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Watch WInder Guide : Thinking of buying a watch winder? Find out what you need to know
Thinking of buying a watch winder? Don’t know what to look for? Read on to find out how to buy a winder that is right for you (or as a present).
What is a Watch Winder
A watch winder is a simple machine that people put an automatic watch on – a watch that is powered by movement whilst on the wrist such as one made by Rolex, Omega, TAG or Breitling – that will keep it working when they are not wearing it. Watch winders are designed to keep a wound watch working, to prevent it from stopping when not being worn. They rotate the watch causing part of the watch mechanism that looks like a pendulum to rotate and wind the mainspring just as movement does when the watch is being worn.
What to look for when buying a Watch Winder
The key task when buying a watch winder is to match the winding requirements of a watch with a program offered by the winder. In other words, before buying a watch winder you need to know what the watch needs from a winder so that you choose one with a program that is suitable for the watch.
Not all watch winders are suitable for every watch. Some watches require clockwise only winding / movement, some anti-clockwise only, and some alternating (between the two directions). It is important to match this movement requirement of the watch with a program providing it on the winder .
A watch that will only wind in one direction has a link that allows the pendulum to spin uni-directionally without releasing the energy in the mainspring. If you try to wind one of these with an alternating program, half the turns are wasted – and so is half the time on the winder. Put a clockwise only watch on an anti-clockwise winder (or vice versa) and it will not wind at all.
If the watch needs clockwise winding, you need a winder with a clockwise program, if it needs anti-clockwise (or counter clockwise) winding, you need a winder with an anti-clockwise program, if it needs alternating winding, you need an alternating program, and if you have more than one watch and need to wind them with a combination of these, you need more than one winder, or a winder with more than one program.
If you cannot find this information, one option is to buy a watch winder that offers programs for all three direction options. These will wind any watch (other than a Seiko Kinetic, see below). The user will still need to find the information to select the program when they start using it, but it may be easier for them to find this if the watch winder is a present.
Where to find information on the winding needs of any watch
The watch manual will often include specific information on what it needs from a watch winder, or the after sales department of watch maker / company will be able to give you this information (you can email them to ask). There are some online resources offering the information too - for example the Orbita Watch Database (search online and you will find this) or various watch forums.
The winding requirements vary from watch company to watch company, sometimes from watch to watch (from the same watch company) and even for the same watch made in different years, but you should be able to find the information quickly for any watch. The mechanism number / code is often on the watch case back (the part of the watch that sits on the wrist when it is worn) and with this and a quick internet search you will find out what the watch needs.
Other key things to consider when buying a Watch Winder
Once you know the program or programs the watch or watches need, you can look for a watch winder that meets your budget, style and how many watches you want to wind, and has a program that will meet the winding needs of the watch. Other things you should consider include:
Do you want the flexibility to wind watches with different requirements on the same winder? Some watch winders have one only program, others have four programs (usually including clockwise, anti-clockwise and alternating) and some are fully programmable. Four program winders will wind any automatic watch*, so are the least risk option.
The power supply - do you want to use a plug or a battery (to be placed in a safe)? Battery only winders are typically much more expensive.
The number of turns (complete rotations of the winder) the watch needs. Modern watch winders are set to offer at least 650 turns per day, which will be sufficient to keep most watches wound. Some offer more than this, even up to four times as many turns. This offers the opportunity to run the winder via a timer plug for part of the day (see the section on noise below).
The size of the watch and the size of the watch winder / watch pillow. Some larger watches cannot fit on a watch winder that takes more than one watch on the same turntable. Some watches are also too big / heavy for many watch winders. [We include the watch pillow size in all of our listings.]
The noise level. All watch winders will make a noise, as they have a motor, usually with gearing and a turntable, and budget items will typically be noisier than branded ones. If you plan to have it in the bedroom, you might want to look for a winder that has a program to wind non stop for a period of perhaps 3 hours. This can allow you to operate it via a timer plug so that it winds during the day, when you are not in the room.
Storage? If you have automatic, hand winding and quartz (battery powered) watches, do you want a winder that will keep the automatic watches going, but has space to store your other watches too?
Remember that winders do not wind watches – they keep them wound. If you put a watch that has completely run down on a winder then it will still be completely run down when you take it off.
* A quick note about Seiko Kinetic watches
We would not recommend that you buy a standard watch winder for a Seiko Kinetic watch.
A key difference between a Seiko Kinetic watch and every other automatic, movement (or kinetic energy) powered watch is that they store the power generated by the movement in a battery rather than a mainspring. This seems to mean they often will not charge on a conventional winder.
Our watch winders are not suitable for Seiko Kinetic watches. There is a specific ‘winder’ or energy supplier for Seiko watches, but it is aimed at jewellers rather than end users and is quite expensive.
Frequenly Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a watch winder for / why use a watch winder?
A watch winder is designed to keep an automatic watch working when is not being worn, to prevent it from stopping. The main reason people buy a watch winder is for convenience and to save time, so that the watch is ready to wear when they want it, without having to be reset. This is particularly true for watches with complicated functions and dials, such as moon phases or perpetual calendars. To reset these watches is a time consuming and tedious task, and this can mean the watch gets less wear. A winder is a great way to keep a watch ready to put on at a moments notice.
A second reason is to reduce wear and tear on the watch, in particular to the crown winding / resetting mechanism. This is a small and delicate mechanism that is surprisingly easy to break (cross thread, for example) and very expensive to repair. Placing a watch on a winder can avoid the risk of damaging this mechanism.
2. Why won't a watch winder wind my watch from flat?
Watch winders are designed to keep a wound watch working, to prevent it from stopping when not being worn. They are not designed to 'wind up' a watch from flat or a low level of charge. On a suitable program a winder will keep a watch wound at the same level as when it was placed on the winder. It will not "wind-up" a watch even if it is put on the correct program; this is not what it is designed to do. Some watches also need a good level of charge (80%+) before they are placed on a winder and will wind down and stop if they do not have this when placed on the winder.
3. Will any watch winder wind any watch?
No. Please see the section above on 'what to look for when buying a watch winder'. It is very important to match the movement required by a watch with a program on the winder providing this.
4. Can a winder over wind a watch?
Users should aim to put their watch on a program that meets the winding needs of the watch. But if a modern watch is placed on a winder a higher number of turns per day - as long as it is not being wound constantly - it will not damage the watch unless it is left on the winder for a very, very long time. Modern automatic watches are designed for active wear and have a mechanism that dis-engages the winding mechanism once the mainspring is fully wound, much like a clutch on a car.
5. Are there things to consider when buying a watch winder that takes more than one watch per turntable?
Watches placed on this type of watch winder must be of a similar weight. Tthey cannot be used with only one watch or with one heavy and one light watch, as this will cause uneven pressure on the motor over the rotation and cause it to fail. In addition the watches must need the same program (direction and turns per day) and must not be so big that they would rub together.
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