What Is a Watch Winder and How Does It Work?

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Written By Alan

Would you believe a G-Shock I was gifted in 2014 by my grandpa started my lifelong journey of a watch geek?

🕑  Last Updated: October 13, 2022

There’s a huge chance that you have never had to wind a watch in your life. But there are certain types of watches that indeed do need regular winding. And for such timepieces, a watch winder comes in nicely. In this article, I will do my best to explain what exactly is this mysterious tool all about and how does it work.

To understand the concept of watch winders and see if you really need one, let me remind you about the three primary types of watches first:

  • mechanical (manual) watches
  • automatic watches
  • Quartz watches

I highlighted the second type on purpose. This is because, on a pragmatic level, a watch winder is dedicated to automatic timepieces only. And here’s why.

Unlike the manually-wound mechanical watches (the most retro type out there), the “automatics” run automatically. But there’s a catch!

These watches are self-winding thanks to a moving weight that’s inside them. For the weight to rotate or swing, the watch needs to feel some motion from the outside. When worn, your wrist guarantees that motion.

As soon as you take it off, the watch will stop receiving the necessary stimulus, slowly decreasing its precision before finally coming to a halt altogether. Of course, any automatic watch can then be manually wound again – but not all people love doing that. And that’s where a watch winder box comes to the rescue.

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How Does an Automatic Watch Winder Work?

We already know that once you put your automatic watch to rest, it will slowly wind down just like a mechanical watch would. We also know that similarly to mechanical timepieces, automatic models can be manually wound again. Whether you pick them up after a night’s rest or after a few months of flirting with another watch, it doesn’t matter.

Still, many fans of automatic watches don’t like the fact that they need to interfere with the watch’s movement. This is because, in their opinion, it collides with the sole purpose of the watch being “automatic” in the first place. Luckily, a watch winder solves the problem.

To put it very short, a watch winder is a form of container for automatic watches. Depending on your own preferences, you can get a box with a holder for a single watch or a bigger one that can fit more timepieces.

The way a watch winder works is pretty much straightforward. Once you take off your wristwatch, place it in the holder and switch it on. The mechanism of a watch winder ideally mimics the everyday movement of your wrist, providing enough energy for the watch to continue running.

Do I Need a Watch Winder?

If you are an owner of one or more automatic watches, the chances are you could do with a watch winder. But only if you are not too fond of winding the watch on your own.

On the other hand, purchasing a watch winder for mechanical or quartz watches would bear little to no sense. The first type needs to be wound manually anyway, and quartz models are battery or solar-powered. The Kinetic watches, produced exclusively by Seiko, are also suitable for watch winders as they too need the wearer’s everyday motion to run.

All in all, apart from keeping your automatic watch running and being a good way to show off your watch collection, there’s not much else to watch winders. Actually, I belong to the group of people that consider the device as a luxury you don’t really need. But then again automatic watches are not my cup of tea either.

What Is the Best Watch Winder? Popular Brands

It’s hard to answer this question. The meaning of “best” can be pretty subjective when it comes to watch winders and will depend a lot on your own preferences, the watch you own, and how many you need to fit inside.

Instead of trying to pick the best one, I have listed some of the more popular names on the market. Since you have probably never owned a winder before, I picked brands that won’t break the bank. I think it’s only fair not to go overboard with your first purchase.

  • Versa

First Versa watch winders saw daylight in 2011. Since then, the company has gained trust and a reputation as one of the go-to destinations for relatively cheap winder boxes, many of which are available for less than $100. Versa collection consists of single, double and quad watch winders.

  • Chiyoda

Chiyoda watch winders are one of the cheapest you can find, and many customers agree they provide stellar value for money. Chiyoda boxes can fit anywhere between 1 and 48 timepieces. Just like in the case of Versa models, most of the single-to-double winders are available below the $100 mark.

  • Wolf

Wolf is definitely the company with the longest-standing tradition from all the names mentioned here. At the time of writing, it’s also the most prestigious one. Wolf watch winders are one of the most expensive on the market but great quality often comes at a price. Most of the winders produced by the American brand are made of the best quality materials and use sophisticated motors. Apart from winders, the brand also manufactures safes, regular watch boxes, and rolls. Expect to stretch your dollar with this one.

  • Barrington

The name has been in the business for more than 10 years now. Even though the company originates from the UK, Barrington watch winders also have many admirers away from the country. Similar to Chiyoda and Versa products, it’s seen as one of the go-to budget brands on the market. The largest boxes from Barrington can fit 12 timepieces.

  • Orbita

Orbita watch winders are definitely more top-end than most other names mentioned here. Since 1996, the company has been producing premium boxes that can fit up to 48 timepieces. Nowadays it’s one of the more popular choices amongst people owning watches from luxury brands like Rolex or Omega.

  • Jqueen

Jqueen is another budget brand worth your time. Most of the Jqueen watch winders come with a stylish ebony wood finish. If you are looking for a single winder box, you won’t have any problems finding one for less than $100. The biggest watch winders offered by Jqueen can fit 9 timepieces.

  • Triple Tree 

Last but not least, Triple Tree is an equally good brand for your consideration. Most Triple Tree watch winders can fit anywhere between 1 and 8 watches. Many of the models also come with additional storage space for more models from your collection. Depending on the size of the box, prepare to pay anywhere between $100 and $250.

