What is a watch winder?
In its simplest form a watch winder is a box with a motor designed to rotate an automatic watch to keep it wound. If you are reading this you probably already know how an automatic movement works but just in case I will give you a simple explanation. Automatic watches use a counter weight or pendulum that spins around the back of the movement as you wear the watch throughout the day to keep tension on the main spring and keep your watch working or “wound”. A watch winder will rotate or spin the watch a preset number of times through the day in order to mimic the movement of the watch on your wrist during the course of normal wear.
Why should you have one?
I get the question “Do I need a watch winder?” All the time. And the answer to that question varies from person to person. If you only have one watch and wear it every day it is not necessary. If you have a larger collection and don’t wear some of your watches often or if you have watches with multiple complications, you should probably have one. High end timepieces with mechanical movements are meant to move. They are designed to be worn everyday not to sit idle in a box or safe for months or sometimes years at a time. Much the same as a car engine, when not in motion for a long period of time the oil settles at the bottom and parts start to dry out. This can, over time, lead to excessive wear on parts of the movement and lead to decreased accuracy.
After the mechanical aspect you have the convenience of a winder. Personally, I am always in a rush in the morning and if I grab a watch that is unwound I just throw it on and run out the door thinking I will wind and set it when I get to my office or wherever I may be going. Of course I always forget and end up annoyed multiple times a day when I look at my watch and realize it is not set. Now with a basic movement, meaning only tells the time, this is a minor inconvenience. Once you start getting into more complicated pieces like date, day date or God forbid you have to reset a moon phase or perpetual calendar every time you want to wear it, that can be a real pain in the ass!
The next benefit is they flat out look great! It is a great way to show off and store your collection. Watch winders can be as simple as a tiny box with a spinning watch in it to fully functional pieces of art nearly as complex as the watch it winds either way they look great. We talk about how the lifestyle helps sell watches, what better way to show off your collection than pictures or videos of 9 watches spinning in a beautify lit up watch winder?
I personally like to give away winders to retail clients. For instance I am giving a blue Rapport London Evo single watch winder with the sale of a blue dial PAM 719 and red Wolf single watch winder with a red Hublot King Power. Both of these can be purchased for under $400 with the WTA discount. I have also sent a Diplomat Phantom 4 watch winder to clients of lower priced watches since they are about $200 and one of my most popular items. You can either build the cost into the watch price or just give it as a gift to ensure a repeat customer. Either way it has worked out well for me.
Now to debunk some popular myths about watch winders…
First off is that a watch winder can over wind your watch and damage the movement. This is not possible. Modern movements have a mechanism in the movement that disengages the winding gears from the mainspring once it is fully wound. If this were possible you would not be able to fully wind your watch and then wear it for a full day of activity as the movement of your wrist will continue to wind the watch past its maximum tension point. Anyone with a power reserve indicator on their watch has no doubt seen it at a maximum level while on their wrist and you wouldn’t take it off at that point would you? Not only that but these winders rotate on a schedule, so it will turn for five minutes on and ten minutes off, repeat and then a few hours off, for example; to mimic regular wear as well as having a maximum number of turns per day setting.
Next is that it can magnetize the metal in the movement. This is simply not true. There is too much distance between the motor and the watch and there is not enough of a current running through the motor to cause magnetism.
Finally, you cannot put your watches in a safe if they are in a winder. This is going to completely depend on the dimensions of your safe. There are 3, 6 and 9 watch models designed specifically to fit in a safe. There are also single watch winders small enough to take up very little space that can also be combined as to use one power source or battery operated if you do not have power to your safe.
How to choose a watch winder
When choosing a watch winder there are a few things to consider. First off all you want to determine how many watches you want to keep on a winder at once. These units range from a single watch to 32 watch cabinet winders. Also part of this question is going to be where you plan on putting it. A lot of these multi watch winders, especially the ones with additional storage, are much larger than you would anticipate. So be sure to check the dimensions first and measure the area you plan on putting your winder. Pay extra attention if you plan on putting it in your safe.
After the size comes quality and price
For the most part you will find the same motor in most watch winders. The Japanese Mabuchi motor is pretty much the industry standard with a few exceptions making the difference mainly the construction and design of the box itself. Some notable exceptions are WOLF, Swiss Cubic and Scatola del Tempo. WOLF is probably the most recognizable name in the watch winder industry and for good reason. They use a Mabuchi motor as well but have a patent on technology that counts the actual number of turns instead of just running on pre-programmed times to estimate the turns per day. The boxes are constructed very well and the unique design of the watch “pillow” that easily adjusts to any size watch bracelet is great. Swiss Kubik uses its own in house movement made in, you guessed it, Switzerland and is the official watch winder of many of the top brands such as Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Panerai, IWC, Blancpain and more. When these watch companies release a few watch winders and give them to dealers as promotional items to go along with some purchases they are a white labeled Swiss Kubik watch winders. Scatola del Tempo up until recently used an in house motor as well but has recently been acquired by the parent company to Swiss Kubik and is now using the same motor in their watch winders. It is also worth noting that Scatola del Tempo has been producing the winders for Patek Philippe for decades.
You will find a wide range of materials used in the construction of these boxes and a wide range in price to reflect it. You absolutely do not need to spend $6,500 on a single watch winder but at the same time you should definitely not spend $60 either. There are a ton of very low priced winders on the market and like everything else in this world; you get what you pay for. When choosing a winder for your watches, stop and think about the type watches you are going to be storing in it. If most of your watches are on the smaller side, 40mm and under or lower profile as far as thickness goes, you can pick up an entry level winder like a Diplomat and be just fine. In fact Diplomat is the most popular brand of winder that we sell. If you own larger watches or have a larger wrist and have watches on a bracelet on the other hand, I would recommend going with at least what I would refer to as a mid-range to high end company. Some examples of mid-range would be Benson, WOLF, Volta and some of the Rapport London models. These companies make absolutely gorgeous products at a still commonly affordable price range. The reason I do not carry many of the lower tier and oftentimes will not even recommend an entry level brand is the design. A lot of the lower priced companies do not design these boxes to fit larger watches. I have had issues with some of my larger watches barely fitting under the glass of lower tier winders and the crystal of the watch actually rubbing on the top of the winder. This is something you absolutely do not want happening and can be avoided by purchasing something at least “mid-range”. You can never go wrong with higher end companies like Scatola del Tempo, Swiss Kubik, Rapport London, Kunstwinder, Orbita and Buben and Zorweg. These pieces come with unparalleled quality and craftsmanship but these products can come with some very steep price tags. Again, you don’t need to spend $8,000 on a watch winder but I personally would not put a $30,000 collection in a $200 winder. Outside of price you can get a watch winder in almost any shape, color or configuration you can think of.
I hope this has been helpful and please, if you have any questions or want some recommendations please feel free to reach out