Rotor: The Heart of the Movement That Keeps the Watch Running

The rotor is a breakthrough in the world of modern timepieces. This indispensable component is a self-winding mechanism that aligns with the invention of Swiss horologist Abraham-Louis Perrelet. In the 1770s, he created the self-winding timepiece equipped with a rotor that winds the spring accurately in both directions. This was later called a perpetual watch or perpétuelle, due to its eternal motion. 

Before its advent, the first rotor needed to be wound for fifteen minutes to work for eight days. It functioned as the main source of energy for the watch. Years later, automatic winding became a standard among most mechanical watches, as it could store reserve energy for up to 2 days. This goes from manual winding apart from its automatic functioning power.


Featuring a half circle-shaped metal weight, this watch component is attached to the movement that can swing without restrictions as the wearer moves their wrist. It is connected to the mainspring by an intricate series of gears, and it winds the mainspring as it turns. Hence, the timepiece is supplied with energy. Furthermore, the rotor comes with a clutch designed to disengage it from winding when the mainspring has been fully wound. 


At the core of every watch is a rotor that powers the spiral mainspring. This then powers up its internal gears that enable the hands of the watch to move. Simply put, the rotor is the key to the functioning of any watch. Akin to a manually wound timepiece, an automatic timepiece’s spring ultimately loses energy without the need for winding. Thus, the watch needs to be manually wound; otherwise, it will stop working. Good thing, quartz watch was introduced to address this issue. However, many watch lovers found it to compromise artistry for the sake of functionality and accuracy.


As automatic mechanical watches became more adopted, they saw a dramatic rise to fame in the 1960s. Up to that period, the size and weight of a standard rotor was the most significant setback to such development. Ultimately, it was made possible to squeeze it into wristwatches’ inner workings. 

This is the reason why modern watches are now seen as thicker compared to pocket watches. However, mechanical watches were still able to maintain their relative and classic size. Of course, let’s not forget the quartz counterpart of the rotor. This became a focal point of mechanical watches between the 1970s and 1980s. And while quartz is considered more accurate and efficient, the rotor of mechanical watches only had a little bit of artistry. 

Thankfully, their rotor and mechanical workings have made a strong comeback recently. Overall, they highlight the elegance and classic beauty of mechanical timepieces.

The invention of the rotor has made a great stride in the world of modern horology due to its superb functionality. If you are on the lookout for well-crafted timepieces powered by perpetual movement, Grayton has got you covered. Explore our personalized rotor engraving campaign of Quinary automatic watches via IndieGogo now.