Why And How To Wind Automatic Watch

why-and-how-to-wind-automatic-watch

How To Wind An Automatic Watch? And Why Do We Need To Do It?

Two questions that I get a lot from people is why do we need to manual wind an automatic watch and how to wind an automatic watch.

As we all know, automatic watch is “automatic” because the there’s a rotor that “automatically” rotates and recharges the power reserve by winding the mainspring with every movement of the watch.

This is an improvement over the mechanical watch that needs to be manual wind (i.e you need to rotate the crown knob) to increase its power reserve.

So do we still need to manual wind an automatic watch then?

The answer is: it depends on how do you want to use your watch.how-to-wind-automatic-watch

I’ve actually written a post on that touches the subject of watch winding but this post is more on the differences between manual winding vs watch winder (You can take a look at that post here ).

Here, I would like to elaborate more on this topic here as I think it is worth to go in detail on this.

But if you want to jump to how to wind automatic watch directly, click this link HERE to go to the second part of this post.

 

Why Do You Need To Wind Your Automatic Watch?

Automatic watches are designed to be self sustaining, that is not needing a manual winding.

Traditional mechanical watches, however, need to be manual wind every one or two days (depending on its power reserve).

But as mechanical watch technology matures, there was a demand for an “automatic” or “self winding” watch. The obvious reason was the nuisance for having to wind it time and again.

The industry responds to this by putting a weighted rotor that rotates as our wrist is moving to wind the mainspring (for more detail explanation, visit my post on how automatic watch works here).

hamilton-khaki-field-officer-h69419363-


Above is Hamilton Khaki King Officer, a one of a kind watch by Hamilton that uses mechanical movement. Advantages of mechanical movement are the cheaper price and generally lighter weight.

 

The invention of automatic watch creates a watch that does not need to be winded manually and releases watch owners from the mundane work of manual winding it everyday. This increases its appeal and soon mechanical watches are becoming almost obsolete nowadays.

But then since our automatic watches are designed to just run forever (assuming we wear it every day), do we still need to manual wind it?

In my opinion, there are two main reasons that anyone should manual wind his/her automatic watch:

 

1 – You Own More Than One Watch

Automatic watches will only self wind if you wear it. So if you got many watches and use only one of them a day, most of your watches will not have much wrist time and subsequently drop dead.

Now automatic watches dropping dead is not a big deal. There is no damage to them at all as newer synthetic lubricants inside most watches won’t coagulate over time, not like mineral oils from older watches.

But practical wise, it is not a convenient thing at all. Just imagine, when you want to pick them up, you have to manual wind it a bit first and then reset the time.

Not to mention if the watch has day and date function, you need to reset those too as well as its am/pm correction. All of this resetting can be a bother, especially on that hectic Monday morning.

The simplest solution to this problem is to keep our watches running over the weekend by manual winding it just to keep it from dead.

The timing to do this shall depend on its remaining power reserve, estimated based on the last time you take it off your wrist).

Sure, we can always get a watch winder that will do the winding for us but it requires a bit of extra monies plus the additional electricity bill.

But if you don’t want to spend further than your watch, manual wind is still the best option.

Now, I don’t recommend that you go and wind your watch everyday as some movement can be sensitive to frequent winding.

Based on my experience (corroborated with other information from the net), Seiko movements such as the 6R15 and 4R36 are quite robust and can be manual wind even everyday without any known issue.

Other Swiss movements, not really so.. So in any case, do check with the manufacturer of the movement if frequent winding is permissible or not just to be on the safe side.

 

2 – To Increase Power Reserve For Accuracy

Contrary to popular belief, just wearing your watch would NOT make it stock up to the full power reserve. You can try this with watches that have exhibition caseback.

Try to move the watch just like how your wrist would move during working or walking and observe the rotor. You will notice that the rotor does not really rotate much.

Fact is our normal movements such as walking, doing office work, hanging out watching TV won’t really rotate the rotor, which means the rotor does not able to fully wind the mainspring.

