Could a watch that winds itself with a pendulum work in space with no gravity? Could a pendulum or the self winding part be modified to work off the movements of the wrist in a microgravity environment?

To further this question could a set of various size pendulums be set at different angles to work as mechanical inertia dampeners even to absorb vibrations or microgravity?

Picture of Rolex movement


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think the question's a bit ambiguous... I believe the OP's asking about 'automatic' or self winding watches (judging by the picture. Indeed, these sorts of watches will not wind in a zero gravity environment... $\endgroup$
    – BobT
    Nov 16, 2018 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ For those who can see this link: space.stackexchange.com/q/30763/12102 for everyone else, 1, 2 Scott Kelly may know the answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 17, 2018 at 1:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think you should change your title to be more direct: "Do self-winding watches wind themselves in space?" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 17, 2018 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Muze Hey man, you're totally moving in on my turf: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/129395/… $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 17, 2018 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ They work in Australia, too. $\endgroup$ May 10, 2019 at 3:49

2 Answers 2


As long as the wearer moves about, the rotor has no choice but to react to the forces imparted to it. So, yes it would.

  • $\begingroup$ A linear movement of the wearer does not neccessarily turn the rotor of the watch. If the rotor is balanced, a linear movement will never turn it. But starting or stoping a rotation of the wearer in a plane parallel to the rotors plane will turn the rotor. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    May 10, 2019 at 10:04

The escapement (the part that actually measures time) uses a spring and balance wheel so it will operate the same way no matter the presence or absence of linear acceleration in any direction. There is no pendulum or other form of eccentric mass involved in this part of the watch.

However, the self-winder is driven by an eccentric mass. It depends on the wearer's movement to turn it. A self-winder I had seemed to wind most efficiently in response to the natural back-and-forth movement of the wearer's arm while walking. It would also wind if held face-up and swung from side-to-side. What can be inferred from this is that the presence of gravity does nothing to help the self-winding action, and may inhibit it from working in some situations.

So, yes, any self-winding watch should work just fine in zero gravity, as long as it experiences some back-and forth movement.

  • $\begingroup$ Anecdote from my father, a watchmaker: he observed some elderly clients who suffered strokes complain about their self-winding watches stopping. Turned out they didn't move their watch arm much any more, and their body movement alone is not enough to make the rotor rotate. In 0g, the rotor would probably move much more freely since it's not pulled into one direction (earth) all the time. $\endgroup$
    – DarkDust
    Aug 2, 2023 at 14:34

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