Self-Winding WatchesFor all the appeals of mechanical watches, having to remember to wind them is undoubtedly a real pain. One solution to this is the automatic self-winding watch.
The history of the self-winding mechanism goes back a long way. The basic idea of a self-winding fob watch is generally credited to Abraham-Louis Perrelet in 1770. This was then commercialsed and produced by Breguet from around 1780. However this watch - the perpetuelle - was difficult to produce and even Breguet could not manage to make it operate effectively.
The first successful self-winding wristwatch was created by John Harwood in 1923. This was produced by Harwood's company from 1928 until 1931 and some 30,000 were sold. The Rolex company began selling their Oyster Perpetual model in 1930.
How Does It Work?The basic concept behind the automatic watch is fairly simple, however like many simple ideas it requires skill and precision to make it work effectively.
A (relatively) heavy piece of metal hangs from a central point inside the watch. Being able to rotate, this is always pulled by gravity so that it points downwards. This means that as the wearer's wrist moves from side to side, even fractionally, so the weight moves. This movement is then converted by a gear train into winding energy for the watch spring. Although only a tiny amount of energy is produced by each wrist movement, the huge number of such movements is enough to power the watch under normal conditions.
Of course, if the watch is not worn for a while it will wind down. For this reason you can buy specially designed watch winders to simulate the effect of being worn.
The Automatic Quartz WatchSince a quartz watch is battery driven and doesn't require winding, why would one need an automatic version?
Well, a quartz watch still needs a battery which needs changing every so often. Automatic quartz watches - such as the Seiko Kinetic - don't have a battery. Instead they use a similar principle to the self-winding mechanical watch to charge an accumulator which powers the watch in place of a battery.
These hybrid watches are often marketed on ecological grounds - the acuracy of quartz without the environmentally unfriendly battery.