I believe only rigorous activities where our hands are moving so much such as jogging, swimming etc. will move the rotor a lot.

In addition to that, most automatic watches require at least 600 rotations of their rotor to fully wind.

This number depends on the movement make (you can go to this website to check for how many rotations your watch require) but still it’s quite a huge number.

These two elements combined mean that the automatic watch will has a hard time getting into full power reserve capacity just by wearing it alone.

That’s why I recommend that when your watch is not running to its best accuracy, you can try to manual wind it to full power reserve.

The best accuracy for any automatic watch is when it’s having its full accuracy and that’s where manual winding comes.

By manually winding it, we can keep the power reserve to full and subsequently improve its accuracy.

How To Wind Automatic Watch Correctly

So we have seen that there are actually valid reasons to wind automatic watch.

 

But how do we actually wind automatic watch?

 

It’s very simple guys. Just grip the crown or the knob at the right side of your watch and rotate it upwards (for most watches).

As you rotate, you should feel a slight resistance and some faint noise of steel grinding on each other though this really differs from movement to movement.

That’s the sound of the gears inside the watch, winding up our mainspring. If you had seen those car toys where we had to rotate the knob before it can moves, that’s actually the same concept applied for automatic watches.

By rotating the knob, we are actually winding or tightening the mainspring inside it. This builds up the potential energy in the spring and will be released gradually to run the watch.

By the way, some watches especially diver watches have screw down crown. The crown is “screwed in” to provide extra water resistance protection and need to be unscrewed before we can wind it.

 


Watch the video above on how to manually wind your automatic watch. The Rolex Submariner in the video has a screw down crown so you can see the person has to unscrew the crown first before winding it.

 

2 Tips To Wind Your Automatic Watch Safely

We also need to remember that the crown stem is a fragile part of a watch. It’s just a slender steel bar connected to the inside of the movement.

The winding mechanism of an automatic watch is also not as robust and could break if too much force is used on it. So I would recommend for anyone winding his/her watch to follow these basic rules to avoid damaging your precious automatic watch:

 

1- Wind the watch off your wrist.

Winding your watch on your wrist will cause your finger to be at an awkward angle and put lateral stress on the stem, and possibly damaging it the crown stem.

What I always do is to always wind my watch when I picked it up and before I’m using it. That way, I’m winding it by applying only the rotational force on the crown stem.

Also, be more careful of screw down crown watches as the crown stem is longer and there is higher chance you could be applying the force laterally.

 

2- Be gentle and don’t overwind.

When winding, remember to be gentle and don’t rush yourselves. Normally, a full wind will require more than 20-40 rotations for a watch (this will differ according to movement. Check your watch’s manual for info on this).

Some people might want to rush through it just to get it done asap (I’m guilty of this at times… LOL) but you have to remember the delicate manual winding mechanism might break if you wind it with too much force. It’s also related to how sensitive the parts are to explosive force applied on it.

Over-winding can also happen when you wind your watch past its end point which is why it’s important to feel any abnormal or higher resistance when winding.

That’s the hint that you already fully wind your watch. If you have a watch with power reserve, this will be very easy to tell as the indicator will show that the power reserve is full.

 

screw-down-crown

A look at an unscrewed crown. Notice how far the crown is from the body of the watch. This makes it very easy to applied excessive lateral force on screw down crown while winding. Another good practice is to avoid unscrewing the crown while on your wrist to avoid the same issue.

 

What I normally do is to sit back and relax while winding my watch. I’ll hold the watch in my hands and wind it at a moderate speed, not in hurry because I know it won’t take that much time (less than a minute or so)

I always keep my fingers parallel to the watch to avoid applying lateral force on the stem. I also always be aware of the resistance of the gears while rotating the crown.

When I feel that there is a slightly higher resistance, I stop winding at that time to avoid overwinding.

The key is to not rush and enjoy winding your watch. I feel there is a connection between me and my watches when winding them.

The feedback when my fingers rotate the knob is a special feeling that no other modern watches such as digital, quartz or smartwatches can give.

 

Can I Just Shake My Watch Instead?

