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Hand-wound movements aren’t as popular today as they once were, but for many of us they’re a satisfying alternative to the ubiquitous auto-winders and quartz.
The first thing most watch-heads will tell you they like about hand-wound movements is the unobstructed view of the bridges, gear train, escapement, and myriad other dazzling parts that typically hide behind an auto-winder’s rotor. With solid case-backs—which dominated the era when hand-wound movements were the norm—you’ll rarely see the thing, but behind a clear case back window a hand-wound movement is a thing of true beauty.
Many also enjoy the winding ritual. It’s one of those little moments in a day when we interact with just our watch, literally delivering our own energy into the mainspring where it can be stored and used up at whatever rate the movement beats at. The faster we careen into the digital era, the more significant these little analog rituals become. My better half considers winding a quiet way to recenter herself, to connect with something simple, real, and benign.
Lastly, hand-wound movements are often smaller than automatic winders, and this allows for a range of refined designs that aren’t always possible with the larger movements.
We’ve rounded up ten excellent hand-wound watches that cost $1,500 and less, each one a true pleasure to wear and wind.ADVERTISEMENT
VERO 36 Series – $1,080
Portland, Oregon’s VERO make their watches right in their CNC-equipped shop. No, they don’t make the movements, which here is the excellent Sellita SW210 hand-wound caliber, but the refined 36-millimeter case with 100 meters of water resistance, classic 1970s-surfer styled dial, and very tasteful crown of the 36 series are all CNC’d right in VERO’s shop. These watches are big on style yet restrained and versatile. Vero
Baltic Bicompax 001 Chronograph – ~$635
Undeniably classic styling makes the 38-millimeter Baltic Bicompax 001 Chronograph incredibly versatile. This one will pair with a tux right on down to your most scrappy of outfits. The Seagull ST1901 hand-wound, column-wheel two-register movement is Seagull’s interpretation of the venerable Venus 175 from the 1940s. Everything about this watch—from the lanky drilled lugs to the domed hesalite crystal and the two-register layout—is gorgeously anachronistic. The only difficultly you’ll experience with the Baltic Chronograph is having to choose from the six equally handsome colorways. Baltic
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical – $475
The 38-millimeter Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical embodies standard-issue Vietnam War style. The inner 24-hour track, traditional case, mil-strap, and beige lume command your a-ten-shun!, while the ETA 2801-2 movement stands at the ready to proudly serve you with precise mechanical timekeeping. HamiltonRELATED POSTSFive Great Watches for Under $4,000Great George Watches from New York City
Nomos Club Campus 36 – Starts at $1,500
At 36 millimeters, the Nomos Club Campus has an in-house movement, a domed sapphire crystal, rhodium plated hands, and a stainless steel case so beautifully polished that it gleams. The California dial is quirky and fun, but the sheer precision of its execution keeps the Nomos Club Campus sophisticated and smart. With 100 meters of water resistance, this is a Dressy Tool Watch of the highest order. Nomos
Farer Stanhope – $1,175
Bold, funky, and imbued with technicolor London-style, this 37-millimeter cushion-cased hand-wound from England’s Farer sports a complex, multi-layered dial that’s only competition is the view of the gorgeously appointed ETA 7001 ticking away behind the clear case back. You won’t want to swim in this 50-meter rated watch, but that’s entirely suitable for this urban-oriented hand-wound beauty. Farer
Junghans Max Bill Hand-Wind – $695
Architect, sculptor, and product-designer Max Bill remains one of the most celebrated watch designers of the past century, and this hand-wound model encapsulates his powerful minimalism in just 34 millimeters of pure mid-century goodness. Inside is the J805.1 movement (based on the ETA 2801-2) with 42 hours of power reserve and a modern pulse of 28,800 bph. Enough super-cool dial variants are available to make owning more than one an unavoidable temptation. Junghans
Stowa Antea KS – ~$1,000
Originally issued in 1937, the Antea KS is Bauhaus design personified. At 35.5 millimeters, many of us larger-wristed folks might think to shy away, but the ultra-thin bezel, relatively large dial, and long narrow lugs make this one look and fit like a much larger watch. The dial speaks for itself as an undeniable classic, while the highly decorated Peseux 7001 movement is so pretty behind the clear case back that I’d be tempted to wear this one backwards. StowaADVERTISEMENT
Archimede Handwound Pilot 42 – ~$840
Not all hand-wound watches are small, and the Archimede Pilot 42’s big onion crown is going to make winding this one up a breeze. The dial offers unadulterated legibility with an attractive running seconds sub-dial, and around back the clear case back shows off the hefty bridges of the Swiss ETA 6498 Unitas movement. Clearly the Pilot 42 breaks the convention of hand-wound watches being on the smaller side; the movement itself measures 36.6 millimeters across! Archimede
Chris Ward C5 Malvern 595 – $680
This 39-millimeter, minimalist marvel called the Malvern is just 5.95 millimeters thick—well, let’s say thin. The ETA 7001 movement inside is only 2.5 millimeters tall, and Christopher Ward has obviously taken full advantage of its minuscule dimensions. You’ll still get a full 42 hours of power reserve, and even the tightest of tunnel-cuffs will happily swallow the Malvern 595 for any affair where a dress watch is the thing to kill the king. Christopher Ward