When I got my first automatic watch, I was influenced by other watch fans that I need to buy a watch winder to accompany it. I was quite skeptical as I don’t think it’s really needed and I decided to do some research to find out.
So does an automatic watch need a winder? Automatic watch doesn’t need a watch winder to keep it running as there is no risk of the movement’s lubricant to coagulate in modern automatic watch. Furthermore, the power reserve, your wrist movement and manual winding is usually sufficient to keep it continuously running overnight till the next day.
In this article, I’m going to share why having watch winders is not compulsory based on current automatic watch technology. In addition, I’ll let you know that having a winder can be an expensive item that you should be wary about as it can damage your watch. Lastly, there are also some special situations where watch winder might be needed.
You Don’t Need A Winder For Your Automatic Watch
One of the things that I heard about automatic watch is you can’t let it sit dead for days as the lubricant oil inside it will coagulate over time. This will then cause the watch cannot run properly and need to be serviced ahead of its original schedule.
While this might sound convincing, but this is only for animal based oil that was used in previous generations of automatic watches. Modern automatic watches now use synthetic oil for its lubricants that won’t coagulate as easily.
Just like in our cars, the oil don’t necessarily goes bad if the car was left for some time right?
Another example is the watches at the shops. Most of the non-boutique shops tend to keep their automatic watches not running because it’s just a hassle to have to wind it all every day. And some watches can sit on the shelf for months before it was bought.
If the shop owners know that letting the watches sit idle will damage it, they would have surely keep it running to avoid being left with damaged watches right?
The perception that we need a watch winder to maintain our automatic watch is not correct anymore and I just can’t stress it further.
Apart from that, some people also have the concern that without a winder, their watches will be dead before they get to wear it again at the start of next week after the weekend.
Their concern is the dead watch will be a nuisance as they will need to reset the time before use.
While this is somewhat true, I believe this issue can be easily solved by using other ways apart from putting your watch in the winder.
For instance, there’s a lot of watches nowadays that have higher power reserve more than the standard 38 hours (or less than 2 days) of the ETA 2824.
Movements such as ETA Powermatic 80 (80 hours) make it possible for the automatic watch to still be ticking after being laid down unused over the weekends.
And if your watch has low power reserve, you can just give it a few rounds of manual wind to top up its power reserve easily. A good rule of thumb is to manual wind a few hours after you last used it but at least 10-15 hours before the power reserve will deplete completely (take a bit of guesswork here).
And yes, if you have a watch with power reserve indicator, things will be much simpler as you can easily top up the power reserve without needing to do guesswork. Power reserve indicator is one of my favorite functions in an automatic watch as it’s very helpful.
Do Watch Winders Damage Watches?
Can a winder damage your automatic watch? Winder don’t cause any damage to automatic watch because its usually rotating at a slow speed, which will not cause any bad effect on your watch. In fact, wearing the watch will exert more force on it as our hand swings when walking can be much faster.
But then, there are some ways a watch winder will negatively effect your automatic watch.
One thing is on the wear and tear of the moving parts of the movement. By putting your watch on the winder, it’s constantly moving and then keeping your watch ticking all year long. This means the watch is continuously working all year, even on the days that you don’t use it.
Now compare this with another scenario when you don’t put your watch in a winder and let it stop. This means that even after a year, the actual time the watch is ticking is less than that.
What this means is the wear and tear of this watch is lesser than the watch put on a winder. The result? You might be able to lengthen the interval of your watch services because the lower actual running time lowers the wear and tear of the watch.
Another way that a winder can damage your watch is by magnetizing it. Some badly designed winders can do this as it does not take into account the close proximity of the watch with the motor. And magnetization of your automatic watch is definitely not a good thing to have as it can cause lower accuracy.
Situations When Watch Winder Is Needed
But this does not mean that watch winder is not needed. There are some situations where I think a watch winder have a place in your home.
So who really need a watch winder? Watch winder is needed if your automatic watch have special complications such as moon phase and perpetual calendar.
These 2 complications are some of the best and coolest features that automatic watches have – imagine having a mechanical driven watch to be able to track moon phase change and have a calendar that follow the actual calendar with all the leap years and such.
These features are easy for a quartz watch with its microchip inside, but very hard to achieve in an automatic watch. Without a doubt, these are one of the best achievements by the automatic watch industry.
But then, these watches are not as simple as other automatic watches in which you cannot just let it stop at any time. This is because the complications need to be running all the time otherwise resetting the watch to get to the correct moon phase/calendar will be a nightmare.
(You can read my previous post on moon phase watch to see how cumbersome it is to reset it)
In these instances, watch winder makes a lot of sense – or even compulsory to be used – as it will ensure your watch is continuously ticking even if you’re away for an extended time.
Just remember to select the correct watch winder or you could ruin your watch!
Not All Watch Winders Are The Same
If you still want to get a watch winder or you need it for your moon phase/perpetual calendar watch, then my advice is to invest a bit more money and get a better winder instead of choosing it based on the lowest price.
A quick search on Amazon/Ebay will show that there are many watch winders for sale out there from as low as $50 to thousands of dollars.
The main issue that I want to highlight is in its motor, specifically on durability and magnetization. With a cheap winder, we can only expect that the manufacturer used the lowest cost material as possible to make it.
What happens then is the motor is also one part of the winder that is cheap. And having a constantly rotating motor to be low quality can only means the motor will not last long. For most of the cheap winders, you will be lucky if your winder can last for a year!
Another main problem with cheap winders is magnetization concern on your watches. Automatic watch is made of mostly steel and keeping it close to a rotating motor that has magnets in it will only mean that there’s a possibility that the watch will be magnetized.
Magnetization is one of the common problems with automatic watches as it can greatly affect its accuracy and longevity.
(You can also read about other common problems with automatic watches in my previous post)
A more expensive winder from an established manufacturer will be able to design their winder to shield the watches from being magnetized.
Lastly, another thing that you need to be wary about is in material and build quality. Without a doubt, the cheaper ones will be made from mostly plastic and don’t feel as lavish as the expensive ones. You wouldn’t want to store your expensive automatic watch in a cheap plastic winder or box right?
Do you have to wear an automatic watch everyday? You don’t need to wear automatic watch every day as most watches nowadays have big enough power reserve so that we don’t have to wear it every day. For example, one of the lowest power reserve right now is 38 hours (ETA 2824 and its variants) and you can easily skip one full day without wearing it.
Do automatic watches need to be wound? Automatic watch don’t need to be wound because it has self-winding mechanism that will wind its mainspring using the wearer’s natural wrist motion.
How to keep automatic watch when not being worn? Automatic watch is generally best kept in a box when not being worn. This will help to keep it from being exposed to moisture and such. Not to mention you would want to keep your precious automatic watch safe from prying hands right?
I hope this article about does an automatic watch need a winder will be beneficial to you. Do let me know if you have any other questions.