There are some people who advise to shake the watch instead of winding it as winding has probability of damaging the internal parts of the watch.

Yes, I do agree that winding has the risk of damaging the watch, but only if you do it recklessly and not following the recommendations above.

Shaking the watch, on the other hand, is akin to wearing the watch and can also achieve the same objective of filling up its power reserve.

But as I’ve mentioned earlier, it will take more than 600 rotations of the rotor to fully wind it. I don’t know about you but to shake the watch 600 times seems a lot to me!

Due to this, a few rotations of manual winding seems to be more practical and less time consuming than shaking the watch itself.

One thing that we need to remember is not to shake our watches aggressively. Internal parts of an automatic is very fragile, with the balance wheel pivot the most susceptible to impact and shock damage.

Aggressively shaking the watch might damage it and costs you hundred of dollars of expensive repair bill.

If you still insist on shaking your watch to wind it, I suggest to move it moderately with large swing of your arm and keep the watch face parallel to the ground.

By doing this you won’t put direct impact on the balance wheel pivot and reduce the risk of damaging it.

 

How Often Should I Wind My Automatic Watch?

We’ve learnt that there are some valid reasons to wind our automatic watches. We also learnt how to manual wind it.

The next question is : how often should we wind automatic watch?

I would say it depends on your watch, how you use it, and who manufactures it. If you only have one watch and use it everyday, then you don’t even need to wind it at all.

But if you have more than one and rotate using them everyday, then you might need to wind the watch that you don’t use, provided you want it to keep on running and the idle time is long enough.

If it’s only a day off the wrist, most watches have the sufficient power reserve to ensure it can keep on running.

A typical automatic watch have at least 40 hours power reserve which means you cannot leave it untouched for more than one day.

But for a 2 days off (such as weekends), then you can wind it on the Sunday once to fill up the juice.

With that, you can ensure it’s ready to be used when you pick it up the next day. No hassle on adjusting the time and day/date at that time.

By the way, if your watch is the Swatch Sistem51 or Tissot PRC 200 Powermatic 80 which have enormous 90 hours and 80 hours power reserve respectively, then you can leave it untouched for up to more than 3 days.

A typical mid-range 6R15 movement by Seiko has 50 hours of power reserve or slightly more than 2 days. And based on my experience and Seiko’s own manual, this movement can be manual wind everyday.

But that’s not exactly the case with other movements. Some ETAs (such as the 2824 and its siblings) are not recommended to be manual wind often.

In the end, it depends on the manufacturer’s recommendation as they are the one who knows the best about the movements.

 

I Don’t Like To Wind My Watches. Any Other Alternatives?

Some people don’t like the hassle of winding their watches while for some, the huge number of his watch collection will be a big task for him to wind all of them manually.

For these guys, the only practical alternative is to use a watch winder. A watch winder uses a motor to rotate your watch, which also rotate the rotor and wind the mainspring. It basically mimics the movement of the watch when we are wearing it.

It is efficient and easy way to charge your watch. Not to mention you can still wind it even when you are on a holiday.

Chiyoda Double Watch Winder With LockChiyoda Double Watch Winder With Lock

Some winders can also be used as a fancy watch box which is very useful to keep your watch from dust.

For example, this Chiyoda watch winder is actually a really good looking box that can also be used to store the watch.

So if you have that couple of pricey Rolexes and Pateks in your arsenal, a watch winder is definitely very useful. Why would you buy many expensive watches if you can’t keep them properly right?

One thing you need to keep in mind is watch winders can be a bit pricey – more than $100 for a good one.

There are cheaper options which are usually made in China but these don’t really last long.

Most of the time, the motor of these cheaper winders will fail after a few months of usage due to lower quality material used. In the end, investing in a good winder might be the more economical choice over the long run =P

Read more on how to find a good watch winder and some popular models at my previous post here.

 


Above is a video showing how a watch winder works. A good thing about it is the angled position of the watch will make sure the rotor rotates fully during operation.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, there are just two simple reasons on why we need to wind our watch: to keep our watches running (for those with many watches in his/her collection) and to keep its timekeeping accurate.

