Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam? Today, we’re going to split some hairs and get real technical about the semantic battle royale: mechanical versus automatic.

Let’s start with something that might be confusing (don’t worry, I’ll explain): all automatic watches are mechanical, but not all mechanical watches are automatic. I know, it sounds just like that “every square is a rectangle” nonsense that someone thought it would be cool to teach a bunch of fifth graders (that, or my teacher just hated us). The good news is, though, that there’s no math involved in this explanation.

Y’see, mechanical watches are watches powered by a mainspring and a bunch of gears. That’s the Reader’s Digest version, anyway. Automatic watches are, in essence, a specific kind of mechanical movement that is continuously generating power for the mainspring so long as it is being worn. The motion of your wrist spins a weighted rotor around in the movement which keeps winding up the mainspring, thus keeping it more or less continuously powered.

That being said, you’ve also good hand-wound movements, which are typically referred to as “mechanical” for some unknown reason, since this just adds to the confusion. A hand-wound movement is essentially an automatic but without the rotor, meaning that the crown must be turned as a mechanism to provide power to the mainspring and, thus, to the movement itself. With that exception, the two movements are more or less identical in function. And their fanbase, specifically in the vintage world, is shared. Take Adam Levine, for example. Did you know he’s an extremely serious collector of both automatic and hand wind vintage Rolexes? Well, he is, and you can take a look at each and every one here!

That’s the sort of surface level explanation, but I hope that was enough to get the ball rolling on your understanding, if not totally clue you into what you need to know about mechanical movements. Thanks for reading everyone and, as always, keep it classy, watchfam.