm high.
Piaget and Bulgari have been battling for years in the "thinnest automatic watch" discipline for the title that Piaget took back in early 2018 with the 4.3mm Altiplano Ultimate Automatic. But the success lasted just two months and Bulgari already set a new world record at Baselworld 2018 with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic: At 3.95 mm, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic is currently not only the thinnest automatic watch in the world, but also the flattest tourbillon. We are excited to see what Piaget has in store for us.
Top 10 automatic watches
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
“Perpetual” is the title given by Rolex to their automatic watches. In the same way that other automatic watches are wound if worn regularly, the Oyster Perpetual will run continuously.
The Oyster Perpetual is timeless and is quintessentially Rolex: the highest of quality, precision, as well as reliability. It is made of 904L steel, which is used in aerospace engineering and the chemical industry as well, making it incredibly resistant. The Oyster Perpetual is developed and produced entirely in-house by Rolex. It is fitted with their 3132 movement within its Rolex Oyster case and comes on a flat three-link Oyster bracelet. Also, it is a certified Swiss chronometer and thus provides the highest precision. The Oyster Perpetual is the ideal model for individuals looking for their first Rolex; it is Rolex distilled into a remarkable watch at an entry-level price.Discover the collection
Zenith El Primero
The Zenith El Primero: The first fully-integrated automatic chronograph. In 1969 Zenith (www.chronext.co.uk/guide/zenith) presented the El Primero – meaning “the first” in Esperanto – before Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton-Büren in the race to release the first self-winding chronograph. Not only did Zenith take on this challenge, but at the same time they made it their aim to produce the most accurate chronograph there was. As such, the El Primero was fitted with a high-beat movement, improving overall accuracy of the watch and allowing the chronograph to record time to one tenth of a second. Finally,Zenith released two models, one with a date function and another with a triple date and moon phase. Their current eponymous El Primero collection offers a wide range of impressive watches, from elegant to sporty models.Discover the collection
TAG Heuer Carrera
The Carrera models are inarguably the most famous of TAG Heuer’s selections. The first Carrera model was introduced in 1963 with a hand-wound movement and later as an automatic chronograph. To this day, the TAG Heuer Carrera models still feature the classic Carrera design with its elegant sloping lugs. They are the quintessential racing chronographs and showcase a sporty look that make them highly popular.Discover the collection
In 1984, the Breitling Chronomat received an entire redesign of its previous version. It now showcased the unique features, especially the distinct bezel with its quarter-hour markers, that have been a distinctive element of the Chronomat ever since. Breitling offers numerous Chronomat models in their collection, ranging from the Chronomat 41 to the Chronomat GMT. Breitling is famed for their pilot’s watches and as such, the Chronomat is a technical instrument of aviation professionals.Discover the collection
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding
The Royal Oak, designed by the illustrious Gérald Genta in 1972, was the first luxury sports model to be introduced to the public. Audemars Piguet has not strayed from this iconic design and their watches still showcase the hallmark tapisserie dial, the distinctive screw-down octagonal bezel, and robust integrated bracelet. Audemars Piguet offers variations on the Royal Oak in their collection, from models made of luxury metals to others with complications.Discover the collection
The Kontiki models from Eterna are inspired by the intrepid adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his incredible journey across the Pacific on his raft, which was called the Kon-Tiki. Eterna offers a range of spectacular KonTiki models for women as well as for men. It is a robust and highly reliable watch from the expert Swiss watchmaker in Grenchen.Discover the collection
The Nomos Tangomat is the automatic version of the Tangente with a manufacture movement. The watch embodies the ethos that has helped the small German manufacturer succeed in creating their fully in-house equipped models – a great achievement indeed. The Tangomat is a masterpiece of simplicity and has been highly praised for, not only its intelligent design, but also its accuracy and winding efficiency. The Tangomat represents quality, precision, and an emphasis on thought-out design.Discover the collection
TAG Heuer Monaco
The Monaco gets its name from the heart-stopping races that are held in Monaco and it was created by Heuer in honour of the Grand Prix in the small city-state. Moreover, the Monaco was introduced in 1969 by TAG Heuer as one of the first ever automatic chronograph watches. The characteristic square-shaped case makes the watch immediately recognisable as the TAG Heuer Monaco. It is an impressive automatic racing watch with a design that was radical at the time of its release.Discover the collection
Patek Philippe Nautilus
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is another legendary model designed by Gérald Genta. The Nautilus was introduced in 1974 by Patek Philippe to compete with the Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. Its design is inspired by the porthole of a ship, its bezel acting as a window into the dial of the watch. The Nautilus collection offers models with further complications or models made of precious metals. It is one of Patek Philippe’s most recognisable models – its distinct design would not suggest anything else.Discover the collection
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra
The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra, as the name suggests, is water-resistant up to 150 metres. Omega has channeled their innovative technologies developed throughout the years into the Seamaster Aqua Terra and the result is a cutting edge and resilient watch. The self-winding movement has a Co-Axial escapement, which is an improvement on the standard lever escapement, and is chronometer certified. Moreover, it is anti-magnetic up to an incredible 15,000 gauss, more than ten times the resistance of other anti-magnetic watches. The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra line offers a wide selection of models with complications, colour, as well as material variations.Discover the collection
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