Are Watch Winders Safe? Do You Need One?

Watch winders are one of the essential gadgets for the watch enthusiasts. The feature of always having your watches ready to go is much nicer than having to wind and set the time and date manually. As I was thinking of getting a watch winder some questions got to my mind, the main question being: Are watch winders safe? Therefore, I did the research and wanted to share it for anyone wondering the same.

A watch winder can damage your watch. Continuous winding will result in constant engagement of the slip-clutch (Prevents the mainspring from over-winding), and the mainspring will apply excessive force to the gears. A poorly shielded motor from can cause magnetic interference with the movement.

However, with that being said a watch winder can also be adjusted to cause less wear and tear on the movement.

Are Watch Winders Safe?

Watch winders is the perfect accessory for any watch enthusiast. It keeps the watch wound, hence no setting of time, date, day, calendar, or whatever else functions your watch has. It is ready to go, from the moment you wake up. However, watch winders are not without the risk of damage to your beloved watches.

9 Case Watch Winder
9 Case Watch Winder (Source)

An automatic watch is made of more than 100 different components. The mainspring makes torque throughout the gears, which makes the movement go for the arrows to show the time. All 100 various parts are put under stress, and the more wound the mainspring is, the harder the force is applied throughout the movement. The watch is made to be worn for about 8-10 hours per day, then put at the table overnight and picked up to be worn the next morning again.

The majority of watch users drive to work and sit most of the hours at a computer which makes for minimal movement to the rotor (The rotor is what charges the mainspring). The manufactures and developers have adapted this to the modern watches, compared to the watches made 50 years ago where the average human were more active in the day job.

The watches are therefore made to have a downtime of at least the 8 hours you are sleeping where the mainspring can discharge and where the rotor, its gears, and ball-bearings get some downtime.

Using a watch winder will essentially have the watch running efficiently. However, the mainspring will always be wound to maximum capacity. Therefore it will also try to get rid of the build-up energy in the mainspring, putting the peak stress and torque through the entire movement of the watch. However, a high-quality watch winder with adjustable settings can reduce the amount of tear to the movement.

Low-quality watch winders which is not correctly shielding against magnetism can magnetise the movement. Mainly, interference with the hairspring in the balance can get affected. When the movement becomes magnetised, the hairspring (also called a balance spring) which regulates the movement of the balance wheel begins to stick to itself. In practice the hairspring gets shorter, and a shorter balance spring makes the watch run faster than intended.

Effectively that means some of the watches components gets used up to two thirds more than intended when placed in a watch winder. Furthermore, the stress and torque in the movement is at peak the entire time. This will unnecessarily tear the gears of the movement in the long run.

Can A Watch Winder Overwind the Watch?

An automatic watch can’t be overwound due to the slip-clutch which is an assortment between the rotor and the mainspring. The slip-clutch will engage when the mainspring is fully charged, essentially releasing the energy from the winding rotor.

While an automatic watch can’t be overwound, there will be an increased tear to the components associated with the slip-clutch mechanism. This means that service intervals for your watch might decrease. For example, if the recommended service interval is every five years, the service interval might change frequency to every four years as a result of the increased tear from the watch winder. An authorised dealer will have the best answer to your specific watch.

While an automatic watch can’t be overwound, there is also a common misconception that automatic watches should never be wound. However, when an automatic watch is completely unwound, and the watch has stopped just slapping it on your wrist will not properly wound it. Therefore, a good 20-30 turns of the crown is necessary to get the watch to accurately tell time. What happens is that the mainspring is to lose, and therefore, the watch will lose time if not appropriately wound.

Certina DS-1 illustration of hairspring and rotor
Certina DS-1 illustration of hairspring and rotor

What Are The Benefits Of A Watch Winder?

While it seems I am against watch winders based on the article thus far, I am actually pro (high-quality) watch winders. There are several benefits to the watch winders, and having to get your watches serviced now and again is a part of owning automatic watches.

The benefits of a watch winder:

  • The oil in the movement doesn’t settle, thus making the movement working smoothly.
  • Watch(es) which is not worn keeps time and is ready to be worn without any adjustment to time, date, day or calendar functions.
  • Watch winder mimics the movement of your wrist.
  • Nice watch winders can act as display objects for your watches.
  • Watch winders are especially lovely when having annual- or perpetual calendars as they are time-consuming to readjust.

What happens when a watch stops is that there is no longer any tear as the movement has stopped moving. However, when the movement stops, so does the lubricant. The lubricant is what makes the watch healthy and prevents any tear. In theory, when the lubricant is in good condition, and all parts are lubricated the right amount, the mechanical parts will not have any direct contact, hence no tear. However, if the watches are stored in your poorly isolated addict in the winter, the lubricant might change behaviour and thus not lubricating as it should.

Some of the less technical benefits are the readiness of your watches. Didn’t feel like wearing the same as you did yesterday? Just grab the next one from the watch winder. If in addition the watch winder makes is cool or pretty to look at with a clear window to the watches you can enjoy the watches as display pieces when not worn.

If you are the owner of an annual or perpetual calendar, you know the time it takes to set the time, day, date, and month, etc. Just watch this guy on Youtube using 11 minutes on adjusting his perpetual calendar Patek Philipe. Not something you want in your morning routine, am I right?

Another interesting fact that watch winders is that they are set to mimic your hand gesture/movement. A watch winder turns depending on a preset amount of turns per day (TPD). The standard spectrum of TPD is between 650 to 950.

Should You Use A Watch Winder?

Now comes the question of whether you need a watch winder or not. A watch winder is not a necessity for anyone. However, using a watch winder is good for the watches’ movement as the lubricant keeps flowing and the watch winder is most likely stored in room temperature. The watch winder can function as a display piece for your other watches when not wearing them, making you able to appreciate your well-considered wrist investments even when not worn.

No matter if you own luxury- or entry-level-watches, you might want to purchase a high-end watch winder to make sure the lubricants keeps flowing through the movement. On the other hand, if you frequently wear all of your watches, a watch winder might not be needed, that being if you have no problem with setting the time every time you change watch.

If you are in the high-end watches and has your watches kept in a safe, it is actually possible to purchase safes which functions as a watch winder. However, this can quickly turn into an insurance question. You should consult with your insurance before acquiring a watch winder safe if the purpose is to protect the watches.

A watch winder is a nice gadget that makes the change of automatic watches easy in your everyday life. It is convenient, especially as the complexity of the movement increases. If you decide to purchase a watch winder, you should look up the suggested TPD such as the one provided by Wolf1834. The TPD has to be taken seriously. Otherwise you could end up damaging your watch.

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

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