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Monday Myth – Watch Winders

by Jordan Ficklin

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Benrus AutoIn response to a question I received from Thomas Sharples, I’m going to take the time to talk about watch winders. If you are familiar with automatic wristwatches you know that if you don’t wear them for a couple of days they come to a stop. This isn’t a big deal if your watch only tells the time, like my vintage Benrus. Since most of my watches are manual wound watches, I’m used to winding and setting my watch in the morning. I keep a radio-controlled quartz clock with my watches exactly for this reason. If your automatic has a date, or other complications, it can be more of an ordeal to set your watch after it has stopped.

If for example you had a 1960s Rolex (and a lot of you do because I work on them all the time) you probably have a Datejust and it has no quickset. If you don’t wear it for 10 days it can take you a little while to set the date and time and get it going. Imagine you have a perpetual calendar (I have no choice but to imagine because I could never afford one), you have to be very careful when you set the date so as not to disturb the month and year.

A watch winder is a device which will keep your watch wound and running so that you can just pick it up and put in on in the morning without worrying about it. If you have multiple watches, this can be a great tool. Watch winders range from the most simple rotary device to very complex “tourbillon” style winders which not only wind your watch but rotate it through multiple positions to average out variations in rate.

Mr. Sharples question is wether or not leaving a watch on a winder puts unnecessary wear on the watch. Well here is my two part answer:

1. Automatic watches are designed to be used. This means that the weight is designed to be in near constant motion. I say near constant because, unless your as active as my three year old “Bug”, your arms don’t move all day long.

2. When the oscillating weight is in motion it creates more wear than when it is not. This is why I recommend a winder that has some kind of a program built in. There are lots of things to consider in this program. Here are the two most important:

  • Direction of Wind: Some watches wind in both directions, some in only one direction. If your winder only turns one way it’s possible that it would never wind your watch. If your winder only rotates both ways and you have a uni-directional wound watch when it is turning the other way it is creating unnecessary wear on the ratcheting mechanism. — So you should choose a program that performs well for your watch.
  • Duration of Wind: Most winders will let you choose to have your watch wind for a specific number of rotations or a specific length of time. Some of them will also let you choose a rest period between winds. For example you could choose to have your watch wind for 5 minutes and rest for an hour or wind for half an hour and rest for a day. — I recommend a program that fully winds your watch in one cycle just once a day.

So, how do you know exactly what treatment your watch needs? Whether you use an Orbita winder or not (probably the most recognized and respected winder) they have some great information on their web page including a database of watch models and the settings you should use for best performance with your watch. You can check it out at You will also find lots of valuable information about automatic watches and watch winders at their site.

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  1. Posted May 21, 2008 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Over the last 5 years or so I’ve become somewhat anti-winder, unless one has a complicated perpetual calendar or something similar. I just feel like they cause unnecessary wear in many cases.

  2. Posted May 27, 2008 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Coral says : I absolutely agree with this !

  3. joe
    Posted July 26, 2008 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    I need help to choose the right watch winder. I wear my Oris diver watch only on the weekend; during the week the watch stop working the problem is I need to buy a watch winder without having the risk of over winding my watch. Any idea where I can find this kind of watch winder (((watch wind for 5 minutes and rest for an hour or wind for half an hour and rest for a day.))

  4. J.Peter
    Posted July 26, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Joe, you might try something like this Watch Winder at Amazon

  5. Jordan
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I am working on a rolex 2135. For some reason after cleaning and oiling, when I put the auto mechanism back on and wind the watch, the weight turns quickly while winding the crown. I feel like it is something simple that I may be missing? I don’t have a lot of experience with rolex.

  6. J.Peter
    Posted February 22, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Jordan, “Helicoptering” as we call it is almost certainly a symptom of too much, or misplaced oil in the automatic winding system (reversing wheels probably)

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  1. […] or evening watches. They are to be used. If you aren’t going to wear them all day every day a watch winder may be in your best interest, or you could get a nice dress watch. Most “dress watches” […]

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