What exactly is a watch winder?

A watch winder is a device used to keep automatic (also known as self winding) watches running when not worn. Automatic watches operate on the principle of winding themselves using a moving weight inside the watch. The weight swings or rotates while the watch is worn and turns the winding mechanism inside the watch. So, fairly obviously, if the watch is not worn, then it no longer receives power this way and will run down. While virtually all automatic watches can be manually wound, this is not always convenient. So the concept of an automatic watch winder was born.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

A watch winder is a device which holds a watch (or often more than one) and moves it in a circular patterns to emulate the necessary parts of human motion to operate the self-winding mechanism.

A winder cannot over wind an automatic watch, since all automatic watches are protected from being over wound by a mechanism that disengages the winding process when the mainspring is fully wound. But using a timer-based winder is still very important to prevent excessive wear on the winding mechanism. There is no need to keep the watch in motion 24 hours a day when usually only 30 minutes of motion is necessary to keep it properly wound.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

Winders are totally useless with battery-operated quartz watches. But they do work for the special ‘battery-less’ quartz watches, such as the Omega-Matic, Seiko Kinetic, and similar. These automatic/quartz hybrids use the same weight/rotor principal to generate electric power to run a quartz movement.

Do I need a watch winder?


Well, you didn’t need to buy more automatic watches than you can wear at one time, did you? But don’t worry, you are far from alone! Many collectors and enthusiasts quickly get into this dilemma. Ultimately, the main function of a winder is as a convenience device.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

Doesn’t a winder protect my watch by keeping the oils from clotting?

The oils used in most modern watches and properly serviced vintage watches are not very prone to clotting or coagulating. While there are technical reasons in favor of keeping a watch continuously running, there are also reasons in favor of not unnecessarily overusing a watch.

There is no significant evidence that a good watch winder will either save or harm your watch. The several watch repair professionals I’ve dealt with say they’ve never encountered a watch that ‘would have been fine, if only the owner had kept it on a winder.’

What types of winders are available?

Functional: Such winders perform the duties of winding one or more watches. Generally, these units hold the watch on the exterior of the device. As such, they tend to need to be on a tabletop or somewhat tall shelf. Some which handle more than one watch start to resemble carnival rides, with their merry-go-round or ferris wheel configurations and multiple rotating watch holders.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

Elegant: These winders go beyond pure functionality and offer a nice form and exterior. Normally they are a completely enclosed box, often made of nicely finished wood or covered in leather. They are suitable for display on a desk or dresser, yet many are capable of fitting inside a drawer or safe deposit box.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

Extravagant: As with many luxury items, the sky is the limit on options. Winders with heaters to keep the watch near body temperature, built-in storage drawers, and atomic-clock-synchronized time displays are some of the esoteric and beyond features available on some of the very high end winders.

Evrything you need to know about watch winders

Within these are options of a/c and battery powered units. The battery units are especially nice for use on shelves, in drawers, or in a safe deposit box.

Note: A bad watch winder is worse than no winder. Automatic watches are designed to be worn by people. People move in a large diversity of manners, causing a fairly even distribution of motion of the watch’s internal winding mechanism. A watch winder is normally limited to a very finite number of directions and types of movement – some as little as one single motion. So a poorly designed winder (especially the one you tried to make from an old electric drill and spare auto parts when you first heard that a real winder sells for hundreds of dollars) might cause undesirable wear of the watch’s mechanisms from excessive and repetitive movement.