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Manual Winding Movement

Untitled Design 9

Chopard L’Heure Du Diamant Ref. 139384-1106 with Hand-wound Mechanical Movement

A mechanical manual winding movement, also known as a hand-wound movement, is one by which the mainspring is wound by hand via the crown. This is unlike an automatic movement where its mainspring is wound either by way of an oscillating weight or manually by turning the crown.

The mainspring, coiled in the barrel drum, is the driving force behind the mechanical watch movement. The gentleman credited for inventing the mainspring is Peter Hele from Nuremberg, Germany, who created one such mechanism during the early 16th century, said to be in around 1510.

Interestingly, keys were initially used to wind the springs in clocks and pocket watches. The invention of the keyless winding watch is perhaps what led to the establishment of one of the most respected watch brands known today – Patek Philippe. 

In 1844, Frenchman Jean Adrien Philippe presented his invention of the keyless winding watch using the pinion mechanism at the French Industrial Exposition held in Paris. It was during his travels to Paris that Anton Patek heard of Adrien Philippe and his invention. His interest piqued, Patek invited Philippe to Geneva and soon after, a partnership between the two gentlemen was formed.

In watches, the mainspring will be wound by way of the winding stem as the crown is turned. As the spring is being coiled, tension increases and energy is accumulated. This explains why the wind of a watch refers to the tension of its mainspring. 

As the mainspring uncoils, the energy released is regulated by the escapement and is transmitted to the gear train. Through a linked system of wheels with teeth, pinions and pivots, all working in tandem, time can be indicated by rotating individual hands set on each of the dedicated wheels for the hour, minute and seconds respectively.

While the need to manually wind the mainspring daily to keep the movement running is viewed as a disadvantage, this “chore”, ironical as it may sound, works in favour of manual wound movements too. That is because manual-winding movements tend to resonate well with passionate watch collectors who appreciate the interaction with their timepiece and its need for their constant attention. Power reserve displays are useful for manual wound movements.

Perhaps one main advantage of manual winding calibres over self-winding ones is that the movement can be seen in its full glory, without being half-obscured by a rotor, especially in watches with see-through display case backs.