Jewelry & Watches

Do You Really Need a Watch Winder for Your Automatic Watch?

We get to the bottom of it.
IMAGE taligatamas / Pixabay
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Watch enthusiasts will agree that a well-crafted timepiece is more than just a necessity. It's an investment that's meant to last a lifetime, as long as it is properly handled and maintained. When it comes to automatic watches, however, there are quite a number of misconceptions regarding their proper storage, especially when it's about maintaining the watch when not in use. Others subscribe to the “glorified myth” of the watch winder, an automatic watch storage solution that keeps it running 24/7. On the other hand, there is also a good number of watch collectors who deem the tool totally unnecessary. Here, we review the top tips for maintaining an automatic watch and the questionable imperative of the watch winder.

Let’s do a little review. Why should automatic watches need extra care? 

Manual-wind or hand-wound watches consist of different components that allow the watch to work without batteries or solar-powered energy. The mainspring acts as the power source. When a mechanical watch is wound using the crown, the mainspring is activated, setting the rest of the components in calibrated motion.

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Automatic watches, also known as self-winding watches, are essentially powered by the movement of the wrist. In this case, the mainspring is attached to a rotor mounted on the back of the watch that spins on an axle whenever the wrist is in motion. It is this rotor that activates the mainspring which allows the watch to start ticking.

Every mechanical watch, whether automatic or hand-wound, has a power reserve. This is basically the duration of the watch’s energy. When the mainspring is activated, it begins to unwind until it comes to a full stop. Once this happens, the watch needs to be wound again. Power reserves typically range from 36 to 42 hours, but you will have to double-check the specifications of your watch model.

Do you need to wind automatic watches?

Automatic watches obviously need to be wound before the first use. This will properly allow the mainspring to “reset” and will consequently maximize the watch’s power reserve. Winding the crown around 30 to 40 times should do the trick. 

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Moreover, automatic watches also need to be wound every now and then, especially when they haven’t been worn after the power reserve runs out. Winding the crown (again, 30 to 40 times) will allow the watch to reset to the power reserve’s fullest capacity. If you happen to sit in front of the computer most of the time, then it’s also best to wind your watch occasionally. According to GQ U.K., a horologist highly recommends winding the crown if it hasn't been worn for more than 15 to 20 hours. 

The watch winder

Basically, the watch winder is a device that slowly rotates the watch in a way that mimics the motion of the wrist. People often resort to this storage method thinking that it’s the best way to keep their watches in mint condition. Some people think that a dormant automatic watch will dry up the movement’s lubricant which reduces the friction between components. Contrary to popular belief, however, this lubricant doesn’t dry up due to dormancy because it naturally dissipates through time.

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Watch winders were created based on the belief that automatic watches should always be in motion, but is this really the case? According to Gear Patrol, it isn’t necessary for the inner movement of automatic watches to perpetually function. In fact, an automatic watch that unwinds 24/7 might just lead to wear and tear, as opposed to allowing the watch to rest on a tabletop without overusing the inner movement. The latter method is less prone to damage and will probably save the user time and money that would have been spent on repairs.

Do you really need one?

The answer is, if you own a simple automatic watch, then you don’t need a watch winder to maintain its quality. In fact, Gear Patrol went so far as to mention that watch winders are “frivolous luxury goods” made to look like it was an essential watch gadget. They have a point. When you really think about it, what does an expensive watch winder save you? A few minutes, perhaps every week or so, of winding that tiny little crown. On the other hand, experts say that watch winders are optimal for automatic watches that are complicated to reset such as perpetual calendars and astrological timepieces. 

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