In the world of watches, there are a lot of accessories out there. From watch straps and watch travel cases to watch boxes and watch stands, there are a lot of choices. However, one watch accessory seems to have an air of mystique and confusion around it, the humble watch winder. Are they necessary? Can they damage a watch? Should you use one, and if you decide to use one, how do you use it? Well, let's take the time to explain the answers to those questions in this guide to watch winders.
What are they?
Simply put, a watch winder is a tool that your watch will sit inside of that will twist and turn your watch in such a way that its winding rotor will spin so that it winds your watch. Of course, your watch will need to be automatic in order for this to work. Manual-wind timepieces will not be wound through this motion; instead, they are wound through their winding crown, usually at 3 o'clock. Watch winders can have a whole host of designs, from orbital-shaped gyroscopes to boxes that your watch will sit inside of; they will usually feature a selection of leathers, suedes and various other soft materials in order to protect the watch while it is being wound.
Do You Need One?
Aside from the rather obvious convenience of being able to strap your fully wound watch straight onto your wrist even after not wearing it for a while and going about your business immediately, there are some other reasons to consider getting yourself a watch winder. The main advantage is that you won't have to wind and set your complications after your unworn watch has stopped functioning for a few days or weeks. It might seem like a small bonus, but if you have an extensive collection that you like to cycle through, then the constant resetting of complications can be rather tedious and exhausting and sometimes isn't even an option if you are in a hurry.
While some complications like a date or second timezone might only take a few seconds to update, a perpetual calendar, moon-phase indicator, or annual calendar will take quite a while to get back into sync as you tackle the winding crown and reset everything. Some complications like perpetual and annual calendars even require their own pusher tools to operate the pushers in the side of the case – watch winders can save you the hassle. They also mitigate the additional risk of setting these complications at the wrong 'time', which might throw your whole movement off. However, this is more so an issue for older watches, but something you should also be careful to avoid, so if you are resetting the date on a watch, make sure it is not between 9 pm and 3 am.
Will they Damage your Watch?
Modern self-winding watches are designed so that they cannot be overwound. They do this by using a slip-clutch that will engage with the mainspring when fully wound – preventing it from being overwound. While a cheap winder with only one setting could potentially damage this slip clutch by forcing it to be engaged continuously, higher-end watch winders protect against this exact thing as they often feature multiple settings and speeds that can be matched to various movements.
Another thing to consider is that modern self-winding movements are designed to be self-wound, as their name implies. They are designed to be wound through kinetic energy created by movement, not through manual winding via the crown. While manual winding is always an option for most mechanical watches, it should only be a last resort as the parts involved in manually winding a modern self-winding watch aren't as robust as they would be on a fully manual winding watch.
How Do You Use One?
Watch winders are actually relatively straightforward to use. Simply place the watch in the cradle, set the watch winder to whatever setting best suits the movement in your watch (google search its optimal winding parameters or turns per day), and hit the power button. After that, your watch should start spinning, and your job is done!