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Automatic watches


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#1 of 42 OFFLINE   VinhT

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Posted April 21 2005 - 06:10 AM

I know there are quite a few timepiece aficionados on HTF, so I thought I might inquire a bit about automatic watches.

I have used battery-powered quartz watches for most of my life. Instead of changing batteries, I tend to abandon watches after the battery dies. This allows me to change watches every three years or so. I do not remove my watch unless someone wants to examine it, so this means watches that I own are subject to showers, pools, and various physical activities. In recent months, automatic watches have begun to appeal to me, although for what reasons I am not quite sure. I suppose that I am hoping to break the cycle by investing in a quality timepiece and using it for five to ten years. I do have a few concerns about automatic watches that have prompted me to create this thread.

As far as I can tell, there are two types of automatic watches. It seems like the solar and kinetic offerings from Citizen and Seiko merely charge a battery or capacitor. This modern approach seems optimal, as it preserves accuracy while maintaining autonomy. They can also retain their charge for a significant duration. The other type seems to be more mechanical-based, requiring some kind of spring or coil to be wound. It seems like these require daily winding, and even when certified, are still not as accurate as the cheapest of quartz watches. Defying logic, I seem to be more interested in the latter, purely mechanical type.

From my perspective, it seems the mechanical automatics are more expensive, but less accurate. Is this a correct assumption? I kind of sense that part of the appeal is being able to afford less accuracy. In addition, I have noticed that automatic watches tend to be thicker than their battery-operated counterparts. Is this always the case? Lastly, do the watches require any maintenance?

At the moment, I am particularly interested in the Tag Heuer Link Automatic. Are Tag Heuer watches any good? Are there any other brands that I should consider that have a clean Submariner look? I know that Citizen and Seiko are probably the smart choices, but I am strangely drawn to the more esoteric side.
Vinh Tran

#2 of 42 OFFLINE   Garrett Lundy

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Posted April 21 2005 - 06:21 AM

I've had a Citizen Eco-Drive (Titanium case/titanium band) solar watch for about 7 years now. Aside from having to reset it twice a year for daylight savings/spending time I've never noticed it to be inaccurate. It is slightly thicker than a traditional watch, but the titanium construction compensates by decreasing its weight. Its fairly scratch-resistant and rustproof, and has even survived a motorcycle accident with no ill effects.
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#3 of 42 OFFLINE   Bob Friend

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Posted April 21 2005 - 07:41 AM

I've had a Titanium Pulsar Solar for 6 years. It works flawlessly. I paid $150 for it. Money well spent.

Edit: After re-reading your post, I see you're looking at Tag Heuers. I'm pretty sure my Pulsar isn't in the same league as the Tags. Posted Image

#4 of 42 OFFLINE   Jeremy Illingworth

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Posted April 21 2005 - 07:56 AM

Last year I decided to invest in a quality time piece. Mechanical automatics are indeed less acurate, which to me defeats the point of owning a nice watch. If you get a Tag, make sure (if this matteres to you) that its an all Swiss watch, as they put their name on lesser watches of non Swiss origin. Sometimes they have a Swiss movement and the rest is non Swiss, but for my money it had to be an all Swiss watch, made entirely under one roof.

In the end I went with Tissot (never heard of it until I started watch shopping) and am very happy. I'm this close to getting a second one. Many of their models let you know when the battery is getting low, so you can take it in before it quits, which may help break your cycle. I set it off my atomic clock and the only time I've had to adjust the it so far is when I travel.

And if you buy a quality time piece, make sure it has a crystal, not glass lense. Crystal will not ever scratch.

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#5 of 42 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted April 21 2005 - 08:24 AM

I have a Seiko 'Orange Monster'(if you want to see an unbelievable in-depth review of its black faced twin, go here). It isn't accurate in the sense that it gains about 2 minutes every week (shock, horror - this means that every week I have to check it against a web page linked to an atomic clock). That isn't the point; few of us really need a watch more accurate than this. And in a mechanical watch you have something whose accuracy is utterly dependent on engineering skill - any fool can design a watch based on quartz timing. Either you like the thought of wearing a watch designed with skill or you don't, and if you don't then get an electronic watch.

