Watch Winder Guide
What exactly is a watch winder?
A watch winder is a device used to keep automatic (also known as self winding) or kinectic watches running when not worn. Automatic watches operate on the principle of winding themselves using a moving weight inside the watch. The weight swings or rotates while the watch is worn and turns the winding mechanism inside the watch. So, fairly obviously, if the watch is not worn, then it no longer receives power this way and will run down. While virtually all automatic watches can be manually wound, this is not always convenient. So the concept of an automatic watch winder was born.
A watch winder is a device which holds a watch (or often more than one) and moves it in a rotation pattern to emulate the necessary parts of human motion to operate the self-winding mechanism.
A winder cannot over wind an automatic watch, since all automatic watches are protected from being over wound by a mechanism that disengages the winding process when the mainspring is fully wound. But using a timer-based winder is still very important to prevent excessive wear on the winding mechanism. There is no need to keep the watch in motion 24 hours a day when usually only 30 minutes of motion is necessary to keep it properly wound.
Winders are totally useless with battery-operated quartz watches. But they do work for the special 'battery-less' quartz watches. These automatic/quartz hybrids use the same weight/rotor principal to generate electric power to run a quartz movement.
Up until recently, there were no winder devices available to operate manual wind watches.
Do I need a watch winder?
Well, you didn't need to buy more automatic watches than you can wear at one time, did you? But don't worry, you are far from alone! Many collectors and enthusiasts quickly get into this dilemma. Ultimately, the main function of a winder is as a convenience device.
Doesn't a winder protect my watch by keeping the oils from clotting?
The oils used in most modern watches and properly serviced vintage watches are not very prone to clotting or coagulating. While there are technical reasons in favour of keeping a watch continuously running, there are also reasons in favour of not unnecessarily overusing a watch.
So how should I choose whether to get a winder or not?
Choose a winder for your needs based on its convenience value to you. For automatic watches you wear frequently, but not continuously, a winder is a great solution for keeping them ready to wear on a moment’s notice. If this convenience is worth the cost of a winder to you, then go for it!
The single biggest advantage of a winder for seldom used watches is for those with complex perpetual calendar features that may require elaborate resetting after the watch has been stopped for a while.
Why are watch winders so expensive when they seem pretty simple in concept?
The factor in the cost is that these are speciality items manufactured in relatively low quantities. At a low level of production, we cannot achieve the economies of mass production that make items that sell in the multi-million units (such as blenders and toasters) so affordable.
So while the prices of the devices may be higher than you might expect, it is not viable for manufacturers to produce them at prices comparable to mass consumer items.
What types of winders are available?
Such winders perform the duties of winding one or more watches. Generally, these units hold the watch on the exterior of the device. As such, they tend to need to be on a table top or somewhat tall shelf. Some which handle more than one watch start to resemble carnival rides, with their merry-go-round or ferris wheel configurations and multiple rotating watch holders.
These winders go beyond pure functionality and offer a nice form and exterior. Normally they are a completely enclosed box, often made of nicely finished wood or covered in leather. They are suitable for display on a desk or dresser, yet many are capable of fitting inside a drawer or safe deposit box.
As with many luxury items, the sky is the limit on options. Winders with heaters to keep the watch near body temperature, built-in storage drawers, and atomic-clock-synchronized time displays are some of the esoteric and beyond features available on some of the very high end winders.
Within these are options of a/c and battery powered units. The battery units are especially nice for use on shelves, in drawers, or in a safe deposit box.
Should I start with a single head unit or go for a multi headed unit?
If you are enough of a collector to want a winder, don't short-change yourself by skimping on a winder that can only handle one watch. If you've got the watch 'bug,' it won't be long before you buy another automatic and be caught short. Consider at least one of the single unit watch winders which has two watch heads. Or buy a single watch unit for starters and plan on adding a multi-watch unit later.
What else should I consider?
Automatic watches are intended for fairly regular wear. So concentrate your ownership of automatic watches on those that you will wear at least a couple of times a week. Winders are a nice convenience for watches you don't wear daily.
There are 3 types of rotating directions: Clockwise only, counter clockwise only or bi-directional winding. It all depends on the movement of the watch. Consult your dealer or manufacturer for the direction of winding of your particular watch. Most popular brands can wind both directions.
Can a watch be over wound? In fact, there is no such thing as over winding a watch. Watches are designed for active wear. Saying a watch can be over-wound is not totally correct. Can an active sportsman wearing a watch all year round over-wind his watch? Certainly not. All automatic watches have a built-in safety mechanism to prevent over winding. Thus, the common conception of "over winding" should refer more to the wear and tear on the bearings of the watches rather than really over winding the watch.
Turns per Day (TPD)
In general, most automatic watches require a minimum of 500 TPD and for some chronograph models with other complicate functions, TPD in excess of 1,000 might be necessary. Always consult your watch brand owner for this information before deciding which watch winder will work for you.
Your Automatic Watch
Since you cannot always wear your watch, the motion which is necessary for the clock’s movement will be lost. Similarly, the power reserve that is required for its autonomous operation will eventually slow into a standstill once it reached the end of the expected running time. Hence, it is important that you wind your watch until it is functioning again. You should do this by wearing it. A winder should keep your watch wound, it will not wind it from a dead start.
Disclaimer: As watch design and specification varies greatly; and new models, technology and designs evolve rapidly. Always consult your watch's owner manual, or your watch's manufacturer for your watch's exact requirement.