Manual Wind vs. Automatic Watch Movements: A Comprehensive Comparison
Mechanical watches became a hobby item that never gets old for watch enthusiasts and modders in today’s busy world. With Seiko mods, and super affordable Seiko movements, the kinds of mods that are possible are endless.
If you are interested in the inner workings of a mechanical watch and would like to practice modding, you might be wondering about the differences between manual and automatic watches. While they both use a totally mechanical mechanism to tell the time, there are also some pros and cons between the two.
A Bit of Background
Generally, both automatic and manual movements are very similar, as they are both types of mechanical watch movements.
These movements rely on certain mechanical principles, including a source of force to power the watch, a gear train to operate the time indication, a mechanism to wind the watch and set the time, and something to control the speed at which the gear train moves.
All of these parts must be attached to a frame or plate.
Mechanical movements are powered by a tightly wound spring inside, which is known as the mainspring. The spring is coiled inside a small drum and it is constantly trying to unwind when the watch is wound. The force of this process is transferred through the gear train. The escapement and oscillator control it.
So, what’s the difference between them?
Manual Wind Movements
Source: The Slender Wrist
As its name suggests, a manual-wind movement is wound by hand.
Winding a manual watch’s crown results in the mainspring being wound up via a series of wheels. A recoiling click and ratchet wheel is to prevent the mainspring from unwinding and allows the ratchet to turn in one direction to wind up, but also blocks it in the opposite direction.
Some of the Seiko Spring Drive movements, like the 9R01, are great examples of this type of watch movement, which are featured in the well-known Grand Seiko line. This movement features a needle on the back, so you can see how many days of power reserve it has at the moment!
Automatic Wind Movements
Although many automatic watch movements allow winding using the stem system, they are also wound by a weight that rotates when the watch moves. The movement is designed to use the swinging motion of a rotor to power the mainspring instead of the manual winding of the crown.
As a result, when you move your hand or wrist around, it will create a movement for the rotor, which then supplies power to the mainspring, so that the watch can stay wound on its own.
Automatic movements from Seiko such as the NH35, the NH36, or NH34 are some of the most popular affordable automatic movements currently on the market. They last for a long time, and are all very affordable.
These Seiko movements are also popular choices amongst not only microbrands but also watch modders because of their reliability, and compatibility with a wide variety of watch cases. Seiko Mod Watches allow you to create just about anything, and with the selection of Seiko movements available, you have millions of different options.
Pros and Cons of Each
Here are the pros and cons of each kind of movement, in case you are wondering which one may be the best choice for your next watch mod project!
Manual movements require winding, which may be as frequent as once per day. Meanwhile, an automatic one is unlikely to need much attention if it is worn daily.
As watches with automatic movements wind by themselves, they don’t require batteries that will need replacing in the future, making them convenient and fairly worry-free.
On the other hand, although winding a manual watch isn’t difficult, you will need to do it on a regular basis. For watches you plan to wear frequently, automatic models could be a better choice.
Accuracy and Precision
Source: Bob's Watches
Automatic watches and manual-wind watches are both going to be accurate. The build quality and regulation of the movement will matter more than the winding mechanism. Also, for either type, doing a good job of regulating the movement is important for the best possible accuracy.
Maintenance and Durability
Much like accuracy, there is no major difference between a manual or automatic winding movement. It all comes down to how well the movement was built, and the amount of care it is given. Make sure to keep your movement well maintained, and you will have no big problems!
Cost and Availability
Automatic watches are easier to find in the marketplace today. Most people don’t want to deal with winding a watch everyday, so both quartz and automatic watches have become very popular. While manual wind watches are still available, they will be harder to find, and may come at a premium cost.
Style and Aesthetics
Source: Wrist Review
Because the movement of a watch is rarely seen by anyone but its owner, there is little difference in the aesthetics between the two. One advantage that an automatic watch has is its winding rotor, which can be changed for one that is more intricate, or fits an overall design theme.
Seiko spare parts open up a world of watch mod possibilities. With the Watch spare parts and watch mod parts we offer here at namokiMODS, you can build just about anything you can imagine. If you want to start off with something simple - check out our watch modding kits.