A mechanical watch is a throwback to a different age, the age before electronics, when watchmakers were engaged in the struggle to turn a heap of metal into a machine that would vibrate at a constant frequency whatever the position, temperature and circumstances. Today a mechanical watch is itself a distinctive product. Even more so a hand-wound mechanical watch.
A hand-wound watch is like a Tamagotchi: it needs a bit of daily attention. But it rewards you for winding it up with a chance to see the movement, which has a true engineering fascination. You can see more of it through the caseback because there is no oscillating weight, the component that dominates the caseback view of self-winding mechanical watches.
There are a fair number of watch brands that have hand-wound watches in their collection, such as A. Lange & Söhne, IWC and others. For a company such as Laurent Ferrier, the concept of a hand-wound watch and the winding experience is an important part of the brand identity. These are all expensive watches. But there are some brands that offer a more accessible entry to the world of hand-wound fascination. Here they are, in increasing price order.
1. Parnis Aviator watch – €120
The aviator watch by Chinese company Parnis has all the visual elements of the pilot’s watch, with conical crown, Arabic numerals, reference triangle at 12 o’clock, black dial, plus a display caseback revealing a classical hand-wound movement. It has 21 jewels, runs at 3 Hertz (21,600 vibrations per hour) and provides 45 hours power reserve. It is probably made by Sea-Gull. Price €120. Read more here.
2. Wancher Storm Jet Black Chronograph – about €415
The Wancher Storm Jet, made in Japan with a 41mm case in 316L stainless steel and a hand-wound movement made in China, is a solid watch, with 10 atm water resistance, a bidirectional rotating bezel, and the chronograph complication. The Wancher Storm Jet has a pilot’s watch appearance, with bold numerals on a black dial, and the traditional reference triangle on the rotating bezel. The case is fairly thick at 14mm, and it has a 10 atm water resistance, attained in part by means of the screw-down crown. The ST19 chronograph movement is remarkable in that it is based on a column wheel. This makes pusher operation pleasantly smooth. The movement has a horizontal clutch and this may cause a bit of flutter in the seconds hand when you start the chronograph. It is now made in a number of variants, and this Wancher Storm Jet has a hand-wound 20-jewel Seagull ST1903 movement with about 40 hours power reserve, running at 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hertz). Price about €415. Read more here.
3. Steinhart Marine Chronometer 44 – €450
The Steinhart Marine Chronometer 44, reference M0509, is in the traditional marine format, with white dial and Roman numerals. It is a large and thick watch, 44 mm in diameter and 14.2 mm in thickness. The Unitas 6498-1 calibre movement made by ETA is a perfect fit: it is hand-wound and runs at 18,000 vibrations per hour, 2.5 Hertz. The truncated-conical crown is large enough to make winding and time-setting easy. Price €450. Read more on the Steinhart website.
4. Berthet Vintage Aviateur H46 – €495
The watch named Vintage Aviateur, reference H46, by Berthet is in the early aviator style, with large Art Deco style numerals coated with luminescent paint on a black dial, and a generous 46 mm size that gives it a lot of presence on the wrist. It has a fluted caseband that adds an extra classical note, and a fluted crown to match. The Vintage Aviateur H46 is powered by a Swiss-made movement, presumably the ETA Unitas 6498-2, personalized by Berthet, with a balance running at 21,600 vibrations per second, 3 Hertz, 18 jewels, and a power reserve of 48/50 hours. Price €495. Read more here.
5. Christopher Ward C5 Malvern 595 – €745
The C5 Malvern 595 by Christopher Ward is a hand-wound dress watch, 39 mm in diameter and just 5.95 mm thick. The classical hand-wound movement can be seen through the sapphire caseback. It is an ETA 7001 movement providing 42 hours power reserve. It’s a simple, no-nonsense movement with 17 jewels and a balance running at 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hertz). Its fundamental characteristic is the thickness of just 2.5 mm which enables its use in a slim watch such as the C5 Malvern 595. Price €745 with a leather strap, €850 with a steel milanaise bracelet. Read more here.
6. Strela Cosmos CO42LAB – €745
The Strela Cosmos CO42LAB is a reproduction watch made by the Strela company which operates in Munich, Germany. It is powered by the 3133 MakTime movement which has 23 jewels. This is a cam-lever calibre based on the Venus 188, later made by Valjoux as the 7730, 7733 and 7734. The movement runs at 3 Hertz (21,600 vibrations per hour), and it is hand-wound, power reserve 42 hours with chronograph off, 37 hours with chronograph running. Read more here.
7. Archimede DeckWatch A . SI.LS – €760
The DeckWatch by Archimede is a modern version of marine and naval watches made in the early decades of the 20th century. The stainless steel case is 42 mm in diameter, 10.5 mm thick, water resistance 5 atm. The silvered dial has printed numerals and scale, and blued steel hands. The watch is powered by the Swiss-made ETA 6498 movement. Price €760. Read more on the Archimede website.
8. Stowa Marine Original Roman White – €1,280
At 41 mm in diameter and 12 mm thick, this is a very wearable classic marine watch. The dial is high-polished white simulating enamel, with black printed numerals and blued steel hands. The movement is the hand-wound Unitas 6498-1, visible through the display caseback. It has been modified and finished by Stowa, in particular with a swan-neck regulator. The movement runs at 18,000 vibrations per hour, 2.5 Hertz, power reserve 46-50 hours. The case is in polished stainless steel, 5 bar water resistance. A lovely piece, very authentic, no date window, reflecting Stowa’s long tradition in making marine chronometers – their earliest watches of this type were made in 1939. The watch costs €1,280 inclusive of VAT. Read more on the Stowa website.
9. Tourby Marine Arabic 43 – €1,325 plus tax
The Tourby Marine Arabic recalls naval watches made from about 1918, in which Arabic numerals were used instead of the Roman numerals more usual in the marine chronometer style. The Tourby Marine Arabic is fitted with the ETA Unitas 6498.1 movement, which runs at the traditional speed of 18,000 vibrations per hour, 2.5 Hz. It provides a power reserve of about 44 hours. Daily winding is facilitated by the large onion-shaped crown. The Tourby Marine Arabic 43 with a Cordovan leather strap costs €1,325 plus tax, shipping included. It is available on request from the Tourby website, delivery time 2-4 weeks. Read more here.
10. Tissot T-Complication Mechanical COSC – €1,590
It’s reassuring that Tissot is still making this traditional hand-wound watch with an ETA 6498-2 movement, in chronometer version. This guarantees a precision of -4/+6 seconds maximum deviation per day. The power reserve is a bit higher than usual for this movement at 53 hours. The watch is 43 mm in diameter and 11 mm thick, and it has a sapphire watchglass and display caseback. The strap is in cowhide with an alligator texture print and a folding clasp. I suspect that Tissot are phasing this watch out because the website says that availability is limited. Price €1,590. Reference T0704061605700. Read more on the Tissot website.