How to Choose a Watch Winder?

Now that you have decided that the device is something you’d like to get, you might want to know more about the types of watch winders available.

The number of automatic watches you currently own is the first major indicator of what kind of winder you should get. While browsing the web, I’ve seen some great-looking single watch winders but there are also ones that can accommodate as many as 48 models. Of course, the larger the box, the more you should be prepared to spend.

The quality of the material from which the box is made will also influence the pricing. Some winders made predominantly from plastic or cheap form of wood can be found for less than $100. At the same time, more sophisticated models often made from premium hardwoods can easily exceed the $2000 mark. If you plan to store a single watch just for the sake of keeping it wound, then a cheaper box might be enough. For the purpose of showcasing an entire collection, a more elaborate winder might be worth the money.

When selecting the winder, you might also want to take into consideration the form of power it uses. If you travel a lot and would like to keep your timepiece in good shape on the road, go for a battery-powered watch winder. A natural choice for home use would be a basic plug-it-in model.

Last but not least, make sure the winder you are about to buy rotates in both directions. Setting the container to move both ways throughout the day will make sure the friction is equal on both sides of the mechanism. Furthermore, if you are an owner of an automatic watch from the 1970s or earlier, it might turn out it winds only in one direction. If so, a winder that’s able to maneuver in both directions will be a true asset.

Where To Buy a Watch Winder?

There seem to be quite a few reputable places where you can shop for good quality watch winders.

There are two online stores strictly dedicated to manufacturing and selling watch winders. I’ve thoroughly checked both the sites mentioned below and they seem to enjoy good customer reviews. The websites are:

If you are an Amazon user, you will find hundreds of quiet watch winder models to select from there. It’s definitely the most price-friendly destination to shop for this device, especially if you are on a budget. Just make sure the product you want comes with a warranty and consider winders only with good ratings (4 stars and above).

How To Set a Watch Winder?

If we were to pick one most important metric in a watch winder, it would be TPD (turns per day). To make sure your automatic watch is correctly wound when off your wrist, this feature needs to be set up the right way.

To put it simply, TPD is the number of turns your watch needs to go through during a day to keep showing the accurate time. When you wear the watch, it turns swimmingly without you even knowing about it. The frequency of the turns is at its highest when you are moving and at its lowest when you are sitting or sleeping. Still, as long as you keep it on, you don’t have to worry about it stopping.

It’s different when it comes to putting the timepiece in your watch winder box. For the watch to show the correct time, you need to know the daily number of turns it needs to do – and that’s something that the manufacturer specifies. If you still have your user guide somewhere, great. If you don’t, I’m sure most brands will have such information available online, too. Anyway, the TPD rule of thumb is that most automatic watches need between 600 and 900 turns per day.

The second metric you should be aware of when setting the winder is the direction of turns. As I have already mentioned, some older automatic models might need a specific direction of movement. The three options available are clockwise, counter-clockwise, and bi-directional. Again, it’s best to check the watch manual or manufacturer’s website for this information.

For more tips and guidelines on setting your watch winder, click here.

Do Watch Winders Damage Watches?

I would be really surprised if putting a timepiece in a winder would result in the watch wearing off quicker. Not than if you were to wear it on your wrist anyway. Many watch enthusiasts seem to agree with me on this one.

Most automatic watches, even the older ones, were designed to stand the test of time and serve you well for years. It makes no difference if you wear the watch every day or put it in a winder that mimics the movement of your wrist.  Actually, I will go as far as saying that the risk of damaging your watch in a winder is smaller due to zero risk of scratches that are much more likely to occur with regular everyday use.

Can a Watch Winder Overwind?

According to a well-known watchmaker Mark Sirianni, no. This is because all automatic watches come with a unique type of mainspring that is designed in such a way that it never reaches the end of the spring. It basically means you can keep the watch inside for as long as you wish without worrying about any defects.

Anyway, it’s not like putting your timepiece in a watch winder means it will be in motion round the clock. Just like your wrist, a watch winder doesn’t have to move all the time. Most if not all watch winders run in specific cycles, with a few minutes of movement necessary to keep the watch wound and then the period in which both the timepiece and the winder rest.

Is It Bad to Leave an Automatic Watch Unwound?

There’s nothing wrong with it. If you love automatic watches but the idea of spending $100+ on a watch winder doesn’t sit OK with you, don’t worry. It’s perfectly fine to take the watch off your wrist anytime you want, for any period that feels right to you.

Normally after a few days, the mainspring of the watch will be fully unwound meaning that the watch movement stops altogether. It can sit in the “hibernation” mode for days, weeks, months or even years – and nothing will happen. Just make sure the next time you put it on, you manually wind it first.

1 thought on “What Is a Watch Winder and How Does It Work?”

  1. I bought this expecting it to be “ok”. Can’t really expect too much from a watch winder at this price range, but WOW this box delivers the goods. It is GORGEOUS and feels very very high quality.The ONLY complaint is the thin cheap nasty plastic they use for the viewing window, but thats not really too much of a problem as when the box is closed or open, you dont really notice it over the quality of the rest of the box. Highly recommend this watch winder.


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