There are many types of automatic watches, diving, GMT, chronograph, tourbillon, and more. The question is, what happens if the automatic watch stops? Every owner of an automatic watch would like to take good care of their timepiece. It is heritage, its craftsmanship, its enthusiasm, and many years of engineering.
Nothing happens if an automatic watch stops. It is perfectly normal and not dangerous. A typical automatic watch has a power reserve of 30-70 hours. When the watch isn’t exposed to movement, the mainspring discharges, and the watch will stop. When the watch stops, all its internal components stops.
While it could seem dangerous to some people that their watch stops. It is perfectly normal. When a quartz watch stops, it is because it either needs a new battery or because it is broken. An automatic watch is fine if it stops.
What Happens if an Automatic Watch Stops?
When the watch stops, it is because the mainspring no longer has energy stored in it. The mainspring is what is attached to the rotor you can see in the transparent case back of the automatic watch. The mainspring is what determines how long the watch can keep ticking. The typical duration of a fully wound mainspring is 30-70 hours.
When the mainspring no longer has any energy, there is no longer any force moved from the mainspring to the gears, which makes the watch go. Essentially this means that whenever the mainspring gets unwound, the watch will stop. Having a stopped automatic watch does not damage the watch. Actually, it is healthy to some extend.
As the watch comes to a complete stop after the 30-70 hours, the lubricant, gears, cogs, jewels and everything else stops moving. If the watch has been worn frequently, it can be healthy to let the watch stop. Firstly, the wear on the watch is slowed down. Secondly, the slip-clutch for charging the mainspring will be disengaged.
The slip-clutch is the complication that disengages the rotor from the mainspring. The slip-clutch prevents the mainspring from overwinding and damaging the integrity of the mainspring. The slip-clutch is often engaged on a watch that is worn 24/7. Therefore, letting the watch stop can reduce the wear on the slip-clutch.
However, what happens is that the gears, cogs, jewels, and rotor stops moving. When all those components stops moving, the lubrication also stops moving. Depending on the intervals of servicing done, it can be harmful to have the watch stopped for too long. When lubrication gets too old, it can get grimy and hardens. While most lubricants can be suitable for decades, the lubricant is not meant to be. Still, it is intended to be moving.
In case the watch has a transparent case back into the movement of the watch, it is possible to see the balance wheel and rotor spinning. When the watch stops, you will see the balance wheel comes to a complete standstill. What you most likely will notice is that the rotor will start spinning freely, without the small jerks which have when fully wound. When just slightly winding the watch (2-3 spins with the rotor), looking at the balance wheel reveals how the balance wheel spins back and forth.
Do You Have to Wear an Automatic Watch Every Day?
Having an automatic watch is a wonderful privilege. Automatic watches are crafted with such craftsmanship and timeless designs that the watches are for everyone. Therefore, a lot of you reading this post will, of course, want to know how to take proper care of the watch(es).
You are not required to wear an automatic watch every day. To extend the longevity of the watch, it is recommended that the watch is wound to keep the oils flowing in the movement. The watch should not be overwound, just for the sake of winding. In such a case, it is better to let the watch stop.
To better understand why it is recommended to have the watch running, an understanding of the movement and engineering is essential. An automatic movement is made of at least 100 different components. These components are milled with high precision machinery, and afterward modified with hands of skilled watchmakers.
Automatic watches have been engineered through decades, since its origin in 1770. In 1770 they were made to be a part of the daily work, which was a lot more active than the desk work, which is the reality now. Back in the 1700s-1900s, the watches were worn for more than just 8 hours, which is the typical workday nowadays. This also means that the watchmakers and manufacturers have adjusted the winding mechanisms to wind the watch in the adequate speed.
Adjusting the speed at which the mainspring is charged is necessary to avoid damage to the self-winding mechanism. When the watch is worn to work for 8 hours and then put on the shelf when you get home, it will generally see its longest lifetime because that is the way they are engineered. However, people who wear the watch at all times will also expose the winding mechanism to be engaged for frequent, which, when the mainspring is fully charged, will engage the slip-clutch, which will prevent winding of the mainspring.
