Switzerland has carefully guarded its reputation of producing the finest watches in the world. The intricacies of mechanical movements still fascinate collectors despite the advances offered by digital watches. And Switzerland is where many of the advances in mechanical clocks and watches occurred and continue to capture collectors’ imaginations.

A feature that attracts buyers to Swiss watches allows them to forget about winding. A self-winding or automatic watch uses the natural movements of the wearer’s body to rewind the mainspring of the mechanical movement. The first known self-winding mechanism can be dated to 1770, but the first automatic or self-winding wristwatch dates back to only 1923. It was then that John Harwood of the United Kingdom. He invented a wristwatch that uses an eccentric weight, which is called a winding rotor, that rotates with the movement of the wearer’s wrist. The winding rotor, with its back and forth motion, works in concert with a ratchet to wind the mainspring automatically. Normally, this means that the wearer can avoid winding the watch if it is used daily. However, if put aside for a while, an automatic watch can be wound manually to keep them running.

Another advantage to consumers that automatic watches offer is that no batteries are ever needed. That is a feature that would also satisfy the ecologically-minded who fret over disposing exhausted batteries.

Here follow Swiss-made mechanical automatic watches that can be purchased at Amazon. All are available at less than $500. 

Swatch Sistem 51 watches

In April 2014 the Swatch Group launched the Sistem 51 wristwatch. Its purely mechanical movement consists of but 51 parts. It has a breakthrough self-winding mechanism with a transparent oscillating weight. It is the only mechanical movement manufactured entirely on a fully automated assembly line. At around $135 and up for its various models, it is an affordable and accurate timepiece. 

Victorinox Swiss Army Men's 241372 Officers Mechanical Self-Winding Watc

This is a Swiss watch of classic design that features an easily visible white dial with silver numerals and luminous hands. It also has a date window. The stainless steel body is matched with a stainless steel bracelet with deployment-clasp closure. While the manufacturer notes it is water resistant to 330 feet, it does not recommend its use for scuba diving. 


Victorinox Men's 241519 Infantry Analog Display Swiss Automatic Brown Watch 

This watch features a Swiss automatic movement, and like the above watch has a stainless steel case and anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The case is bronzed and matches the leather strap, which recalls the watches that went to the trenches during the First World War when officers had to closely coordinate artillery barrages and subsequent infantry charges across No Man’s Land. This watch is water resistant to 330 feet, but use it only for swimming or snorkeling. No scuba diving for this watch. On the back is a convenient window that reveals the inner workings of this watch.

Bulova Men's 96A118 BVA Series, Dual Aperture Dial Watch 

This watch has an automatic self-winding movement and features a protective domed mineral crystal window. It has luminous hands and markers, a white face, and a 24-hour subdial. The back of the watch has a window that reveals the complicated 21 jewel movement and escapement. The movement of the inner workings can provide entertainment during idle moments. Its stainless steel case and bracelet make it hypo-allergenic like all such watches. While this watch is water resistant, the manufacturer does not warrant it against swimming or showering. But you can wear it in the rain.

Bulova Men's 96A128 BVA-Series 160 Mechanical Watch

This self-winding mechanical watch may look square, but it has lots of character. It has a slim design and an elegant black dial that would go well with formal wear. It has a curved mineral crystal. The stainless steel case is only 13 mm thick; the polished link bracelet includes a deployment clasp: a secure and proven design. The black tone dial has luminous hands and hour markers. On the back of the watch is a round window that allows the wearer to observe its precise automatic movement. On the face of the watch is a skeleton open-heart subdial that allows observing the works while you watch the time.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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