How To Wind An Automatic Watch

If you just bought an automatic watch for the first time, you might have learned that your watch isn’t powered right off the bat. You’ll need to give it power for it to run.

An automatic watch is batteryless, and unlike a quartz watch, which uses a battery to power it, it needs to be wound.

There are a couple of ways that you can wind your mechanical watch.

Automatic Movement

The first way to wind your automatic watch is through motion.

Every automatic watch has a weight on the back of the movement that rotates and powers the watch when it moves.

This causes the rotor to spin, activating, and tightening the mainspring in the watch. As the mainspring begins to unwind slowly, it delivers power to the rest of the pieces and inner-workings of your watch movement.

Even if the watch is on your wrist, or if you give it a shake, the watch will get a bit of charge. Keep in mind, this only applies specifically to automatic watches – not all mechanical watches are automatic.

Generally, wearing your automatic watch throughout the day is enough to keep it powered, but you can also give it a firm shake for 30 seconds to a minute, to jumpstart it.

Manual Hand Winding

Most automatic watches can be wound by pushing the crown all the way in, and rotating it forward, for 30-40 rotations.

While not all automatic watches have the ability to wind it, the ones that do are very convenient for keeping your watch powered even when you’re not wearing it.

Oh yeah, and don’t worry about winding it too much – you can’t overwind an automatic watch.

How to Wind an Automatic Watch

Of course, if your automatic watch has hand-winding (not all automatic watches do) you can also wind it manually.

Here’s how:

  1. Push the crown all the way toward the case. (If the crown is on the right side of the watch, push it all the way to the left).
  2. Rotate the crown forward. You should feel a slight “resistance”. This is normal. You’re tightening the mainspring and activating the gears of the watch, so it’s natural to feel this.
  3. Repeat rotating the crown 30-40 times, or until the power-reserve is full. While there’s no set rule for how much you need to rotate a crown to wind your watch completely, generally 30-40 full rotations should be enough to at least get you through the day.

Watch Winder

The third method for winding your watch is with a device called a watch winder.

A watch winder is essentially a small watch box that spins and rotates your watch constantly, winding it in the process.

Do you really need a watch winder? I’ll be honest, I don’t think so. It is perfectly acceptable to wind your watch manually, and a watch winder is more of a nice-to-have accessory, rather than a necessity.

In fact, the only true advantage of a watch winder is that it keeps the watch wound 24/7, so you don’t need to wind it yourself, even if you haven’t worn the watch for a bit.

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With that said, many watch collectors enjoy the novelty of seeing their watch displayed and spinning on a watch winder.

There are watch winders ranging from prices across the spectrum.

My advice is to start with an affordable watch winder on Amazon to see if you like the concept. If you end up enjoying the watch box, you can always upgrade to a more expensive and higher-quality one down the line.

Quick Note: Watch winders only work on automatic watches, but do not work on manual mechanical watches. This is because the manual mechanical watches don’t have the rotor that spins as the watch is in motion. More about this later.

When Do You Need to Wind Your Automatic Watch?

Every mechanical and automatic watch has a “power reserve” rating. This is the amount of time the watch can run on a full charge by either winding it, or wearing it. Some watches even have a power reserve indicator, a dedicated complication that shows the power-reserve right on the watch dial.

If you want to keep your watch running, you’ll need to wind it anytime before the power reserve is depleted.

Power reserve indicator on Orient Star Classic
The power reserve indicator at the 12:00 position here allows you to see how much power your automatic watch has

If you don’t wind it in time, however, don’t be alarmed. Your watch will not stop running permenantly, nor will it face any damage. It will simply stop ticking, and you’ll have to reset the time the next time you wind it.

Generally, most watches have at least a 24-hour power reserve, but some higher quality (and more expensive) watch movements can have a power reserve of 50+ hours and beyond!

Wearing the watch consistently on a day-to-day basis should generally wind your watch enough on its own with the help of the automatic movement.

Can All Automatic Watches Be Wound?

All automatic watches can be wound through motion (I.E. wearing it on your wrists).

Not all automatic watches can be manually wound by rotating the crown. This is only available on watches with “hand-winding”, and is nice to have, but not a necessity.

Though many modern watches are including movements with handwinding ability, not all watches do. The Seiko SKX, for example, is a very highly regarded automatic watch despite its lack of handwinding.

While it’s a nice feature to have, it’s not a necessity. It’s especially rare in older vintage watches and many affordable watches.

Can You Overwind An Automatic Watch?

No, you cannot over wind an automatic watch.

They have mechanisms in place to prevent this, and hand-winding your automatic watch past its maximum power reserve will simply not power the watch any further. It will in no way damage the watch.

You can, however, overwind a mechanical watch that does not have an automatic mechanism. This is one of the key differences between a mechanical and automatic watch.

Manual Mechanical vs Automatic Watches

You may have heard the terms manual, mechanical, and automatic watches used interchangeably.

There are a few key distinctions between manual and automatic watches that mainly have to do with how you can wind each of them.

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Automatic watches wind automatically when wearing them on your wrist, or in motion. They can also sometimes be wound manually if they have hand-winding, but they don’t always.

Manual mechanical watches can only be wound manually, by rotating the crown forward 30-40 times. They do not wind automatically when on your wrist, or in motion. A watch winder will have no effect on a manual mechanical watch. 

Conclusion

Winding your automatic watch is easy.

By just rotating the crown forward 30-40 times, giving your watch a firm shake, wearing it for a couple of hours, or putting it in a watch-winder, your automatic watch can be wound no problem.

Don’t get automatic watches confused with manual watches, however, and keep in mind that not all automatic watches can be wound by rotating the crown. 

Let me know if you have any other questions about winding your automatic watch in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer.

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