There is no serious abuse caused to the watch if you wear the watch at all times, and most likely, you will be just as fine as the ones who only wear the watch for 8 hours. It is just some additional wear that will be maintained every 5-10 years anyway when the watch is due for its regular service.
While there is no requirement that you should wear the watch every day, if the watch is going in the drawer or something other storage places, it is an excellent idea to take the watch out from time to time and wind it. Winding the watch will help extend the lifetime of the internals, especially if stored for extended periods.
How Long Can an Automatic Watch Run Without Being Worn?
The duration of the watch is highly dependent on brand, quality, and how wound it is before being unworn. Entry-level automatic watches typically last 30-50 hours when being fully wound, whereas high-end to luxury watches can run for multiple days and even weeks when being fully wound.
A typical automatic watch can run for 30-70 hours without being worn. After 30-70 hours, the watch will come to a complete stop and will only start running if the crown is turned, if the watch is worn on the wrist, or if the watch is shaken to get the rotor spinning.
The length of the power reserve is subject to the movement inside the watch. The well-known and reputable movements called ETA, has a power reserve of 38 to 56 depending on the caliper. Whereas, some of Tudor’s in-house movements has a 70 power reserve. As a rule of thumb, the longer it can run without being worn, the higher quality/price of the watch. Remember, this is just a rule of thumb, and technology and engineering lets us all progress with time.
Finding an entry-level watch with a 70 power reserve could easily be found. A good example is the modified ETA 2824-2 called “Powermatic-80,” which features an 80-hour power supply. The Powermatic-80 movement can be found in Certina, Hamilton and Tissot watches. Certina, Hamilton, and Tissot is all part of the Swatch Group (which is known for some high-quality watches).
Is it Bad to Let an Automatic Watch Stop?
The simple answer is no. It is not wrong to let an automatic watch stop, even though the lubricant will settle and stop moving. Firstly, let’s get some theory in place to understand the stopping of an automatic watch.
In theory, when a watch is lubricated adequately with high-quality oils, and it has been serviced regularly (hence the oils isn’t going to age), the components will never actually touch when the watch is running. This is due to the lubrication layer, which has been applied on top of the metal components. When there is no contact between the parts, there is also no wear.
It is difficult to determine the age, quality, and condition of the oil. It is difficult even for a watchmaker to assess the stage of the lubricant because it is based on different everyday factors. However, with today’s synthetic lubricants, there shouldn’t be any issues with drying oils. If the watch has been serviced and maintained by an authorized dealer, there should be no problems regarding the lubricants.
Now to the actual practicality of letting your watch stop is different. In an interview with four different watchmakers, they all had a somewhat different opinion.
You won’t let the engine of your car run when you don’t use it, do you?Jan Ubels – Watchmaker for 25 years (Source: Fratellowatches.com)
It is not recommended to keep the watch running, if it has had the proper service, maintenance, and care the manufacturer recommends. However, there are some benefits to keeping it running, such as no setting time and adjusting date.
Theoretically, there is no wear to the components in the watch if the lubricant is in superb condition. However, the lubricant can be contaminated, losing all its optimal values. If the lubrication is contaminated, it could harden, causing damage to the watch.
Watches with complicated movements such as perpetual calendars, annual calendars, moon-phase, or planetariums is recommended to kept wound due to the complexity of setting the watches. Since it is so complicated to use the watches, a lot of components is engaged at one time, which could cause damage to the longevity of the watch.
It is recommended that you keep the high-end watches in a high-quality watch winder adjusted for the turns per day to keep the watch wound, without overwinding it. Many watches come into watchmakers with excessive amounts of wear due to low-quality watch winders, that just winds away in an eternity.
The low-quality winders can cause magnetism from the motor of the winder, it can overwind the watch keeping the mainspring at full force at all times, and engaging the slip-clutch much more than intended.
