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Are automatic watches accurate?

First of all, precision is always a comparison with a standard. In this case, we are comparing a mechanical watch to a more precise watch.
I want to elaborate a bit to make it clearer, but also to give you an understanding so that you can judge for yourself how precise a mechanical watch is or can be.

Different Types of Timekeeping:

Clock Type Accuracy Power Source Application Areas Rate Deviation
Optical Atomic Clock Very High Electricity Science, Metrology, Research ≺ 1 second in 15 billion years
Cesium Atomic Clock Very High Electricity Science, Metrology, Aerospace, Telecommunications ≺ 1 second in 100 million years
Hydrogen Maser Very High Electricity Science, Metrology, Research ≺ 1 second in 3 million years
Rubidium Atomic Clock High Electricity GPS, Mobile Communication ≺ 1 second in 10 million years
Quartz Watch High Battery Everyday Wear, Leisure, Sports ≺ 1 second per day
Automatic Watch Low to Medium Motion Fashion, Luxury, Collectibles +/- 20 seconds per day
Ion Clock Very High Electricity Satellite Navigation, Gravitational Wave Detection Accurate to 19 decimal places of a second.
Restart: Every 14 billion years
Radio-Controlled Very High Battery The watch receives its signal from a cesium atomic clock, such as the one in DCF77 in Mainflingen.

At the latest after you have looked at the chart, you should have a smile on your face or raise your eyebrows.

But to stay on the subject of "automatic watches". The movements have a escapement that performs half oscillations at 3-4 Hz, depending on the model. Since Hertz numbers always express the number of complete oscillations per second, the number of half oscillations corresponds to twice the value of the Hertz number. For example, 3 Hz corresponds to 6 half oscillations per second, 21,600 per hour, and 518,400 in 24 hours. Yes, over half a million times a day. Now, if a mechanical watch, compared to an atomic clock, runs 20 seconds a day ahead, the watch has performed 120 half oscillations more, which is 0.000231481481480% faster compared to a cesium clock. First, I will not go into various factors, such as temperature, magnetism, and position.

From my perspective, with over 20 years of experience, I can make the following statements. If a mechanical watch, in an extreme example, runs 100 seconds ahead of an atomic clock within 24:00:00 000 hours, and the test can be repeated x times and it always runs +/- 100 seconds ahead, paradoxically, the watch is extremely precise. Such a watch can be adjusted a bit more and that's it. If the watch runs today with +100 seconds and tomorrow with -100 seconds, we would have a time that is comparable to an atomic clock every 2 days, but in this case, the watch is not precise. But don't worry, such extreme variations occur more often in older watches, where maintenance seems to be essential.


In general, the term "precision" refers to the ability to achieve measurements or results with high accuracy or repeatability. Precision can be defined as the ability to reproduce a specific measurement or value with a high degree of repeatability. A precise result is one that is constant and consistent and has only minor deviations or errors. In science and technology, precision can also refer to the ability to perform or control measurements or operations on a very small scale.

To illustrate this visually - to visualize precision, is done by throwing darts at a target. If a player is able to place all darts near the bullseye, then he has high precision. However, if the darts are distributed across the entire target, but are near the bullseye, he is accurate but not precise.

Your feedback is very important to me. I cordially invite you to share your opinion with me and other readers in the comments.

Zafer Yigitoglu,
Managing Director

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