If you’re tired of paying for battery replacements, or you’re searching for an environmentally sustainable timepiece, you want to learn more about watches without batteries.
In the world of keeping time, everything comes down to the watch movement in your timepiece. If your current watch takes a battery, chances are it has a quartz movement inside. If you want to get away from routine battery changes and opening your top drawer to find that your watch stopped ticking, it’s time to find a mechanical watch.
There are several types of mechanical watches, but the most common types are manual-wind (also called handwound) or automatic. Sometimes you will see manual winds listed as mechanical and autos listed as automatic, but technically they are both mechanical and the defining characteristic is how the mainspring gets wound – either by hand or by the rotor.
It’s pretty straightforward: a manual wind watch needs wound every day or so. An automatic (aka self-winding) watch has a rotor attached to the movement to wind itself as you wear it.
Here are some examples of manual wind movements…
Pictured above is a Swiss made ETA/Unitas 6498-1 manual-wind mechanical movement found in a Votum Blue Ocean watch.
Pictured above is an Invicta Scuba 10367 with a custom blued Seagull caliber 3600K, made in China.
Another option for a watch without batteries would be a vintage pocket watch made in USA.
The example above is a Kobold Spirit of America manual wind with a Swiss ETA caliber 6497 movement.
Here are some examples of automatic movements…
The automatic movement shown above is the popular and affordable Seiko Instruments caliber NH35A found in a bronze BOLDR microbrand watch.
Above is a TAG Heuer Monaco iconic square watch with a Swiss made automatic movement that TAG calls the Calibre 6.
The vintage automatic watch above is a Hilton 17 Jewels with an A. Schild caliber AS 1361N from the 1960s.
The gold plated automatic movement above was found in this Ingersoll Ghandi triple date watch, made in China.
Before You Buy:
So as we learned above, the two main types of mechanical watches without batteries are: manual-wind and automatic. The prices of these watches without batteries can range from affordable to costing more than a typical house. As with anything else, it mostly comes down to the brand and origin. You can find automatic watches with a made in Japan Seiko NH35A movement for as little as $100 and Swiss made manual wind pilot style watches for $2,000.
But first, consider whether you want to commit to the task of winding your watch by hand before you wear it, or put it on and let it do the work for you. Keep in mind, the average mechanical watch power reserve is between 38 to 42 hours, although there are more and more movements offering extended power reserve. Regardless of the specs, what this means is that when the power reserve has run out, the watch will stop ticking until you get energy wound back into the mainspring. So it’s not uncommon to have to set your mechanical watch after not wearing it for the weekend or switching to a different timepiece for a few days. This is one of the advantages that a watch with a battery has over mechanical timepieces. A battery powered quartz watch will run continuously and display the time until the battery runs out. This is why quartz watches are often described as excellent grab-and-go pieces.
This guide is meant to be a quick intro to watches without batteries. From here, you should figure out what type of mechanical watch suits you better and then determine your price range. After you make your decision about those points, then you can begin to narrow down the right mechanical movement and watch style for you.
If you still want to use your battery powered quartz watch, a useful tip is to pull the crown out to time setting mode to extend the battery life. The seconds hand should stop (also called hacking the movement). With many popular quartz movements, this can reduce power consumption by 70%. Note that there are a few movements out there that actually increase the power consumption when time setting mode is engaged, so always check your watch’s caliber information to be sure.
Did you make the jump from watches with batteries to watches without? Let us know all about it in the comments below.
Here are some recent mechanical watches added to our store…
Stuhrling Xtreme Impulse XT$ 150.00
Spinnaker Dumas Classic$ 385.00
Titoni Airmaster Automatic Blue$ 999.00
Seiko Premier Power Reserve Day-Date$ 600.00