Another thought to bear in mind is that with quartz watches, all keep pretty good time; as you increase in price, all you're really paying for is a fancy name and better superficial aesthetics. At least with all-mechanical watches generally the increased money reflects increasingly good engineering.

#6 of 42 OFFLINE   Andrew W

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Posted April 21 2005 - 10:23 AM

A mechanical Swiss watch certified as a chronometer must vary less than -5/+8 seconds a day. It will say "Swiss Made" on the dial and also "chronometer." Both phrases are trademarked worldwide by the Swiss watchmaking industry.

A good automatic should have synthetic sapphire crystal. Hard as a diamond and very durable. If you are swimming and boating, it should be water resistant to 30m. If you are scuba diving you want it to be water resistant to about 3x the max depth you plan to dive, usually 100m/300ft for a recreational diver.

Even for watches that are water resistant, it is not recommended that you wear them in the shower, spas or hot tubs because steam can enter the watch and condense.

Your watch will need to be cleaned every 3-5 years. This cost from about $250 for a basic watch and up to $500 for a chronograph (stop watch)

Rolex, Tag Huer and Omega are probably the most well known and there's also Tissot which makes a nice switch watch at a reasonable price. ETA is a big megacorp that makes most of the movements, but each company will customize them to some degree.
Andrew in Austin

#7 of 42 OFFLINE   John Stone

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Posted April 21 2005 - 01:23 PM

I bought an Omega Seamaster Professional Chronometer after looking at everything from Rolex to Breitling to Tag Heuer and I couldn't be happier with it.

My watch is the 2531.80 model (picture below). It's full-sized and a COSC certified automatic. I absolutely love this watch and encourage you to check out Omega's line.

Posted Image

#8 of 42 OFFLINE   Vincent_S

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Posted April 21 2005 - 01:30 PM

I bought an automatic Omega Seamaster last year(exact same one as above). I had heard that they were not as accurate as quartz movements. I have only had to adjust it one time in the last 6 months because it lost 2 minutes. If I lost it I would buy another in a heartbeat.

#9 of 42 OFFLINE   Andrew W

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Posted April 21 2005 - 03:43 PM

I actually have the same Seamaster Pro chronometer, only I have the 3/4 size model.

Omegas are a pretty good price/performance ratio in my opinion.
Andrew in Austin

#10 of 42 OFFLINE   VinhT

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Posted April 21 2005 - 04:14 PM

Garrett,
Wow, I was not aware that Citizen solar watches have been around for so long. I have noticed solar-powered watches trickle in over the past few years, but did not realize that they were not recent developments. The titanium appeals to me, but I have not seen a mechanical watch offered in it. I am also concerned that it might show accelerated wear.

Bob,
I am currently using a Pulsar. Posted Image I have no complaints, but I have just become so fascinated with mechanical watches lately...

Jeremy,
Duly noted about the all-Swiss thing. I've never seen a watch offered with glass, so no worries there.

Andrew M.,
The engineering is a primary attraction for me. I read the review you referred me to. I had not considered that the gears and such of mechanical watches could wear out. Is it enough to warrant concern?

Andrew W.,
Thank you for the chronometer tolerance information. I would definitely get a certified watch. With regards to water resistancy, I usually prefer 200 meters not because I have gone diving anywhere near that deep, but because I suspect that motion under water may increase the water pressure on the watch. Plus, I figure the watch may be able to better tolerate extreme temperature changes caused by showers. I know it's not recommended, but I have never had a problem with water, even with inexpensive watches, so I'm not too concerned about keeping the watch on in the shower. Aside from cleaning, do mechanical watches ever need... a tune-up?

