Will Dropping An Automatic Watch Break It?

Automatic watches, intricate works of engineering, are both functional and artistic. With precise movements and elegant designs, they capture the admiration of many. However, these sophisticated timepieces often lead to an age-old query that revolves around their durability and fragility.

The answer to whether dropping an automatic watch can break it is a resounding yes, but it also depends on several factors. The damage can range from cosmetic scratches to more severe functional issues. However, with the right care and understanding, most mishaps can be averted.

Automatic watches come with their own set of vulnerabilities, derived from their design and components. Like any other intricate machinery, they react to external shocks in various ways. While some might withstand minor falls, others could face significant damage.

Wind An Automatic Watch

Automatic Watch Components

The intricacy and artistry of an automatic watch are not just a result of its design but also its components. These components, both exterior and interior, play a pivotal role in ensuring the watch functions optimally.

Movement Mechanics

Movement is the heart of an automatic watch, driving its function and accuracy. This mechanism works without a battery, relying instead on traditional watchmaking expertise. Key components include:

Balance Wheel

The balance wheel is often considered the heartbeat of a watch. It’s a delicate component that oscillates back and forth, regulating the release of energy from the mainspring, and ensuring accurate timekeeping. The consistent movement of the balance wheel, paired with the escapement, divides time into equal segments, driving the watch hands at a regular pace.

Main Spring

The main spring is a coiled piece of special metal that stores energy. When you wind an automatic watch manually or when it’s wound by movement, you’re essentially tightening this spring. As it unwinds, it releases energy that powers the watch. The quality and tension of this spring are critical in ensuring the watch maintains accurate time over extended periods.


Unique to automatic watches, the rotor is a semi-circular piece of metal that moves with the motion of the wearer’s arm. It’s connected to the movement and winds the mainspring, providing energy to run the watch. When you move, the rotor pivots, winding the mainspring. It’s an efficient way to keep the watch powered without manual winding.

Exterior Parts

While the movement mechanics are the hidden gems of a watch, the exterior parts are what we often see and interact with daily. They play both functional and aesthetic roles.

Watch Crystal

The watch crystal is the clear cover over the watch face. It protects the dial and the hands. Typically made of glass, acrylic, or sapphire, the choice of material impacts the watch’s durability and cost. Sapphire crystals are scratch-resistant and are often found in high-end watches.

Case Back

The case back is the rear part of the watch that rests against the wrist. Depending on the design, a case back can be solid or see-through. A see-through, or exhibition case back, typically made of crystal, allows wearers to view the movement inside, offering a mesmerizing view of the watch’s intricate mechanics.

Crown and Pushers

The crown is a small knob on the side of the watch case. It’s used to set the time, date, and wind the watch. In automatic watches, regular winding isn’t necessary if worn daily, but the crown is vital for manual adjustments. Some watches also feature pushers, and small buttons near the crown, especially in chronograph watches, to start, stop, or reset specific functions.

These components, both visible and hidden, come together to create a timepiece that’s both functional and captivating. Proper knowledge about these parts is essential, especially when considering repairs or understanding the value of a watch.

Drop Impact Factors

When it comes to automatic watches, their intricate design and detailed mechanics make them vulnerable to external impacts, especially when dropped. Several factors determine the extent of potential damage when a watch faces a fall.

Drop Height

The height from which an automatic watch falls plays a substantial role in the extent of potential damage. Generally, the effects can be categorized into:


  • Falling from a height like a bedside table or a desk.
  • Usually leads to minimal damage.
  • Risk of cosmetic scratches or slight misalignment.


  • Falls from a person’s hand when extended or from a shelf.
  • Greater force upon impact.
  • Higher risk of both cosmetic and internal damage.


  • From elevated areas such as a balcony or ladder.
  • Severe damage is highly likely due to increased force.
  • Risk of shattered watch crystal, damaged casing, or disrupted movement.

Surface Type

The type of surface on which the watch lands also influences the aftermath of the drop.


  • Surfaces like carpet or a cushioned chair.
  • Absorbs some of the fall’s impact, reducing potential damage.
  • Less likely to cause visible scratches or dents.


  • Surfaces such as concrete, wood, or tile.
  • No absorption of force leading to a harder impact.
  • Significant risk of both external and internal damage.

Watch Position

The angle at which the watch hits the ground can vary the damage caused:


  • Direct impact on the watch crystal.
  • Risk of the crystal cracking or shattering.
  • Potential damage to watch hands or dial.


  • Impacts the watch’s casing and possibly the crown.
  • Risk of dents on the case or damage to the crown and pushers.

Common Consequences of Drops

When an automatic watch faces an unfortunate fall, the aftermath can range from barely noticeable marks to severe functional issues.

