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Everything you ever wanted to know about Watch Winders

Time for you to become a Watch Winder Pro...

Anyone who loves horology will inevitably enjoy discussing watch winders. Some watch wearers, collectors, and makers will sing its praises, while others will label it as ‘unnecessary.’ Into which group of people do you fall?

If you aren’t entirely sure, or even if you’re just after an exciting read, this article will help you make up your mind about watch winders and their place in the horological world.

Without further ado, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about watch winders.

Anyone who loves horology will inevitably enjoy discussing watch winders. Of course, we fall into this mix and not just because we have our ownstylish watch winders (but we do have ‘em, check ‘em out!).

What is a Watch Winder?

A watch winder is a complex device designed to serve a simple purpose: to keep an automatic watch running when it’s not being worn. Watch winders vary in style and size. Some resemble small jewelry boxes, while others act as safes.

Strictly speaking, a watch winder is not an essential piece of equipment that every watch wearer or collector needs to own, but there are three very valid reasons why people opt to purchase them:

  1. The overall longevity of your watch’s movement is extended thanks to the oils found within the movement mechanisms continually being dispersed.

  2. Having a watch winder eliminates the inconvenience of having to manually wind and re-set your watch after a few days of not wearing it.

  3. Those who collect watches need not worry about their watches that aren’t currently being worn running down.

A watch winder is a complex device designed to serve a simple purpose: to keep an automatic watch running when it’s not being worn.

How do Watch Winders Work?

In order to properly explain how watch winders work, we need to describe how automatic watches operate in general. An automatic watch automatically winds itself through the moving weight inside the watch. This moving weight rotates in accordance with the movements of the person wearing it.

By that logic, if an automatic watch is not being worn, it is not being wound. Here is an overview of how watch winders work their magic:

  1. When the watch owner doesn’t plan on wearing their watch that day, they’ll carefully place it in the watch winder.

  2. Once secured in the watch winder, make the appropriate adjustment to the winder’s controls, following the winder manufacturer’s directions. These may include rotation direction, turns per day (TPD), length of operation, and more. Refer to your watch’s manual for specifics about winding direction and TPD. Can’t find that information in your manual? Check this handy guide.
  3. The watch winder will then be switched on. Batteries or AC power operate watch winders, so they’ll either need to be switched on by pressing a button or by being plugged into a power source.

  4. The watch winder will begin mimicking the movements and motions associated with the human wrist before pausing. How often and the length of pauses depends on your specific TPD settings, but most watch winders will turn for 30 seconds to one minute before pausing.

  5. When the owner decides to wear their watch once more, they’ll remove it from the watch winder and place it on their wrist.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we know what a watch winder is and how it works, we can explore the topic a little further. Let’s take a look at the answers to those frequently asked questions.

Is it safe to leave a watch on a watch winder for days or weeks at a time?

Many people don’t wear their watches every day, and even more people collect watches and want to give them all adequate wrist time, so this question pops up often. The answer is It depends on the capabilities of your winder. Automatic movements have a slip-clutch that prevents overwinding. However, it is safer to not put too much stress on the mechanism through non-stop winding. Run it for a day and turn it off. A programmable timer is an ideal solution. Or, if you are a gadget freak as well as a watch freak, control the winder from your smartphone and the appropriate hardware.

The following table lists some popular premium Swiss Automatic Movements Winding Parameters.

Manufacturer Movement/Caliber Winding Direction TPD
ETA 2824-2 Both 650
  7750 CCW 800
Sellita SW200-2 Both 650-800
  SW500 CW 800

CW = Clockwise

CCW = Counter Clockwise

Will a watch winder cause the watch to wear down quicker?

When it comes to whether or not using a watch winder will wear the watch down quicker, the answer is that the watch won’t wear down any quicker than if it were on the wrist. Some even argue that a watch winder can make for smoother performance and an increased lifespan thanks to reaching its adequate TPD regularly.

What separates a good watch winder from a bad one?

Prices for winders run the gamut from cheap to oh-my! Keep in mind your needs when looking to purchase one.. A top end winder will feature an ultra-quiet motor, highly programmable TPD and directional settings, superior craftsmanship, and a decent warranty. You can buy excellent winders for less that have all the features above except for the ability to set the TPD. Be prepared to pay over $100.00 for a serviceable winder. This is a great example of, “you get what you pay for.” Avoid cheap winders like the plague. 

What are “winding cycles”?

Also known as turns per day, a winding cycle is the number of turns that the internal rotor needs to make to keep the watch properly wound. The majority of automatic watches require a winding cycle of 500 to 800 turns daily, but many modern automatic watches have longer power reserves and require over a thousand turns per day.

Is it possible to overwind a watch using a watch winder?

This depends upon the winder. By its very design, an automatic watch is equipped to prevent overwinder through the use of a slip-clutch. You can safely let your winder run for a couple of days. Don’t, however, take off on a three week Swiss watch factory tour and leave the winder going.

We discussed watch winding in more depth in our post “can your watch last a lifetime” - check it out!

Final Thoughts

While not a necessary component to ensuring your watch remains functioning as it should, a watch winder is synonymous with convenience. In our opinion, watch winders are a beautiful marriage of technology and craftsmanship & something of a technological marvel.

Some people love the traditional aspect of sitting down each night and manually winding their watches. But for others, it winds down to them just simply not having the time.

What are your thoughts on watch winders? We’d love to hear them, so feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.


LIV Automatic Watch Winder Manual

About the Author

Esti Chazanow, Co-Founder at LIV Watches
Esti's passion for men's watches led her to co-found LIV Watches—a microbrand dedicated to connecting watch collectors with high quality, limited edition, Swiss Made timepieces at prices they can afford—and the rest is horological history.