How to wind it is very simple, but there are many ways to never wind your watch with. Fast, aggressive winding is totally prohibited as it could damage the internal parts which is delicate.

Finally, if winding is not your preference, you can always invest in a watch winder which can also double as your watch storage box.

I hope this article will help you guys on the hows and whys of winding a watch. Drop your comments on your preferred method of keeping your watch running and any experience (good or bad).

 

Thanks for reading and till next time.

Cheers!

Watch Winder VS Manual Winding – Which One Is Better?

Watch Winder VS Manual Winding - Which One Is Better?

So you’ve got yourselves an automatic watch after much research about it and how it differs with the normal cheaper quartz watches out there.

But then you realize that you need to use the watch at least a couple of hours everyday for the mainspring to have sufficient charges to power the watch for the next 38 hours (the minimum power reserve in modern automatic watches).

If you have only 1 watch, that’s fine as you’ll use the watch everyday and this would not be an issue.

But if you have a few watches in your collection (as most guys do..), you will soon have the problem of having more watches than you can use in a single day.

For normal working people, usually there is one watch for work, and another watch for night time or weekends. Of course, sports time will require another different watch too.

Having 2 watches is still okay as you can rotate it every day but once the number goes up, some watches will barely get enough wrist time.

Everyone got their own favorite watch so it’s totally understandable that you will wear your most prized/beautiful/expensive watch than the other less significant watch. What happens then is that these watches will drop dead from not being used.

 

Watch Winder VS Manual Winding - Which One Is Better?

Manually winding a Breitling Navitimer by rotating the crown

 

There are two easy ways to keep them running though. The first is to manual wind it by rotating the crown and the second way is to use a watch winder.

Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages that we will soon go through. But before that, I would like to explain why we need to keep our automatic watches running.

 

Benefits Of Keeping Your Automatic Watches Running

  1. Convenient – take out and just use it
  2. No need to adjust the time or date/day
  3. Will keep the internal mechanism running
  4. Ensure the lubricating oil won’t solidify or coagulate (for older and cheap movements)

 

The whole idea of keeping our automatic watches running is for convenience. It means we can just simply take out the watch from drawer and put it on.

No need to adjust the time and day/date whenever we want to use it. This saves time and is great for those Monday morning rush.

This is great for watches with complications such as moon phase and perpetual calendar that are designed to be running all the time for the complications to work perfectly.

Another benefit by keeping it running all the time is the internal mechanism will keep on running, thus preventing the lubricating oil from solidify or coagulate.

But this is only true for vintage watches and low quality watches that uses mineral oil. These oil will coagulate if the mechanism does not move for quite some time, making your watch to lose its accuracy or cannot even start.

But for new modern watches, synthetic oil is commonly used so this problem does not exist anymore.

 

skx007k-2Seiko SKX007 – A watch that is revered as a true workhorse. It has been around since 1996 and some people still use their 20 year old SKX007 till this day without any major issues.

 

But Will Keep Watches Running All The Time Increase Its Mileage?

One thing to take note is that keeping our watches running will affect its mileage.

There are 2 ways of thinking here. One says that just like a car, a longer running and higher mileage watch means the wear and tear in its mechanism is higher, thus lowering its lifespan.

So these people advise to just not bother with keeping your extra watches running and let them drop dead when not in use. This might be able to lengthen their lifespan.

I’ve a different opinion on this. Sure, if you let it drop dead, you can save some precious years for your watch.

For someone with 3 or 4 watches, his least favorite watch might only be used once every 1 or 2 weeks. So we are talking about a few years of inactivity (and lengthening of lifespan) for this watch if he let it dead when he does not want to use it.

But watchmakers are already building watches to withstand years of abuse. Swatch Sistem51 for example, has a 20 years guarantee by the company that it will keep on running perfectly. Seiko SKX007 has been in the market for 20 years and there are still people that bought it in 1996 and use it now.

The Swiss watch industry has exist for 100 years and they are continuously building watches that can test the time.

