The automatic wristwatch is a fantastic invention, but sometimes it gives me a headache.
Abraham Perrelet produced the first automatic pocket watch in 1778. The wristwatch didn’t show up on the scene with any popularity for more than a hundred years later (around the turn of the twentieth century.) About 20 years later the first automatic wristwatch (developed by John Harwood) was exhibited at Basel in 1926. In 1931 Rolex introduced their “Perpetual” wristwatch and the world never turned back. The first automatic chronograph didn’t come around until 1969. If you want to know more about these developments try the following articles:
So, why do they give me a headache? The automatic watch is not the right fit for some people. Some people would do better to have a quartz or a manual wind. Probably the most common problem I encounter is a watch that is stopping because the automatic module isn’t winding the watch enough. This can be due to many factors. The most common factor is that the watch is in need of a full maintenance service. When the oils get dry or gummy the automatic mechanism no longer functions efficiently and no amount of movement will wind the watch enough to keep it running overnight.
There are other factors which can keep a watch from winding:
A watch worn too loosely will not wind efficiently. When the watch shifts around on the wrist the watch moves instead of the oscillating weight. For the weight to move and wind the mainspring the watch needs to be securely fastened to a moving object (like your wrist) which brings us to the second problem. You must be active to wind your watch. While I have typed this post my watch has not stored any energy at all, because I type with my wrists at rest. During a normal day however I move around more than enough to keep my automatic watches wound fully.
Some activities serve to better wind a watch than others. Some types of exercise may be the best but many people will take their automatic watch off while at the gym so this motion isn’t captured. As a general rule if you wear your watch 10-12 hours a day and are moderately active your watch should become fully wound. If you are a “strong wearer” or very active you can get away with wearing it less. If you are a “weak wearer” you may need to wear it longer to keep it wound. Some individuals just can’t keep their watch wound.
WOSTEP provides a cryptic table which provides a relationship between certain activities and their “winding rate” in their book “Theory of Horology.” The numbers may be impossible to decipher given the amount of information in the table (I think they left out a legend) but the order and magnitude will give you an idea of how the different activities compare.
|Driving a car||3.4|
|Washing one’s hands||41|
|Putting on or taking off a coat||92|
Once again, I’m not sure what these numbers represent but clearly moving your arms around winds your watch more. And you don’t move your arms very much while sleeping.
Automatics are intended for full day wear. They don’t make very good dress watches or evening watches. They are to be used. If you aren’t going to wear them all day every day a watch winder may be in your best interest, or you could get a nice dress watch. Most “dress watches” on the market will be either quartz or manual wind.