Whether you are new to the world of time pieces, or a watch aficionado, you would have probably come across the term "Watch Winder" one way or the other. Watch winders are often seen to be affiliated with the word "luxury", like the one you see in the blockbuster movie "Doctor Strange" (we will get to that later), when in reality it is actually a common accessory used by many to maintain automatic watches of all sorts. Let's start with the basic of how a watch winder functions.
HOW IT WORKS
Each watch winder will have holders/cushions where your watches are strapped onto. These holders/cushions will then rotate along an axis (video above), operated by a motor, at a predetermined frequency measured by turns-per-day (TPD). The moving weight in the watch mechanism is pulled down by gravity as the rotational motion happens. For gravitation forces to come into play, the holders/cushions have to be places at an angle to the ground. Thus, most winders are usually at a steep angle or perpendicular to the ground. This means that a flat winder, one that is parallel to the ground, will prove redundant (unless it is purely for aesthetic) like the one in the movie Doctor Strange.
Each watch winder has different rotational cycles and rest periods. Some operate every 5 minutes for the entire 24 hours, some operate for only 12 hours in a day. So do not be alarm if you do not see your winder not operational, it could be in rest mode. Check with your watch winder specialist on your model's cycles or if you have a manual (which usually is the case).
HOW TO USE IT
There are tons of different types of watch winders out there with different features, settings and finishes. I will talk about the array of choices in the market and how to choose one that suits you in another post. For now, lets focus on the 2 most important settings available for most winders.
There are usually 3 types for this, clockwise, anticlockwise and bi-directional (both directions). Most watches can be wound in both directions, but there are some that only winds in a specific way.
2. Turns-per-day (TPD)
There winders that allow you to set this, and there are many that are predetermined. Predetermined winders tend to have a TPD in excess of 3000. Other winders, usually have settings from 650TPD to 1950TPD. Most watches can be fully wound within 650-800TPD settings.
Set the winder to bi-directional, lowest TPD setting, and let it run with your watch for 2-3 days (depending on how much power reserve your watch which is usually about 40 hours). Observe your watch after and you will find the following scenarios:
If your watch keeps time well, that would be your optimal setting.
If you watch loses time, increase the TPD settings one step higher and observe again
If your watch still loses time, adjust the directional settings and observe again
Repeat process until you have the right settings
Another way to go about this, is to search online for your watch movement specifications, which would give you the optimal settings you need. If you are not particular about optimization, you could also just set the winder to bi-directional and 1000TPD. This would keep most watches wound.
DO I NEED IT?
Impartially, I would say this is highly debatable. You could search online and you would be able to find 2 sides of the argument. Personally, I would say I need it and for 2 reasons.
1. I am too lazy
Switching between watches everyday would mean that some of the lesser used piece will lose its power reserve. Having to wind it up again and change the time and date is just a pain, especially if you have more complicated pieces like triple dates or perpetual calendars (good luck there). A winder saves you the trouble of adjusting (unless you enjoy it), and possibly damaging it (date change between the 9 to 3 markers could damage some watch movements).
Watches have a intricate mechanism behind it, which is designed to constantly keep time as accurately as possible. Maintaining its movement keeps the engine hot and running, which in turns maintains components like the viscosity of the oil within it. Winding a watch that has not been operational over a long period of time is like trying to kick start your car after a long vacation without using it.
There are a lot of watch winders out there with different designs, features, capacities and finishes. With all the options coupled with an array of prices, it can be quite overwhelming. Ultimately, it boils down to finding one that suits your watch winding needs and having the support from your watch winding specialist. You are welcome to ask me anything even if you are holding a watch winder you got from elsewhere!