How to Keep an Automatic Watch When Not Wearing it
Keeping an automatic watch is quite easy. However, there are a lot of things the regular owner doesn’t consider when putting their watches away for storage.
Correct storage of an automatic watch:
- Temperature between 10-35 °C (50-95 °F).
- Boxes and papers.
- Quartz battery removal.
- Time since service compared with the period of storage.
One of the most convenient ways of storing an automatic watch is by having it in a watch winder. Using a watch winder, you will avoid setting the watch ever again. At the same time, the lubrication will keep moving inside the watch.
If you have a watch winder or want to store it in a watch winder, make sure it is one of high-quality. One of the biggest mistakes made is to buy low-quality watch winders. Simply because they will wind the watch in an eternity without any respect the actual turns per day needed to keep the watch wound.
Another risk of using a watch winder is the magnetism from the motor. While watches can be fixed from magnetism it is best avoided. Unless you have some spare cash lying around you, want to use on demagnetizing a watch?
Temperature Between 10-35 °C
In essence, the temperature is not that important. However, the temperature must be somewhat controlled. Automatic watches doesn’t like significant temperature changes. The recommendation to keep the watches in a place with a temperature of 10-35 °C, is based on the typical temperature when worn on the wrist.
You shouldn’t go to the storage location with a thermostat every so often to check if it is within 10-35 °C. Having a controlled temperature in that range will just ensure that the watches won’t be damaged by temperature.
Boxes and Papers
If you are fortunate enough to have the box and papers for your watch, it is highly recommended to store those safely as well. However, the box and paper should be permanently stored until the watch should be sold (even if you don’t intend to). The value of the watch is dependent on the “full set,” meaning if you have the watch, box, and papers, the watch will be worth more than if you have just the watch.
Collectors of watches often refers to buying full sets, because it verifies the origin and authenticity of the watch. While you can get a watchmaker to verify the authenticity, the original papers hold value to the watch as well. However, the box and papers are mostly worthless without the watch.
Whether you intend to store high-end/luxury watches or just some commonplace watches, insurance can be important. If you are storing commonplace watches, you might need a few before it can pay off. However, often insurance companies will put watches under jewelry, which typically requires additional opt-in on your insurance policy.
In case a robber comes by and picks up your watches, you will stand without any watches, and the insurance company is not going to help. This is why having the correct insurance on watches when stored personally is essential. Potentially you can insure your watches against water and moisture damages.
Quartz Watches Battery Revomal
While this is about automatic watches, I like to give the best tips, and if you don’t do this tip, you can end up damaging your automatic watches as well. One of the major dangers when storing quartz watches for extended periods is the corrosion of the batteries.
If the batteries start to corrode, it will first destroy the watch its powering. Secondly, it will leak out of its case. Depending on how the watches are stored, you could get the corrosion from the battery on the case of your other watches. The corrosion could destroy the case of the other watches.
If kept at the attic, it might be exposed to rain, in the basement, it might be exposed to floods (water), and generally it around a typical house it can be exposed to moisture. A good tip if you are not planning on storing it in a safe, is that you can use a cigar humidor because it keeps humidity out of the box. Another option is silica gel, which you will find in shoe boxes. Silica gel also keeps the moisture away from the watches.
It is worthwhile considering where to store the watches. If you live in areas with recent floods, using the basement will be a bad idea. If your roof has some leaks or could be prone to letting water inside, the attic is also a bad idea.
Time Since Service Compared With the Period of Storage
One of the critical considerations before putting away your watches is when they have been serviced and how long you plan to have them stored away. The most well-known brand has a service interval of 5-10 years. If your watch was last in for a service 10 years ago, and you are planning on storing it away until your grandchildren can take over the watch in 30 years, you will most likely be very sad when trying to pass on the watch to your grandchildren.
If the watch should be stored for a longer period of time, you need to make sure the watch is adequately lubricated. Even the best lubrication (which is synthetic nowadays) will harden at some point. If that happens to your watch, you are in for an expensive overhaul.
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