When it comes to mechanical watches, the big divide is between automatic and manual wind. So what’s the difference, and why should you care?

Well, although there are some important technical differences between the two, much of the decision about whether to go automatic or manual depends on what kind of person you are, and what things you value about the items that populate your everyday life.

To explain the difference between an automatic and manual wind watch, it’s first necessary to have a basic understanding of how mechanical watches work. Whereas in a Quartz or digital watch the power source is a small battery, in mechanical watches the power comes from a tightly coiled steel spring contained within a little drum known as the barrel. A wound spring is constantly trying to unwind, to release the potential mechanical energy contained within it. It is this force, which is conveyed to the escape wheel, and gradually released in a precise and controlled manner, by the action of the balance wheel and pallet fork, which, via a series of gears turns the hands.


Above: The differences between hand wound and automatic movements is well illustrated by comparing the Sellita SW-200 and Sellita SW-210

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