Watch winders are an interesting object of debate in the watch collecting community. If you’re an avid collector, you’ve likely heard that a watch winder can help protect your automatic watches and keep them running even while not being worn. Others feel they are a mere instrument of convenience that may even advance wear and tear on the parts faster.

So, are winders an essential tool of watch ownership? Or do they simply do more harm than good?

The short answer is that no, technically no one needs a watch winder. But as many collectors already know, not every tool has to be essential for elevating your collecting experience. When considering the many benefits a winder can add to your collection, you might consider investing in one anyway.

Discover everything you need to know about automatic watch winders and whether your collection could benefit.

What is a Watch Winder?

In the simplest terms, a watch winder box or safe is a device that keeps watches that require automatic winding running even when they’re not being worn. This does not apply to manual winding or quartz watches.

Automatic watches rely on the motion of the wearer’s wrist to wind the mainspring, which powers the movement. If an automatic winding watch is left sitting for an extended period of time, it will stop running. This can be quite the nuisance if you want to wear your favourite timepiece at a moment’s notice.

This is where the utility of a watch winder comes into play. A watch winder typically consists of a motorised base and a rotating drum or pad that holds the watch. The base rotates the drum or pad in a circular motion, which in turn gently rotates the watch, mimicking the natural motion of a wrist. This motion winds the watch’s mainspring, which powers the movement and keeps the watch running.

Perhaps their most attractive feature is the variety of styles available. Watch winders come in a variety of unique styles, from single-watch winders to multi-watch winders that hold several watches at once. On top of their functionality, many watch winders are eloquently crafted and offer a sophisticated way to display your collection. You may find your watch winder attracts just as much attention as your watches do. 

Watch winders come in both battery-powered and mains-powered forms. Some watch winders even come with both options, allowing you to choose the power source that works best for your needs.

How Do Watch Winders Work?

Watch winders work by rotating an automatic watch in a specific pattern to simulate the natural motion of the wearer’s wrist. This motion winds the mainspring, which powers the movement of the watch.

Most watch winders are designed with a motor and gearbox that drive a rotating platform. The platform holds the watch securely and rotates it in a circular motion, typically at a rate of around 650 to 800 turns per day. The rotation pattern can be adjusted to suit the needs of different watch models, as some watches require more or less winding than others.

Many modern watch winders also have advanced features like programmable rotation intervals, multiple winding directions, and built-in timers. These features help ensure that the watch is wound correctly and prevent overwinding or damage to the movement.

Watch winders are not all universal and not all watches are compatible with them. We recommend always checking with the manufacturer of your watch to see if it is safe to use with a watch winder.

What are the Benefits of a Watch Winder?

Although a watch winder is not an essential piece of equipment, there are many benefits of using one:

  • Keeps automatic watches running smoothly: A watch winder mimics the motion of the wrist to keep automatic watches wound and running smoothly. This helps prevent them from stopping and ensures your favourite watches are always ready for action.
  • Saves time and effort compared to manual winding: Although many collectors enjoy the ritual of manually winding their own watches, it can be timing consuming. A watch winder saves you time and lets you get on with enjoying your collection.
  • Save the hassle from winding a perpetual calendar: Perpetual calendars take a notoriously long time to reset the date when they stop running. A winder alleviates this problem.
  • Reduces wear and tear on the watch movement: When you wind a watch manually, there is a risk of over-winding and damaging the movement. Using a watch winder helps prevent over-winding and reduces the likelihood of wear and tear.
  • Provides a convenient storage solution for multiple watches: If you own multiple automatic watches, a watch winder safe or box can provide a convenient storage solution that keeps your watches wound and ready to wear.
  • Adds to the aesthetic appeal of a watch collection: Many watch winders are beautifully crafted and can add to the aesthetic appeal of your collection. They come in a variety of styles, materials, and sizes, making it easy to find one that fits your personal taste and style.

Can a Watch Winder Damage Your Watch?

While a watch winder can provide many benefits, some watch enthusiasts worry that using one may cause damage to their watch. With this in mind, here are some factors to consider:

  • Compatibility: Some larger models are not compatible with watch winders. It’s important to use a high-quality watch winder and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting it up and using it with your specific watch model.
  • Winders of poor quality: Some inexpensive or poorly-made winders may cause damage to the watch by exposing it to excessive vibration or magnetic fields.

In general, a watch winder poses little threat to your favourite watches. But bad quality winders do exist. And you’ll want to avoid those. Using winders of poor quality or those that aren’t compatible with your watch could lead to issues of magnetization or cause damage.

Do You Need A Watch Winder?

After exploring the benefits and potential drawbacks of using a watch winder, the question remains: do you actually need one? The answer ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the specifics of your watch collection.

If you have multiple automatic watches and like the convenience of always having them wound and ready to wear, a watch winder may be a worthwhile investment. It can also be a useful tool for monitoring the accurate timekeeping of your watch.

However, if you only have one or two automatic watches and enjoy manually winding them, a watch winder may not be necessary. On the other hand if your watch has a date function a watch winder will not only keep your watch showing the correct time, but the correct date also.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use a watch winder is up to you. Consider your personal preferences and the specifics of your watch collection, and make an informed decision based on what works best for you.

Winding a Vintage Watch

Of course, the story changes somewhat when dealing with a vintage timepiece. Vintage watches are not as strong or durable as their modern counterparts and their mainspring was not intended to be fully wound at all times. The constant winding of an automatic winder for prolonged periods can lead to unneccessary wear of the movement. If a watch is not in regular use it is better kept in its box in a draw and wound once a month.

To ensure the longevity and integrity of your valuable vintage timepiece, it is essential to have it checked and maintained by a professional who is knowledgeable and experienced with vintage watches.

At Vintage Gold Watches, our experienced watchmakers provide a full range of services that cater specifically to vintage watches, including professional servicing, repairs and restoration. We would love to help bring your favourite pieces back to life.

We’re passionate about helping people restore their vintage watches or choose new ones that reflect their unique style and personality. Call us on 020 7727 7095 to make an appointment or shop our vintage watches and accessories on our website.

Where to Buy a Watch Winder

Firstly, you should avoid the cheapest models as this will definitely be a false economy. We recommend the Barrington and Wolf brands, available as single watch winders or double or multiple winders. Amazon is the first place to look.

Alan Wood
Alan Wood, founder of Vintage Gold Watches, is a trusted vintage watch dealer with 35+ years of experience. His passion and expertise have earned him a respected reputation in the industry. Vintage Gold Watches, established in 2011, is known for Alan's knowledge and skilled restoration team. With a love for vintage watches since his youth, Alan is thrilled to share the finest timepieces from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with others, fueling his obsession.