What you need to know before purchase and what many others don't tell you
Introduction to watch winders
An automatic watch runs for as long as its worn and also has a 24-72 hour power reserve. After this it stops because there is no movement unless it's stored in a watch winder. Watch winders keep automatic watches wound using rotary and vibration technology - in other words, the watch winder approximates the motion of your arm. It's nice to keep your watch at the right time, the right date, the right moon phase etc. Please note: the more complicated the watch, the more time and effort it will cost to reset the watch. Some owners of multiple automatic watches appreciate the luxury of a watch winder.
Watch winder technology
You shouldn't judge a watch winder on its outside appearance, but rather on its technology. Recently the European market has been swamped with watch winders from China which at first glance look to be high quality - smart wood housing with piano lacquer etc. - but the devil is often in the detail. Cheap Chinese watch winders often use very adventurous technology which is liable to break down and is proven not to last very well. In contrast to German or Austrian produced watch winders, which have a ball bearing mounted drive mechanism, use very economical gear motors whose running properties are very quiet and long lasting, Chinese watch winders use cheap, high speed motors which have cheaper plastic gears or belts which reduce the rotational speed and often must also wind multiple watches at the same time. The features of these products often stop working after a short time or have a large amount of background noise. As the saying goes: buy cheap, buy twice.
False flags: to complicate matters further when it comes to purchasing, these Chinese watch winders are predominantly sold with German sounding names. There are very few branded manufacturers whose production actually takes place in Europe, for example Elma, MTE, Official Geneva (Germany), Swiss Kubik (Switzerland) and Underwood (Switzerland, leatherworking from Italy) as well as Orbita (company based in Germany, produced in Austria and the USA). Recently it has become increasingly the case that online shops stock our items and have the opposite opinion: they more or less expressly state that there is no difference in quality in watch winders from China. Our recommendation: if you have any doubts, ask for confirmation of the country of manufacture in writing
Professional watch winders are programmable or use an intelligent fuzzy logic control system. Not every movement can be wound in a particular direction which is why all notable manufacturers of watch winders use technology with right hand and left hand motion and intermittent operation (a sequence of winding and rest periods). Why is intermittent operation required? There are hardly any movements which need more than 1000 turns per day. Using a slip clutch in the winding mechanism the watch is not damaged if there are more than 1000 turns per day, but it is under a minimum amount of excess wear which I regard as insignificant. An important reason to have intermittent operation is to do with battery consumption. Although many winders can be mains operated this is often problematic when storing the winder in a wardrobe or safe. A good watch winder comes with a set of batteries that last 6-12 months (Elma and Underwood 12-18 months).
Further information / watch winders for large, heavy watches
There is a trend towards increasingly larger and heavier watches and this is problem for most watch winders. Based on our experience and tests of more than 1000 winders we can give you our opinion: an average watch winder is designed for a load of up to 100g of watch (however this is not specified by any manufacturer). We stock very few watch winders for larger watches over 100g in weight which have a premium motor and technically optimised power transmission to guarantee a long lifespan. We would like to mention a few watch winders here (made in Germany): MTE WTS4 series, Official Geneva and watch winders from Elma as well as the Swiss products Swiss Kubik and Underwood.
More about watch winder technology for the more advanced
There are with few exceptions 3 propulsion technologies for watch winders. The normal rotation (right-left or intermittent) is used. Our recommendation: set the mounting angle of the motor/watch position at more than 65°, 70-90° is even better. We have established that a mounting angle of less than 65° is not optimal for some watches. Another propulsion technology which, in our opinion is optimal, offers a "rotation regulation device" which previously could only be used in manufacturing and in the workshop. In contrast to rotating watch winders these winders not only turn the watch in a circle but also on its own axis. Examples are the MTE WTS4 series and Official Geneva etc. The third and newest generation of watch winders have oscillation technology - the watch simply swings back and forth. According to manufacturers this technology better simulates wearing the watch, something we cannot confirm. From our point of view these watch winders increasingly have a unique design which significantly distinguishes them from other watch winders and are aimed at techie watch lovers who are looking for something extraordinary. This watch winder technology turned out to be very temperamental in our road tests, with the exception of Orbita Sparta.
Making a decision
Before you decide which watch winder to buy you need to be able to answer the following questions:
1) What type of watches will be used with the watch winder (weight, measurements, specifics)?
2) What level of quality should the watch winder be (Keyword: durability)?
3) Where will the watch winder be positioned (Keyword: noise levels)?
4) Will the watch winder be used in a wardrobe / safe (Keyword: battery life)?
© 2011 Michael Wucherpfennig, Uhrencenter24 for www.watch-tool.de