John and Vincent,
A question about the Seamaster. What is the purpose of the upper left control? Is it some sort of valve? I have gone diving in the past, but do not really foresee much diving in my future. Just curious if that special feature might be wasted on me. Also wondering why other brands do not have something similar. The watch itself certainly looks mesmerizing.
Vinh Tran

#11 of 42 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted April 21 2005 - 04:15 PM

I have a Bell & Ross automatic chronograph, which is accurate to about 2 seconds per day. I have to reset it fairly often anyway (to change the date for months less than 31 days long, for daylight savings, etc.) so being off about a minute per month is no big deal.

If you buy a quality mechanical watch, it will require routine service every 5-7 years.

The best site I've found for learning more about mechanical watches is www.timezone.com

#12 of 42 OFFLINE   Michael Warner

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Posted April 22 2005 - 01:09 AM

I was thinking of trying out an automatic watch to see if I liked it but the prices seemed too steep for a "test drive" model. I eventually found an automatic Invicta I liked for $45 at overstock.com (price has since gone up $10). I figure I can play with it for a few months to see if I can live with the mechanical movement quirks. If I wind up liking it I can then upgrade to a better model. If not, then I'm only out 45 -- rather than hundreds -- of bucks. That's about how much I usually spend for my beater watches anyway. It should arrive today or tomorrow.

Posted Image
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#13 of 42 OFFLINE   AjayM

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Posted April 22 2005 - 01:57 AM

Wow, didn't realize so many people here had Seamasters, count me in as another.

Quote:
From my perspective, it seems the mechanical automatics are more expensive, but less accurate. Is this a correct assumption?

Yep that's pretty much 100% accurate (uhhh, pun intended Posted Image)

Quote:
I kind of sense that part of the appeal is being able to afford less accuracy.

Well I wouldn't go that far, what do you do in your life that you need to have +/- 1 second accuracy for a 24hr period of time? Posted Image Even a "bad" automatic won't lose more than say a minute over the course of a 24hr period of time. If you're that tight with the clock may I suggest a sandy beach and a corona Posted Image


Quote:
In addition, I have noticed that automatic watches tend to be thicker than their battery-operated counterparts. Is this always the case?

If you were to compare the thinest of each then probably, but they make some pretty small auto's, I have a Hamilton that's a mix between sport and dress (a bit more on the dress side than sport side) and it's only a little thicker than my thinest battery watch (some little seiko leather strap dress watch).

Quote:
Lastly, do the watches require any maintenance?

They do, but quite a few people never take them in for it and have no issues.

Quote:
At the moment, I am particularly interested in the Tag Heuer Link Automatic. Are Tag Heuer watches any good? Are there any other brands that I should consider that have a clean Submariner look? I know that Citizen and Seiko are probably the smart choices, but I am strangely drawn to the more esoteric side.

How much do you want to spend will really be the key. The Submariner look has been copied so much by so many brands you can find something with that look for as little as $100 all the way up to thousands of dollars.

Quote:
Thank you for the chronometer tolerance information. I would definitely get a certified watch.

That will drive the price up quite a bit, figure on spending around $800-1000 for a COSC watch.

Quote:
A question about the Seamaster. What is the purpose of the upper left control? Is it some sort of valve? I have gone diving in the past, but do not really foresee much diving in my future. Just curious if that special feature might be wasted on me. Also wondering why other brands do not have something similar. The watch itself certainly looks mesmerizing.

It's a gas escape valve, the Seamaster is a "true" diving watch, it's rated for 300M/1000ft. Although it's there more for the bling-bling effect (the need for such a valve isn't need for such diving as far as I heard).

Quote:
The engineering is a primary attraction for me. I read the review you referred me to. I had not considered that the gears and such of mechanical watches could wear out. Is it enough to warrant concern?

Not really, granted to keep a watch running for 20-30-50+ years will require the occasional tune-up, but a quality automatic watch will most likely last you longer than a quartz watch.

