An Introduction To Watch Winders

In this article, we’ll explain what exactly a watch winder is, how it works and why it’s so important. We’ll also highlight the kinds of watches that require watch winders, including manual winding and automatic watches.


There are some really obvious reasons to ensure a watch is well wound. Telling the time is a simple concept but in this fast paced world that we live in, being on time can mean the difference between a successful business deal or a failed one, catching a train or missing one, even life or death moments can be reliant on split second timing. A reliable, well wound watch can help to keep you on time, every time. So, the watch winder’s sole task is keep a mechanical watch wound when it’s not being worn.

There are varying ideas and viewpoints as to just what the mechanical benefits of keeping an automatic watch on a winder are. Let’s have a quick look at some of the suggested pros and cons:

Those in the pro winder corner suggest that the oils or lubricants in a movement play a crucial role in keeping the watch running and healthy. It’s thought that with the help of friction the lubricants can stay fresh, helping the watch to run smoothly, having a knock on effect of evenly distributing the oils within the movement. Servicing of the watch should be needed less frequently.

However, there are others who are not convinced that the oils are quite so effective, suggesting that modern lubricants contain more synthetics and therefore have an improved lifespan. Even if the watch has been out of action for a while, they suggest that the oils simply won’t break down. They go on to say that wearing or winding the watch intermittently over a period of time will more than serve the purpose of keeping the lubricants effective. Conclusion? There is no definitive reason to continually run a watch.

Thankfully, there is some common ground. Watch collectors and timepiece connoisseurs the world over use watch winders as an essential piece of kit. Perhaps if you only own one watch, it could be perceived as merely a luxurious but extremely useful accessory but for those with multiple watches the essential nature of the watch winder can clearly be seen. Here’s why: There’s a convenient aspect to all of this – if you have more than one watch, a winder can save time and effort when it comes to resetting or adjusting multiple settings. A winder can also help to protect your watch, especially watches with complications.


We need to look at two different kinds of winders as well as two different kinds of watches. It’s a bit of a mouthful to say but the first kind is the self-winding watch winder. This is used with automatic watches only. The watch itself is clipped to a winder head, which rotates. This rotation is designed to replicate or imitate the movement of the watch wearer’s wrist. In most cases the watch is strapped to a cushion which slots nicely into a turning canister which is motorized. There are other designs, including a windmill winder and although the mechanisms are different, the concept is the same.

The other kind of watch winders are designed to work only with manual winding watches and are not seen anywhere near as much. In this instance, the watch is placed onto a pod and a claw which is spring loaded grips the crown and then delicately turns it, thus winding the watch. As the watch nears a fully wound position, a microprocessor featuring an ultra-sensitive sensor picks up the level of tension in the mainspring, bringing it to a halt.

Now that we know how a watch winder works, let’s have a more in depth look at the watches themselves.

So, at the most basic level, any watch needs an energy source in order to work, to tell the time and for its other functions to be effective. Something called a mainspring is the thing that powers the mechanical movement in a watch. What is a mainspring? In a watch it’s a spring which is very tightly coiled and placed into a tiny enclosure called a barrel. When the mainspring is fully wound, the watch works as the energy source from the spring is released.


In a manual winding watch, as the name suggests, the mainspring has to be wound manually and this is normally achieved by turning the crown. The crown itself is fixed to a stem and as it’s turned the mainspring is wound through a number of gears.


Automatic watches are perhaps a little more versatile than their manual relatives, as there are actually two ways in which the mainspring can be wound. The first way, just like with a manual is to turn the crown which in turn winds the mainspring.

The second way is known as ‘motion’ and this is what really sets the automatic watch apart from the manual models. This ‘motion’ is also referred to as self-winding, giving us the self-winding watch. Generally speaking, all of the components here are very much like those in a manual wind model – essentially the mainspring which needs and energy source to deliver power to the movement. Here though, a weighted pendulum, or the rotor, is fixed to the rear of the movement, spinning on its axis. A number of gears connect the mainspring to the rotor and as the rotor spins the gears kick into action and wind the watch.

Regardless of whether your watch is a manual or an automatic, the mainspring needs to be wound in order for the mechanical movements to operate. 


A watch will only run for as long as its power reserve is intact. The power reserve refers to the length of time a watch can run for when starting from a fully wound state. There is no decisive answer to the question here but a mechanical watch in good condition and fully wound should hold around 40 hours in its power reserve. There are factors that can alter this duration such as the mainspring size and indeed the amount of energy a particular watch may need to operate. However, there are watches that can run for much longer than 40 hours. In fact, some watches have a power reserve of up to a week and even beyond!

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