How Automatic Watches Work?

Other than the exclusivity associated with wearing a watch, the marvel of how a mechanical watch works is an art that drives watch enthusiasts to explore and to understand their watches better than anyone else.

A watch movement is the core of the timepiece itself. So, how do automatic watches work then? Everything starts with the fact that a watch is a machine. Certain processes are involved in the overall watchmaking steps which further defines why excellent craftsmanship is essential in this industry.


All automatic timepieces consist of intricate parts that are arranged systematically. Accuracy and precision are always essential, and it is a must for every watchmaker to ensure the perpetual functionality of the watches in the long run.

Many automatic timepieces have stainless steel, see-through case backs that make a watch user see the mechanism of the watch right away. Usually, this mechanism is comprised of gears, mainsprings, knobs, and other components which work systematically to make the watch’s hands move at a regulated pace.

Figure 1 – Seiko Automatic Movement – Rotor and Parts Close-Up


The best automatic watches online are sometimes also called self-winding watches. To avoid any confusion, remember that self-winding is just another term for automatic watches. In short, these timepieces wind naturally with the help of the wearer’s natural movements.

So, how self-winding watches work? It works because of the stored energy in the mainspring gathered from your daily movements. The energy causes the rotor inside the watch to move and the other mechanisms then follow.

Normally, an automatic watch has a 41-hour power reserve. Once consumed, the watch temporarily stops working but since it is automatic, a simple swinging of the watch or wearing it right away on the wrist will make it function again.


Just like an automatic timepiece, it works because of the rotor’s movements inside the watch. The only difference is that the energy used by the rotor is produced manually by winding the watch.

Many mechanical watches need manual winding by turning the crown. This is usually done by making sure that the crown remains in its pushed-in position before turning it for about 20 to 40 times or until a resistance is reached in a clockwise direction.

The basic concern for manual winding is over-winding. It is important not to overwind your watch to prevent any serious damages to its movement. Understand how to wind an automatic watch better to make your watch last longer.

If you think about how automatic watches work compared to quartz watches, the difference is mostly concerned with the movements. However, it is too subjective to determine which is the best movement and often times, only the owner can attest to its effectivity. In the end, you are the only one to judge your own watch if it works best for you or not.

Figure 2 - Automatic vs Quartz Movement