Watch Winders Guide—How to Use Them
If you are relatively new to the world of luxury watch collecting, it can come as something of a surprise when you realize you have taken on not merely the ownership of some beautiful timepieces, but also a certain amount of responsibility as well.
Just as with classic cars, the buying of a high end watch is only really the first of several steps you have to take in order to ensure you get to enjoy your purchase for years to come.
Maintaining the piece in perfect working order is an ongoing commitment, and one which pays for itself in the long run—it is generally a lot cheaper to keep your watch in tiptop shape with regular care than it is to get it fixed after it has ground to a halt.
To that end, many collectors eventually explore the possibility of getting themselves a watch winder. But, what are they, are they necessary and if so, how much should you spend?
Let’s find out.
What is a Watch Winder?
As you know, an automatic watch (that is, a self-winding one) is kept running by the movement of the wearer’s arm. That motion is transferred to a small weight, called the rotor, which is attached to the internal caliber’s mainspring. The rotor swings back and forth, putting tension on the spring and ensuring the entire movement keeps on ticking.
However, if the watch is left standing for any length of time, the mainspring eventually winds down completely, expending all its energy and the watch will stop running. How long it takes to do that is known as the power reserve and can be anything from a few hours up to an incredible 8-days, if we’re talking about some of the latest Panerai models.
All a winder does is keep the watch moving when it is not being worn, replicating the effect of the piece being on your wrist so the mainspring stays wound.
They can be either mains or battery-powered and have some form of holder onto which you place the watch, before setting it off so the machine gently rotates it until you are ready to wear it again.
Do You Actually Need One?
As with seemingly everything in horology, the subject of whether or not watch winders are beneficial has become just one more thing for people to start a debate over.
Those in favor usually center their argument around the topic of the various oils essential to keeping the movement running. If a watch is left stationary too long, say the pro-winder camp, these lubricants can congeal and clot, eventually drying up and wreaking havoc the next time you try and start the watch.
Those who consider winders an expensive and needless extravagance point to the new generations of modern synthetic lubricants which are only affected, reportedly, by other factors such as age and temperature rather than if they are kept circulating. So long as you commit to a commonsense servicing schedule, goes the argument, where the oils are replaced as a matter of course, having your watch constantly fully wound is not only unnecessary but could also potentially cause harm. If it is sitting idle, there is no chance of the internal wheels and gears receiving any wear at all.
However, there is at least some common ground between the two factions, and that is when it comes to highly complicated watches.
If a simple three-hander model stops, getting it going again is the work of a few turns of the crown. However, if something like a perpetual calendar has to be reset, that is a whole other ball game and, to be frank, a wicked pain in the ass. In that case, making sure the watch is always running can pay dividends.
What To Look For
If you decide a watch winder is just what you need, you will quickly discover there is an exhaustive range from which to choose. But which one is right for you?
Obviously budget will be one area to consider. Fortunately, there is a watch winder at just about every price point, from just $100 or so, right up to the top of the top end running into tens of thousands.
Of course, the more you spend, the more features you can expect to get but it really isn’t necessary to break the bank. Many of said features aren’t really that useful and are added on more as gimmicks in many cases.
Some actually helpful attributes for a winder to have can include an ability to rotate your watch in different directions and a timer to allow the model to rest occasionally. The former makes sure that the winding rotor receives an equal amount of wear on both sides rather than one side getting worn down through overuse. It is also useful for older watches, which might only wind in one direction.
With the timer, that is important to protect the mainspring itself. All automatic movements have a safeguard called a mainspring bridle, a device which uncouples the winding mechanism from the spring once it is fully wound to avoid over tightening it. But that bridle is as susceptible to wear and tear as any other component, and constantly bringing it into action by keeping a fully wound watch in motion is a good way to damage it. So, many winders, even at the least expensive end, allow you to preset how many turns per day (TPD) you wish to have.
Our Favorite Watch Winders
Below we have picked out just a small selection of some of our favorite winders, from entry level up to crazy town.
The No Frills Winder
Beco Boxy Fancy Brick approx. $120
A really neat idea for those building their collections. The Beco Boxy Fancy Brick is a modular, stackable system of single winders, which means you can simply buy another one with each new watch you pick up. It is one of those ‘why has no one thought of that before’ type deals, which saves you from either having empty slots in a bigger unit or running out of space in a smaller one.
It can be driven by both battery and mains power, has adjustable TPD settings and can take watches up to 55mm.
In addition, Beco also sell a docking station which can power up to six of the Boxy winders from one adaptor.
The Middle of the Road
Heiden Monaco Quad Watch Winder approx. $500
Vertical watch winders are actually relatively rare, which doesn’t seem to make much sense as they are far more space efficient than the regular horizontal type.
This US-designed unit could be mistaken for a speaker system at first glance, but it has space for four watches inside its sleek quilted leather housing, complemented by a soft grey linen interior.
Power comes from the latest iteration of Japan’s Mabuchi motor, an almost silent module which offers three directional settings (clockwise, counterclockwise and bidirectional) and a variety of turns per day settings (650, 950, 1250, 1850).
And, just so your watches are shown off to the fullest, the motor stops at the 12 o’clock mark during rest periods to keep things the right way up.
The Money No Object
Stockinger BRABUS SV12 approx. $125,000
Ok, so I get why the esteemed German safe-making company, Stockinger would want to get in on the whole watch winder game. However, I’m not sure what Mercedes’s legendary skunk works tuning lunatics BRABUS have to do with horology. But here we are.
The two have teamed up, along with Beluwo (an actual watch winder company) to produce the SV12.
More than merely a place to store extremely valuable timepieces, the SV12 is a bona fide safe, with enough room for 12 watches, as well as separate drawers for all manner of treasures, including jewelry, fine wines and, one imagines, hecking great wads of cash.
Everything is lined in red Alcantara leather, while the cabinet itself is constructed from high grade steel with the interior a mix of wood and carbon fiber.
It is not the first time Stockinger have teamed up with an automotive manufacturer on a project, with past collaborations including the likes of Bentley and Bugatti.
As you might imagine (or hope, at least) everything here is as good as it gets, with the highest quality materials and a winding system which uses a 16-hour active phase followed by eight hours of rest, all controlled by the lucky users’ smartphone.
A watch winder for the one percent, the SV12 is very special indeed.