#14 of 42 OFFLINE   AjayM

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Posted April 22 2005 - 02:09 AM

Quote:
I was thinking of trying out an automatic watch to see if I liked it but the prices seemed too steep for a "test drive" model. I eventually found an automatic Invicta I liked for $45 at overstock.com (price has since gone up $10). I figure I can play with it for a few months to see if I can live with the mechanical movement quirks. If I wind up liking it I can then upgrade to a better model. If not, then I'm only out 45 -- rather than hundreds -- of bucks. That's about how much I usually spend for my beater watches anyway. It should arrive today or tomorrow.

I have a model similiar to that one, it's a decent watch for $45, but I don't think I would use it as a basis of quality for auto watches in general, you can tell it's "cheap" watch, folded link bracelet, VERY cheap movement (cheaper than the regular Japanese movements Invicta uses), etc. The differences beteen it and something like the Tag you mentioned earlier are night and day for the most part, to make a comparison it would be like driving a base model Toyota Echo to see if you would like driving a Benz.

#15 of 42 OFFLINE   Andrew W

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Posted April 22 2005 - 03:48 AM

Quote:
Aside from cleaning, do mechanical watches ever need... a tune-up?

When they clean it, the will regulate it before they return it to you. They do that on a timing machine that very accurately measures the period between ticks.

You should have the seals pressure checked yearly. If you have a working relationship with the shop, they will just throw it in the pressure tester while you wait at little or no charge.

As for gear wearing out, this is one area where modern technology beats whale blubber hands down. Old lubricants would dry out or become gummy. That's when parts would wear out. I've also got two Hamiltons, a wristwatch and a pocketwatch, from the 1930's. Both are running strong with 30 seconds a day. With regular service, they should last for a few hundred years more.

For the history of the chronometer, see this link about John Harrison.

Harrison
Andrew in Austin

#16 of 42 OFFLINE   Andrew W

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Posted April 22 2005 - 03:53 AM

This was in 1773.

King George tested H5 himself at the palace and when it had lost only four and a half seconds in ten days he was outraged and raged "By God Harrison, I'll see you righted!"

Less than 1/2 second a day. Truly amazing.

I guess they don't run them much anymore, but the wound them up a few years ago.

http://news.bbc.co.u...ech/1864737.stm
Andrew in Austin

#17 of 42 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted April 22 2005 - 04:02 AM

One thing I haven't tried yet is self regulating my watch. Basically, most mechanical watches will have slightly different speeds in different positions (on its side, upside down, etc.). If I know my watch is generally fast one second per day, I might find that placing it upside down on the dresser at night will slow it down a fraction and help bring it back to on-time.

#18 of 42 OFFLINE   VinhT

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Posted April 22 2005 - 04:22 AM

Ajay, Andrew W.,
Thank you for the helpful info! Got a few more questions for all the Seamaster owners out there. Looking at the Omega website, I noticed that the blue bezel/blue dial model (2531.80) seems to be different from the rest. The hands are skeletonized and the bracelet is different. Is there something particularly special about that model? Also, with regards to the specification of case diameter, does that mean from the left edge of the case to the right edge of the crown?
Vinh Tran

#19 of 42 OFFLINE   AjayM

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Posted April 22 2005 - 04:38 AM

Not really anything special, just a different model. It was made popular again by the Bond movies and having Brosnan as a spokesperson. Personally I didn't care for the other model, I prefer the bracelet on the one pictured above and I didn't like the markers on the face of the other model.

Quote:
Also, with regards to the specification of case diameter, does that mean from the left edge of the case to the right edge of the crown?

Yep, that's also a fairly standard measurement across the industry, so it will give a little insight into the size of watches you look at. Keep in mind that the Seamaster is a BIG watch though, probably a little bigger than the "average" sport/diver watch.

#20 of 42 OFFLINE   Andrew W

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Posted April 22 2005 - 05:02 AM

Quote:
Keep in mind that the Seamaster is a BIG watch though, probably a little bigger than the "average" sport/diver watch.

Take a look at 2551.80. It's the exact same watch in a "mid size" case. 36.25mm rather than 41mm.

A watch diameter does not include the crown or the lugs protecting the crown.
Andrew in Austin


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