The decision on whether or not you need a watch winder isn’t a simple one. And beyond need, do you want one? Many watch aficionados has made do without one. So let’s look at what watch winders are, why you might or might not want one and the options for buying one if you do.
First, What is a Watch Winder?
Well, something that winds a watch, of course. But there’s a bit more to it. A watch winder is basically a box that rotates your watch. You can get a small one that is fit for just one watch or a massive cabinet that packs in a bunch of timepieces. Place your watch into a fitted holder and the winder gently rolls the watch, or watches, triggering the watch’s balanced-based winding mechanism to spring (yes, literally) the gears into action. They can be pretty cool to watch. But are they necessary?
Keeping the Oils in Motion
Now there is some conflicting evidence here, and experts are not in full agreement on the effects the winder will have on your watch. Some argue that the lubrication, the small amounts of oil that are in all automatic watches need constant movement. That without being in perpetual motion these oils will dry up, coagulate, harden and ultimately impede the movement of the gears.
Some watch experts say that’s nonsense, that today’s synthetic oils don’t coagulate in the way that oils we got from vegetables and animals in the old days did. That doesn’t mean the oils last forever, the naysayers argue, simply that time and temperature are much more determinate factors than movement. But pro-winder folks say movement does have a larger role.
Putting Your Collection on Display
While we can debate about the technical advantages of owning a watch winder, most people who own them will allow that aesthetics play a big part. Watch winders are almost always built with glass fronts to showcase your watch, or more probably, your watch collection. All of your cherished timepieces are lined and stacked in perfect order, spinning in slow uniformity as they await your wearing. Like a bookcase with your beloved novels, each watch probably has special significance and they’re as much objects to have on display as they are tools to tell time, probably more so. If it was just about telling time we would all probably stop wearing watches and stick with our smartphones. But presentation matters and a winder present in dramatic fashion.
Keeping the Watch on Time
Here winders do offer some advantages, but as to how much that matters are a subjective question. If an automatic watch goes unworn for a few days, it will need to be reset. That’s a given. For most, this task will take about a minute. With a watch winder keeping the movement current you won’t have that issue. Is it worth the minute? That’s a subjective call. The ante is upped when we’re talking about perpetual calendar watches, which are not as simple to reset once the date is off.
How Much Should You Pay?
Like most everything, how much something costs is a big factor when considering whether you really need it or not. And prices vary wildly with winders, so it’s tough to suss out what’s worth it and why. But let’s go over the basics.
You can pick up a watch winder that rotates one or two watches for about $50 or $60. In this range, we’re usually talking about plastic lacquered casings and reliable-enough motors with one or two-cycle settings. No frills, but they do the job.
If you want to go into the $200 to $500 range the options open up considerably. You can get winders with features like 12-hour rest functions to ensure that you never overwind the watch and low-noise motors. The number of watches you can wind at once goes up considerably, to four or twelve. And the materials of the cabinets get better, with rich hardwoods done in fine finishes.
If you’re willing to spend $1,000 and up you can get into some really nice stuff. These multi-watch winders are for putting on prestigious displays, with walnut and high-polish teak cabinets. If you’re shooting for the stratosphere, you can spend tens of thousands of dollars on watch winders that hold dozens of watches in cabinets made of precious woods, fronted by massive sheets of tempered glass.
The jury may still be out on some of the practical aspects of needing a watch winder. We can debate whether or not we need a machine to tackle something as simple as winding a watch. You might say the same for display purposes, as some find watch winders visually stunning while others may find the displays gaudy. In the end, you’ll have to decide on which side of the lines you fall when considering a watch winder.