What is a Watch Winder And Do You Need One?

best Watch winders

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Why Have a Watch winder?

People love and buy automatic watches because they appreciate the workmanship that goes into a self-winding watch. They also love the fact their watch won’t need a battery replacement.

Automatic watches really are a thing of beauty and men and women that wear them love the feel of them on their wrist, the way the watch looks and way it works. 

The downside of owning an automatic watch is that it needs to be worn, or rather moved, to keep the mechanism running. 

If you take the watch off and lay it down it will gradually run out of energy and stop running. This often happens within a day or two. Pick up your watch and give it a gentle shake from side to side and it will start moving again, quite beautifully in the case of skeleton watch where you can see the movement begin to move again.

That’s where a watch winder comes in and, not only will keep your automatic watch running when you are not wearing it, but also looks fabulous to watch (no pun intended!).

People who chose to own an automatic watch often don’t stop at just owning one.  Over time, one gradually becomes a collection. 

In this article we’ll assume you know what an automatic watch is and how it works (if you don’t and would like to know more, our article ‘What is an Automatic Watch?‘ here may be the best place to start). 

Here we will concentrate on the best watch winders available and the differences between them. We will compare different watch winders below but, in our view, the best are Barrington or Wolf watch winders. We have written an article on ‘The Best Watch Winders for 2024′ here.

The watch winder manufacturer’s have thought of this and, as well as being able to buy single watch winders, there are double, triple and even quadruple (and more) watch winders available. 

best Watch winders
Laminated Wood Watch Winder - Carathea

What is a Watch Winder?

A watch winder is a motorised box with a cuff inside on which a watch can be fastened.  The cuff rotates and moves the watch for you, thereby imitating your watch being worn on your wrist, and so keeps your watch running when you’re not wearing it.

It ensures: 

  • Your watch will keep working and not wind down
  • It will be the correct time when you next go to wear it
  • It will look great even when it’s not on your wrist! (An automatic watch turning in a Watch Winder looks seriously fabulous!)

You can get single watch winders or, for those with a collection of watches, multi-watch winders

Do You Need A Watch Winder? 

Well … not really. 

Automatic watches do not need to keep running.  They are designed to work the way they do – to be wound up, and to wind down.  It won’t damage an automatic watch for it to lay dormant for a short-term or even for longer periods (more on this later).

There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that a Watch Winder will either benefit or harm the movement in your watch.

The Case For Having A Watch Winder

“It’s a hassle to keep resetting my watch each time I wear it!”.

This will obviously depend on the person.  Those who really love the intricacies of their automatic watch will probably love setting it – the feel of the weight of the watch in their hand,  how the button moves as you set it, the feel of the mechanism as it starts moving again.

It’s a strange but very beautiful thing, only appreciated by some. 

It probably takes less than half a minute to reset your watch.  So it’s no big deal. Having said that, if you have three or four (or more!) watches which you love to alternate wearing, it may be more of a hassle to have to reset your watch every morning.  

Setting the day and date takes longer, we grant you, and if you have a watch with a perpetual calendar that will take some time to reset, then there is definitely a good case for a watch winder.

If your automatic watch isn’t keeping good time, you may find putting it in a Watch Winder between wearing it will help it keep accurate, by preventing it running down and having to become fully wound again.

“Will my watch dry out if it isn’t moved?”

Some people argue that having a watch winder will maintain the movement, keeping it well lubricated and that, if it left not running for any period, may cause it to dry out and lead to problems.  

To be honest, this is not the case.  Unless it’s a really old watch, automatic movements and, more to the point, the lubricants used, are good enough these days not to dry out if the movement isn’t moving.  

By far the biggest cause of these types of problems to your watch is not having it serviced regularly, extremes of temperature, and/or age.

Problems with your watch won’t happen from not wearing it for periods of time unless it’s very old and already lacking in regular servicing.

There is also a good argument that says taking an automatic watch that hasn’t been regularly serviced and putting it in a watch winder, may actually lead to problems.

“It’s beautiful to see it moving”.

We can understand this and seeing a watch moving and ticking away in a Watch Winder, even when you’re not wearing it, is quite mesmerising!  

“It’s the perfect present”.

