In the past, mechanical watches needed to be hand-wound on a daily basis in order for them to keep good time. With present-day automatics, however, there’s little need to worry about that. It certainly isn’t an issue if you’re a one-watch-for-life kind of guy. However, those with collections might find maintaining each of their timepieces a little bit challenging. This is where a quality watch winder comes in handy.

What is a winder and what does it do?

Versa Elite Double Watch Winder
Photo: Versa

A watch winder is a device that generates a constant amount of rotational force to power an automatic watch’s movement. This ensures that the mainspring retains enough tension to keep the watch perpetually ticking. Winders come in various configurations, from single to multi-watch variants. In terms of design, they can range from simple modular examples to large and ornate contraptions, complete with LCD panels and humidity controls.

Why a winder?

The prevailing theory is that a housing your automatic watch within a winder allows the fine mechanisms of the movement to remain sufficiently lubricated. Of course, keeping in mind that the current synthetic oils are a lot more robust and durable than their animal-based counterparts, a watch winder isn’t as much of a necessity than most would believe. Nevertheless, its value lies in the convenience it provides. If you’re the sort that likes to rotate through this collection of watches on a daily basis, then having a winder will ensure that your watches are good to go right off the bat. Watches with complications like perpetual calendars also benefit from the use of a winder, as resetting the calendar can be a chore.

There are many features of a watch winder to consider. While the more basic designs are “plug-and-play”, certain models allow the user to calibrate certain aspects of the winder’s operation.

Direction of rotation

Most watch winders on the market offer multiple rotation settings which vary between clockwise, counter-clockwise and alternating. This is meant to accommodate the rotor of the watch’s movements. Unidirectional rotors in movements like the Valjoux 7750 means that the watch will only self-wind when it’s going in the right direction (either clockwise or counter-clockwise). However, movements like Omega’s Calibre 8500 respond to either direction due to its bi-directional rotor. If your collection is a mix between the two, it would be a good idea to invest in a winder that allows you to set the rotational direction for each individual cradle.

Turns per day

Different watches have a “sweet spot” when it comes to the number of turns per day (TPD). TPD refers to the sum of rotations completed by the winder within a span of 24 hours. Most automatics respond well to an average of 650 TPD. As a rule of thumb, heavier watches, chronographs and timepieces with a longer power reserve require a higher TPD setting. Finding the optimal setting can take some trial and error, but there are charts online that allow you to eliminate most of the guesswork. Just like rotational direction, this requires you to know the name of your watch’s movement, which can usually be found in the included manual or inscribed on the watch’s caseback.

Humidity control

If you reside in tropical climes or near the seaside, then winders with integrated humidity controls are definitely worth considering especially if long-term storage is your thing. Moisture can wreck even the most well-designed of watches, even those designed for professional divers. Quartz watches can also fall prey to humidity as condensation can be especially damaging to IC circuits. The commonly accepted humidity setting is between 45 to 50%. Of course, you may have to adjust that setting depending on the efficiency of your winder’s humidity control system. One side benefit of using such a winder is that it may help preserve your watch’s leather strap.

Battery operation

Serious collectors often elect to keep their prized possessions locked in a safe. Rather than letting it sit statically in a presentation box, these owners often house their watches in a winder instead. In such instances, battery-powered watch winders would prove more practical than their AC variants. Of course, this entails remembering to replace batteries on a regular basis, but it’s nothing that a timetable can’t address.

Finding the right one

Wolf Axis Double Winder
Photo: Wolf

Technical aspects aside, the right watch winder should also mirror your sense of aesthetics and the extent of your collection. Finding one that doubles as a safe can add a layer of security for your prized possessions and comes as a highly recommended feature. There are literally hundreds of options available, but here are some that should get you off to a decent start.

written by.
Evigan Xiao
Evigan is an avid fan of bench-made boots, raw selvedge denim, single malt Scotch and fine watches. When he's not busy chuckling over image dumps on Imgur, he can be found lifting heavy objects in the gym or fussing over his two dogs, Velvet and Kenji. He dreams of one day owning a cottage in the English countryside and raising a small army of Canadian geese to terrorise the local populace.

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