It all depends on your expectations. Are you the type of person who looks forward to winding his watch every day, or someone who sees it as a chore?
For people who enjoy the personal connection they get from winding their watch daily, a manual movement is the natural choice. But for those who value convenience above all else, it’s hard to do better than a watch that can wind itself. Even though most collectors have a preference, I wouldn’t say many are limited by it. In fact, most own both kinds of movements.
Each style of movement excels at different things. A manual model needs regular winding, but typically costs less to service, and there is no spinning rotor in the back to obscure the view of the movement. On the other hand, an automatic demands less attention, but it does require additional moving parts that can break down.
Another interesting thing about automatics: They not only let you avoid fiddling with the crown on a regular basis, but they also wind continuously, which can improve accuracy. When you move your wrist throughout the day, it helps ensure that a high level of energy is stored in the mainspring. This goes a long way in helping the movement maintain a steady timekeeping beat.
For instance, if you forget to wind your manual watch one morning, you may notice it running fast in the evening if the power reserve dips below a level where the mainspring lacks sufficient tension to fully swing the balance wheel. That won’t happen while wearing an automatic so long as you move your wrist frequently. And that’s an important distinction, because a lot of today’s jobs are sedentary, and as a result, many people don’t move enough at work to fully wind their automatics.
When comparing manual and automatic watches, figuring out what’s best is really about figuring out what’s best for you.
Leon Adams is the owner of Cellini Jewelers.