In my opinion, automatic watches are built for years continuously running, and I don’t see any actual benefit of keeping your unused watch dead just to “lengthen its lifespan”. For all we know, these little timepieces might even outlive us.

And of course, a full service should be done on the watch at the period recommended by the manufacturer. Just like a car, a good servicing of the internal movement will do wonders to keep it working perfectly.

Swatch Sistem51 sutr400-sistem-red-1

 

Swatch Sistem51 – a revolutionary automatic watch inside a plastic casing by the Swiss company Swatch. The company reportedly announced that the Sistem51 will be able to run perfectly fine for up to 20 years. Not only that, this watch also has a whopping 90 hours power reserve!

 

Watch Winder VS Manual Winding

We have learnt the benefit of keeping our watches ticking all the time. Whether you want to do it or not, I’ll have to leave for you to decide.

For me, a continuously running watch is very convenient and I’ll stick to that. So how to keep our watches running? As mentioned earlier, there are two ways for it: Manual winding or watch winders.

 

1) Manually Winding By Rotating Crown

How to manual wind your automatic watch? It’s very simple actually. Just rotate the crown upwards till you can feel and hear the movement making some faint noises.

In case you don’t know, the crown is the knob that sticks out from the watch case (Read my guide on watch’s anatomy here for pictures of the crown location).

It is also used to set the day and date of the watch. A good 20 turns (or more depending on your watchmaker’s recommendation) everyday is enough to fully wind the mainspring to full charge.

During winding, it is important to be gentle and not use too much force. Doing so will damage the crown as it is the weakest part of the watch. Using too much force could damage the gears inside,

causing you expensive repair works. Just lightly hold the crown and rotate it slightly will do. Always wind it when you are not wearing it, that is holding the watch with both hands.

Winding while wearing the watch might cause you to use more force than necessary.

 

A video of winding a Rolex Submariner (I purposely attached this video to share with you guys how gorgeous this watch is). The Submariner has a screw down crown, which is why the guy has to unscrew the crown first. It seems the Rolex will need 40 rotations to fully charge the mainspring and this will differs according depending on your watch model

 

Most modern watch has a clutch to disengage the manual winding mechanism from the mainspring to avoid overwind (the automatic rotor also has it too).

So there is no concern on overwinding your watch. But as a precaution, be mindful of the sound and feeling of the watch when its being wound. A loud, creaky and hard resistance that is abnormal might mean something is amiss and should be a concern.

 

2) Using A Watch Winder

A watch winder is a good alternative for people who does not want to manually wind their watches everyday. It is easy to use, can also be used as a box to hold your timepieces and can be a very nice looking addition to your bedroom.

Another good usage of the winder is when you are going for a vacation of travelling for work. On these occasions, you can’t bring your whole watch collection with you and manually winding the watch everyday is not possible. A watch winder is the perfect tool for these situations.

 

How Does A Watch Winder Work?

A watch winder is a very simple tool actually. The watch need to be secured to a watch pillow (just attached it like how you wear the watch using your wrist).

Then the pillow will be inserted into a hole of the watch winder. This hole is then rotated by a motor. This rotation motion will then rotate the automatic self-wind rotor and charging our timepiece.

 

A video showing Versa Watch Winder in operation

 

A Few Things To Consider When Buying A Watch Winder

A watch winder can cost from as low as $30 to hundreds of dollars. It is important for you to buy the correct watch winder then. Below are some of the tips to choose a suitable watch winder for your timepieces.

 

a) Which direction does it rotate?

Some watch winder will rotate clockwise or anti-clockwise. More expensive winders will have the option for both. This is very important as not all automatic watch’s rotor will rotate bi-directionally.

Some watches will rotate only in one direction. Again, you need to confirm with your watchmaker on how does the rotation of the movement going to be.

For example, a movement with rotor that only rotates clockwise will need to be attached with an anti-clockwise rotating winder to actually wind the watch correctly.