Absolutely! Thinking of a gift for a loved one with a love of automatic watches can be tricky. A new watch may be a step too far, and far too risky a purchase, but a Watch Winder could be a fabulous surprise gift. 

How Does A Watch Winder Work?

A watch winder holds your watch securely in place inside a motorised box and spins intermittently thereby imitating the watch being worn on your wrist. 

It’s very important that the winder moves intermittently, after all you don’t constantly move your wrist.  This prevents the watch being overwound (although, to be honest, most modern watches don’t get overwound).  

Because of this, good watch winders are designed to run for a minute and then rest, then run for a minute and so on. 

Cheaper watch winders may not have an intermittent function so do check. 

What to Look For

What should you look for in the best watch winders? Check that any watch winder will securely fasten your watch to the inner cuff or pillow – we don’t want any smashed or cracked glass.  Almost all watches will fit most watch winders but very large watches or smaller ladies automatic watches may need checking to see if they will fit the cuff provided.

Do you want a mains or battery-operated watch winder?  If the watch is kept in a safe, a battery-powered watch winder could be a perfect choice.  Some battery-operated watch winders can run on two AA batteries.  The better quality watch winders will run for some time on batteries.

It is programmable and has modules for TPD, Direction and Sleep modes? (More on this later).

Does it rotate intermittently (as mentioned previously)?  

It is quiet (particularly if it’s kept in a bedroom!)?  There are very quiet models (some watch winders are almost silent) and, if you have acute hearing, you may find setting the sleep mode to night-time, when you sleep, ensures you aren’t woken. 

Check that it has a magnetic shield.  Some cheaper watch winders can magnetise your watch which could lead it to slow.  A magnetic shield, which a good watch winder will have, prevents this.

Let’s talk about TPD

TPD, or Turns Per Day, is a guide to how many times the watch needs turning to ensure it goes from zero to 100% wound. 

Each watch will have a specified guide TPD – check the manufacturer’s manual or check this fantastic and very comprehensive Watch Winding Guide herewhere you can search for your particular watch with its recommended TPD and rotation direction needed (see below).

Once you know the perfect TPD for your watch the winder can be set. 

The watch winder will then work out how long the interval phase should be throughout the day.  For example, less Turns Per Day (TPD) will mean a longer rest interval between each spin cycles – hence the intermittent rotation.


Some watches need turning in a particular way – clockwise, anti-clockwise or both.  Again, check with the manufacturer’s guidelines (or this guide) as to what your particular watch needs.  Ensure your watch winder can do this (most good winders can cover all three directions).

How to Use Your Watch Winder

1. Fasten your watch to the cuff

After removing the cuff from the watch winder box, you fasten your watch securely to the cuff. If you have a very heavy watch there are watch winders that can accommodate larger and heavier watches so that they remain secure and won’t be damaged when the movement starts.

2. Set the TPD and Direction

According to the manufacturer’s instructions (see above) the winder can be programmed to ensure the correct Turns Per Day and Direction of rotation is achieved for your particular model of watch. 

3. Start The Machine

Start the Watch Winder machine and forget about it – after you’ve watched it for a while, of course! 

My Watch Winder Keeps Stopping!

The best watch winders are designed to keep stopping, or rather, to rotate intermittently.  Just like when it is worn on your wrist. This prevents the movement in your watch being overwound. 

The Best Watch Winders

We have dedicated a whole article on the best watch winders here.

Wolf and also Barrington create watch winders that are regarded as some of the best on the market. If we had to pick one over the other we would say a Barrington would be our choice due to the fact you can set the TPD on a Barrington watch winder, where Wolf just has one setting at 900 TPD.

There are cheaper models available (the best of which we’ve also included in our ‘Best Buys’ below), but prices from both Wolf and Barrington won’t break the bank, particularly for a single watch winder. 

Considering that everything has been thought of with the watch winders from these two brands they both offer superb value for money, with excellent reviews.

We have a separate article on our pick of the best single, double, triple and quadruple Watch Winders here.

To Sum up ...

Whilst not essential for an automatic watch, a Watch Winder can be a marvellous piece of kit for someone who loves their automatic watch. 

They will make a fantastic gift for that difficult-to-buy for person in your life who owns an automatic watch. 

We hope you’ve gleaned some useful information from our guide. If you have any comments or questions, do please post them in the Comments box below.


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