Low-end watch winders are basically boxes with slow-turning motors attached to them. Mid-range and high-end watch winders come with a number of options to regulate the speed, direction and continuity of automatic watches. These features are more than luxuries. They keep watches from being over-wound. Let’s look at watch winder operations in a little more detail.
Understanding Watch Winders
An automatic watch winder, usually just called a watch winder or watch rotator, keeps automatic watches ticking. Most of the watches found in drugstores and discount retail stores are battery powered. Automatic watches, on the other hand, are powered by human motion, so that when they’re worn for as little as a few minutes a day, the mainspring gets enough kinetic energy to drive the gears.
Since a watch collector can’t wear more than one watch at a time, other watches in the collection need to be kept moving to prevent them from winding down. Watch winders gradually turn watches over the course of the day.
Key Operational Features
The main risk involved with bad watch rotators is over-winding, where the mainspring receives too much wear. Here are the features the best watch winders offer to counteract the danger of over-winding:
- Bidirectional rotation. Unlike cheap winders, quality winders aren’t limited to clockwise rotation. They can be set to run counterclockwise, or run in both directions. Some fully rotate a few hundred turns per day in one direction, then do the same in the opposite direction. Some swing back and forth instead. More advanced watch winders do both.
- Speed variation. Different watch mechanics have different sensitivities. A manufacturer might recommend 1800 turns per day for one watch to keep its time accurate, while another watch would be over-wound at anything above 900 TPD. Cheap watch winders lack adjustable speed settings.
- Timer settings. Humans don’t move the watches they wear all day; they provide irregular movement. Excessive movement would result in excessive winding, so quality watch winders address this with an integrated timer that stops the winding after a few hours. Some even feature a timer that starts the winding after a few hours, so that the mainspring has time to unwind any excess tension it has accumulated if the watch has been recently worn.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get most of these features. A single-watch winder over $150 will typically feature intermittent, bidirectional rotation. On the other hand, you should definitely avoid watch winders sold for under $100. These winders tend to lack the features above, and can’t regulate motion thoroughly enough to over-winding, which defeats the purpose of buying a watch winder.