If your watch manufacturer can’t be contacted, you can try to check with Orbita database. Orbita, a watch winder manufacturer, has a comprehensive database on the directions of rotations for lots of watches. You can check it here.

 

b) How many watches do you have?

Watch winders come in many forms. Some have single slot to wind while others can have double or more than the space. For this, you will need to decide on how many winder slots you require for your watches as more slots will increase its price.

 

c) Battery operated or AC adapter?

It is recommended to use purchase an AC powered winder over battery powered units (though some winders have both options built-in). The winder will be running continuously, so a battery powered winder won’t really lasts long and you have to change it out.

 

d) How many turns per day (TPD)?

Most automatic watches has turn per day of around 700 to 1000. Most watch winders will have these settings in place. But some winders also have options for high turns per day (up to 2000 TPD) or a low of 300 TPD. It depends on how you use prefer to use the winder.

As always, contact your watch manufacturer for details of your watch’s TPD specification. Alternatively, you can also check in Orbita database for TPD settings (Orbita.com).

 

e) Motor quality

The motor is an important aspect of the winder. As mentioned earlier, the winder will be rotating quite a lot and only a high quality motor is robust enough to stay alive after a few months. Avoid Chinese made motor as much as possible as it will break in a few months max. Investing in a high quality motor is a very good decision.

 

f) Material of the winder’s internal

The finish of the internal of the winder is important to consider as well. A plastic or steel internals that touches with the watch could damage it due to friction when the watch is rotating inside it. A good choice is to buy a winder with soft fabric that will not damage your watch.

 

So, Do You Need Watch Winder?

So the big question: do you need a watch winder? It really depends on a lot of factors. One, watch winders could be pricey and some people might be turned off by that.

Not to mention manual winding is totally fine and can achieve the same objective of keeping the watch running. So why spend all those hard earned money?

But for those with a huge collection of watches, a big watch winder with up to 4 slots of winders is totally recommended as it can be quite cumbersome to wind those watches everyday.

Plus, big watch winders usually come with storage spaces for watches – you can literally make the winder as your “jewelry box” of some sort.

In the end, you yourselves has to decide if you need one. For me, my watch collections is still small and a watch winder might be too excessive.

But I can foresee as my collection grows into more expensive watches, I’ll surely get one of those winders that can also be a watch box =)

 

Where To Buy A Watch Winder?

For those of you that decide to purchase a watch winder, you can check the deals on Amazon. There’s a large selection of watch winder in Amazon to choose from.

Here I’ve listed some of the most popular winder on Amazon:

 

1- Versa Single Watch Winder

watch-winder-versa-single
A small winder for only one watch. It is a very compact and looks good with the round spherical shape. It’s also among the cheapest watch winder on Amazon (well, that’s a given since it can only house one watch LOL!).

Either way, this is a good candidate as your first winder due to its cheaper price. Check out the Versa single winder on Amazon by clicking here.

 

2- Chiyoda Dual Watch Winderwatch-winder-chiyoda-dual

Made from Japanese motor, this winder features dual slot for winding two watches simultaneously. It’s built with a quite nice looking finishing and has a LCD screen to conveniently show its current setting.

There’s also a key to protect your watches from prying hands. Check it out on Amazon by clicking here.

 

3- JQueen Quad Watch Winder

watch-winder-jqueen-quad

A winder with up to 4 watch slots. It has many functions and can operate with batteries or AC powered.

Check it on Amazon here.

 

4- Wolf Viceroy Collection – Triple Watch Winder With Storagewatch-winder-wolf-triple-with-storage

 

Now we’re talking. This winder is specifically designed for those with a huge collection of watches.

There are 3 slots for winders, with 5 additional storage space for watches at the top compartment – altogether there is space for 8 watches!

With quality internal and external finishing, it will be your very own man jewelry box. And it also comes with key lock to deter naughty hands (read: your kids, maid, etc.). Find out its price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Hope you enjoy my article on the difference of watch winder and manual winding. Which one do you prefer? I would love to hear your opinion and experience in both methods. You can drop your comments below on the comments section and keep the ball rolling.

Till next time. Cheers!