TIME TEST: It’s Automatic

It's Automatic

How much do you know about self-winding watches, past and present? Sharpen your pencil and set that cerebral rotor a’spinning. Answers, as usual, appear at the end.

1. Which of the following automatic watches was launched first?
A. Zenith El Primero
B. Eterna EternaMatic
C. Rolex Perpetual
D. Omega Centenary


Question 2

2. Which watchmaker is widely believed to be the inventor of the automatic winding system in use today?
A. George Graham
B. John Harrison
C. Louis Cotter
D. Abraham-Louis Perrelet


Question 3

3. Which company makes what are often called “clones,” i.e., near copies, of ETA’s most popular automatic movements?
A. Sellita
C. Dubois Dépraz
D. Ronda

4. Which watch has a self-winding system with a linear oscillating weight rather than a rotor?
A. TAG Heuer Monaco V4
B. TAG Heuer Pendulum
C. DeWitt Academia
D. Parmigiani Bugatti


Question 5

5. Which of the following Rolex watches is NOT an automatic?
A. Air King
B. Datejust
C. Cellini Prince
D. None of the above. They are all automatics.


Question 6

6. Which two companies were the first to introduce automatic watches with microrotors?
A. Hamilton and Breitling
B. Buren and Universal Genève
C. Heuer and Omega
D. Leonidas and Movado

7. When did the first Japanese-made automatic watch come out?
A. 1935
B. 1942
C. 1950
D. 1956


Question 8

8. An unusual feature of Carl F. Bucherer’s in-house, self-winding Caliber CFB A 1000 is its
A. Two winding rotors
B. Rotor made of synthetic sapphire
C. Rotor that moves around the periphery of the movement
D. Rotor more than twice the normal thickness


Question 9

9. What company uses the Magic Lever in its automatic winding system?
A. Seiko
B. Montblanc
C. Rolex
D. Patek Philippe


Question 10

10. Who was John Harwood?
A. The Aegler engineer who designed the Perpetual movement
B. The ETA engineer who designed the 7750
C. The inventor of bi-directional winding
D. None of the above

11. Which of the following was an early automatic wristwatch?
A. The Zig-Zag
B. The Wig-Wag
C. The Autorist
D. B and C

12. Which two automatic-winding-related events occurred in 1948?
A. The patent on Rolex’s Perpetual winding system expired.
B. Eterna doubled the efficiency of the winding system then in widespread use.
C. LeCoultre introduced the first series-produced wristwatch movement with power-reserve indicator.
D. A and C
E. A and B
F. B and C







1. C. The Rolex Perpetual was introduced in 1931. Developed by Rolex’s then-movement-supplier Aegler, it incorporated the most effective and trouble-free winding system ever devised, consisting of a rotor mounted on the back of the movement that winds the mainspring as it spins around its axis. The same principle is used in nearly all automatic watches today. The Zenith El Primero, an automatic chronograph, came out in 1960. The EternaMatic came out in 1948. The Omega Centenary was also introduced in 1948, which was Omega’s centennial year.

2. D. The Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Perrelet is widely believed to have made the first self-winding watch, in or around 1770. He actually made two types of automatic systems during his long career (he died in 1826 at age 97, and worked until at least age 95). One was the type we know today, with a rotor spinning around a center pivot. The other worked by means a weight that moved to and fro.

3. A. The company makes movements that are interchangeable with, and very similar (although not identical) to ETA movements whose designs are now in the public domain. These are the SW 200-1 (meant as a replacement for the ETA 2824-2), the SW 300 (for the ETA 2892) and the SW 500 (for the ETA 7750).

4. A. The TAG Heuer Monaco V4 is wound by means of a 4.25-gram platinum ingot that moves up and down a track between the four spring barrels.

5. C. The Rolex Cellini Prince, introduced in 2005 and modeled on the Rolex Prince launched in 1928, has a rectangular, hand-wound movement visible through the caseback.

6. B. During the 1950s, watch companies were eager to bring out automatic movements that were fashionably slim (a standard, full-sized winding rotor, which sits atop a movement, adds thickness). Both Buren and Universal Genève patented winding devices that used “microrotors,” small rotors that were set into the movement rather than on top of it, and hence did not add to the movement’s height. Buren did so first, in 1954. The company incorporated it in its Super Slender line in 1957. Universal Genève did not apply for its patent until 1955, but that year, before the patent had been granted, incorporated a microrotor device into its Polerouter watch. (The first Polerouter, which came out in 1954, had a “bumper” type of winding device incorporating a weight that moved back and forth.)

7. D. It was Seiko that brought out the first Japanese automatic watch. That the company lagged far behind the Swiss industry in making self-winding watches was due mostly to World War II and the Second Sino-Japanese War that preceded it. During the war years, the company shifted production from civilian wristwatches to war materiel. In addition, imports of foreign-made watches stopped almost entirely, so the domestic industry had no incentive to improve and update its products.

8. C. The CFB A 1000 is wound by means of an arc-shaped weight that moves around the edge of the movement. Its main advantage is that, unlike a traditional rotor, it allows a view of the entire movement.

9. A. The Magic Lever is a two-armed device that drives a winding wheel in one direction, by either pushing it or pulling it, depending on which direction the winding rotor is turning. Seiko engineer Tsuneya Nakamura invented the Magic Lever in 1959 (he later became president of Seiko Epson). The Magic Lever is still used by Seiko today.

10. D. John Harwood was a British watchmaker who, in the 1920s, resurrected the 18th-century concept of the winding rotor and applied it for the first time to a wristwatch. Harwood, who fought in World War I, was inspired to design a self-winding watch when he observed the damage done to soldiers’ watches by dirt entering the cases through the crown-stem hole. The watch he designed needed a crown for neither winding nor setting; the latter was done via the bezel. The design, which he licensed to several companies, was not a success for technical and other reasons, and Harwood went out of business.

11. D. The Wig-Wag movement, introduced in 1931 by a company called La Champagne, served as its own winding weight: the entire movement slid back and forth within a frame. The Autorist, which also came out in 1931, was also an oddity: it was wound by means of the watch lugs, which were tugged on by the strap when the wearer moved his wrist.

12. D. The expiration of the patent for the Perpetual winding system in 1948 brought on a flood of new automatic watches designed on the same principle. Also that year, Jaeger-LeCoultre brought out its Powermatic, an automatic with a power-reserve indicator in the form of an arc-shaped aperture at 12 o’clock. It was the first production-model wristwatch with such an indicator, although Breguet had made a one-of-a-kind power-reserve watch in 1933.

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