This, in one form or another, is a question that many customers ask us on a regular basis. Straight forward enough, but in order to answer the question, we need to present some background information.
Quartz watches are powered by a battery, while mechanical watches are powered by the gradual release of energy from a wound spring. Furthermore there are two types of mechanical watches, those that the wearer physically winds and those that are wound through the wearer’s movement.
Inside a quartz watch, a tiny battery sends an electric current to the quartz crystal through an electronic circuit. The quartz crystal vibrates back and forth exactly 32,768 times each second. The circuit counts the number of vibrations and uses them to generate one electric pulse per second. These pulses can either power an LCD display which shows the time digitally or they can drive a small electric motor, turning gear wheels that spin the second, minute, and hour hands.
Some quartz watches generate the electric current with a capacitor which is an electronic component that stores electricity. These watches usually generate the electricity through a small solar panel embedded in the watch dial, or as in a mechanical automatic watch, a rotor which turns as the wearer moves their wrist.
Mechanical watches are either manually wound or self-winding. In a manually-wound watch, the wearer must turn the crown, usually clockwise, to tighten the spring. Typically, the watch will then function for approximately 40 hours (if fully wound). The length of time that a watch will run on one full winding is referred to as the power reserve (réserve de marche). A few higher-end manually wound watches have a power reserve that is as long as ten days. In a self-winding watch, or automatic watch, the spring is wound by a rotor which turns as the wearer’s wrist moves. This is why self-winding mechanical watches are usually referred to as automatics.
Which brings us back to the original question, “Do I need to wind my watch?”.
If your watch is a battery, kinetically or solar powered quartz watch the answer is no.
If your watch is mechanically powered, either by manual winding or kinetic (motion) wound watches the energy-storing spring will need to be wound. This means that even if your watch is ‘automatic’, you may need to wind it from time to time. That’s right! Even automatic watches need to be wound.
Want to know more? Watch the video below from Seiko Watch Corporation. Here you will see a really clear demonstration of how an automatic watch works.