Within the watchmaking world of watchmaking, we often tend to categorize watches by the movements found inside them, amongst plenty of other criteria that help us compare one watch to another. Of those movements, there are three types that reign supreme. They are quartz, manual-wind, and automatic. While manual-wind movements were the first kids on the block, automatic movements were among the most significant innovations the industry had ever seen when Rolex popularised the technology with their Oyster Perpetual model in 1931.
Since then, the automatic movement has become so prevalent within the industry that it is the default movement for watchmakers to use. Convenient, reliable, and a no-fuss option for wearers who don't want to worry about their watch stopping if they forgot to wind it, the automatic movement simply rules the roost. So, that begs the question, what is the best automatic watch on the market today? While plenty of cases could be made for an incredible selection of watches, we will explore what we think are three of the best automatic watches around and make a case for each.
Going down as one of the most iconic chronographs isn't an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. Still, the Rolex Daytona has easily superseded the watches that dominated the chronograph space from the '60s until the '80s. It has now become one of the best and most in-demand automatic chronographs on the market today. While it was initially released as a manual-wind watch, it turned automatic in 1988 when Rolex took El Primero movements from Zenith and upgraded them as the Rolex cal. 4030. While this automatic movement was great and still is by modern standards, the collection's current movement, the Rolex cal. 4130 is a step above the rest, even considering that it was released in 2000.
Requiring five years of R&D, the Rolex Calibre 4130 was a big step up from the cal. 4030 that came before it. Just as you might expect from Rolex, the cal. 4130 was designed to be ruthlessly efficient. With just 201 parts, the cal. 4130 had 60% fewer parts than the cal. 4030 that came before it, making it far more reliable, with more space to accommodate a larger mainspring – increasing the Daytona's power reserve from 50 to 72 hours. Fitted with Rolex's Parachrom blue hairspring and a fantastic shock absorption system, the Rolex Daytona must be considered as one of the best automatic watches there is, particularly amongst other chronographs.
Tudor Black Bay 58
Tudor underwent a significant revamp in 2012 following a long decade of dormancy to become a relative newcomer to the modern watch industry. While Tudor is by no means young, their re-entry to the modern industry had to be marked with some great watches, and it was. One of the watches that they relaunched with was the Black Bay, a 41mm vintage-inspired dive watch. That is a great watch, but its sibling, the Black Bay 58, has to be considered one of the best automatic watches on the market thanks to its more refined fashionable vintage-inspired design, comfortable proportions, and incredible functionality.
Powered by Tudor's then-new automatic movement, the cal. MT5402, the BB58 features an impressive 70-hour power reserve, is COSC certified, and is just 26mm across. Offering an incredible movement within a reasonably priced package, the BB58 has to be considered as one of the best automatic watches on the market at the minute.
Omega Seamaster 300M
The Seamaster has been around for a very long time, but not in the way we know it. Originally released as a versatile sports dress watch, it was a far cry from today's Seamaster 300m. Launched in 1993, it became an instant success as divers from all over the world flocked to this watch thanks to the success of French diver Roland Specker wearing one during his world record 80m free dive. Furthermore, the Seamaster 300M also won several watch of the year awards in 1994 and featured in a particular spy movie franchise the year after. While it has a storied past, it is not one of the best automatic watches available because James Bond wore it.
Instead, the Seamaster 300M is one of the best automatic watches on the market, thanks to the incredible Omega cal. 8800 movement. Master Chronometer certified by METAS with a co-axial escapement, a free-sprung silicon balance spring, 55-hours of power reserve, resistant to 15,000 Gauss, and some stunning finishing to boot, this movement is spectacular. Within the Seamaster 300M, it creates one of the best automatic watches on the market. With the Seamaster 300M's ceramic bezel, helium escape valve, and incredible bracelet clasp (shame about the lack of a taper), the Seamaster 300M has to be within the running as one of the best automatic watches available, with it easily competing with other watches far beyond its price range.