Cosmetic Damage

Aesthetic flaws might not affect the watch’s performance but can diminish its overall appearance and value.

Scratches and Dents

  • Most common form of cosmetic damage.
  • Scratches on the case or bracelet from rough surfaces.
  • Dents, especially on softer metal watches, resulting from harder impacts.

Functional Damage

Beyond mere cosmetic issues, a drop can lead to problems that affect the watch’s performance.

Movement Disruption

  • Automatic watches rely on precise mechanics for accurate timekeeping.
  • A significant fall can disrupt these mechanics.
  • Symptoms include the watch running fast, slow, or stopping entirely.


  • Hands, date window, or other indicators may shift from their designated position.
  • It can lead to inaccurate time reading or complications not working as intended.

Protecting Your Automatic Watch

Owning an automatic watch is akin to having a piece of art that tells time. The intricate mechanics and designs demand care and attention to keep them in pristine condition. Let’s explore ways to protect and maintain such a treasured timepiece.

Proper Handling Tips

Automatic watches are delicate, and their intricate internal mechanics can be sensitive to sudden movements, shocks, or improper handling. Some best practices include:

  • Avoid wearing your watch during high-impact activities or sports.
  • Always adjust settings like time or date by moving the hands in a clockwise direction.
  • Avoid setting the date between 10 PM and 2 AM, as the gears are engaged during this period.
  • Ensure the crown is pushed in or screwed down properly after adjustments.

Cases and Protection

Opting for a good watch case or pouch can shield your watch from external elements and prevent unnecessary damage. Factors to consider:

  • Choose a case with a soft lining to prevent scratches.
  • Opt for compartments if you own multiple watches to avoid them clashing.
  • Ensure the case is rigid to protect against accidental crushes or impacts.

Regular Maintenance

Like any machine, an automatic watch requires regular upkeep to function optimally.

  • Service your watch every 4-5 years, even if it seems fine.
  • Clean the exterior with a soft cloth to avoid dirt buildup.
  • Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

How to Check for Damage

In the unfortunate event of a mishap, it’s essential to assess the condition of your watch.

Initial Visual Inspection

  • Examine the crystal for cracks or shatters.
  • Check the casing and bracelet for dents, scratches, or deformities.
  • Ensure the crown and pushers are in place and functional.

Functional Tests

Testing the watch’s functionality can reveal underlying issues.

Time Accuracy
  • Compare the watch time to a reliable source.
  • Note any significant deviations over a 24-hour period.
Movement Sound
  • Place the watch close to your ear.
  • Listen for any irregular or grinding sounds.

Addressing Drop Damage

The repercussions of a fall can range from superficial to severe. Determining the best course of action is pivotal.

Minor Repairs

For superficial issues:

  • Buff out superficial scratches with a polish cloth or specialized solution.
  • For leather straps, use leather conditioner to address scuffs.
DIY vs Professional

While some minor repairs can be done at home:

  • Always refer to the user manual.
  • If in doubt, it’s safer to consult a professional. Risking further damage can be costlier in the long run.

Major Repairs

For issues that impede functionality:

  • Never attempt to open the watch yourself. This can void warranties or introduce dust and contaminants.
  • Always consult with a reputable watch technician or service center.
  • Obtain a clear estimate of costs and repair duration.


What makes automatic watches different from quartz?

Automatic watches utilize mechanical movements powered by the energy stored in a mainspring, while quartz watches operate with a battery and a quartz crystal.

How often should I service my automatic watch?

It’s generally recommended to service your automatic watch every 3-5 years to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Can minor scratches affect the watch’s performance?

While minor scratches are primarily cosmetic, if they’re deep enough to reach the interior components, they might affect the watch’s functionality.


Automatic watches, like many luxuries, require a blend of appreciation and caution. As intricate devices, they’re susceptible to the laws of physics and the environment. A fall might not always lead to disaster, but the potential for damage remains ever-present.

Awareness about the potential repercussions of accidents, coupled with regular maintenance, can help extend the life of these cherished timepieces. It’s not just about the watch’s monetary value but also its emotional and historical significance.

Conclusively, while it’s pivotal to understand the risks associated with mishandling, it’s equally crucial to celebrate the craftsmanship, precision, and artistry that make automatic watches timeless treasures.

Steve, a dedicated watch aficionado who delves into the intricate world of automatic timekeeping. Drawing from his engineering background, he unravels the technical marvels that power self-winding watches. Steve's fascination was kindled during his travels to Swiss watchmaking hubs, where he gained insights into the synergy of art and mechanics. Through his writing, he brings to light the wonders of these perpetual-motion masterpieces.

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