What is an Automatic Watch Movement

You’ve all probably heard of an automatic watch. You’ve seen the words written many times when browsing your favourite brands. You’ve also noticed the term self-winding used as an alternative. However, what actually is an automatic movement and how does it work. Let us talk you through the finer details and answer your queries about automatic movements.

Automatic Movements Explained

Automatic movements require an active wrist to keep ticking. Basically, the movement of your wrist on a daily occurrence causes for the oscillating rotor to spin, winding the mainspring. They particularly suit those with an energetic lifestyle who are constantly on the move, very rarely running out of energy.

That doesn’t mean that those who work at a desk for a living, for example, can’t own an automatic movement, far from it. It’s about understanding your timepiece and recognising that you will need to wind the crown 30-40 times when it starts to drain of energy rather than simply becoming more active as it’s not enough. Many power reserves range from 36-42 hours and have an indicator displayed on the dial to show how much energy your watch currently has.


Many invest in a watch winder to store their automatic timepieces overnight or for a longer duration if they are a collector owning more than one watch. It’s an efficient device to keep your watch in great condition and powered whilst you are not wearing it. Also, the great thing about automatic watches is that they can't be overwound. There are many stylish watch winders on the market that look chic on your bedroom shelf or chest of drawers. 

An important point to remember is that when you first buy an automatic movement, the mainspring will be completely unwound and will need more than an active wrist to take full advantage of the power reserve available. Prior to fastening to the wrist, wind the crown 30-40 times to allow your watch to have the best start possible.

The Craftsmanship

Many luxury brands pride themselves on the automatic movements they manufacture either in-house or via an external manufacturer who specialises in making movements. The intricacy and complexity of making an automatic movement is truly a work of art with engineers handcrafting each component (gears, springs and screws) with skill and a steady pair of hands. The artistry of the movement can usually be admired via the caseback on many automatic instruments.

Many prefer brands that manufacture in-house favouring the prestige, technical know how and exclusivity that the brand offers. However, it is very much a personal choice as those who source their movements from a manufacturer are just as precise, reliable and trustworthy. The main reason why some top brands outsource their calibres is due to cost. It is very expensive to craft movements in-house. Hiring the staff and facilities required is a huge undertaking with no guarantee that many cannot afford just yet. Therefore, it is a decision that only you can make.


The Cost

Automatic movements are generally pricier than say a quartz watch due to the work that goes into making the calibre. Those who choose this type of movement appreciate the traditional watchmaking techniques and the expense that goes with it, including the servicing every 3-4 years.

There are many brands that offer very affordable automatic watches on the market. A lot depends on whether the movement was manufactured in-house and the complications involved i.e. date aperture, tourbillon, moon phase etc. The more complications involved the higher the price. There is also the option of interest free finance deals if you have our eye on a particular automatic watch.