By Matt Himmelstein
Anyone who is bit by the automatic watch bug is eventually going to end up with more watches than can be worn at any one time, which last I checked, was a sensible one watch. With power reserves stretching out to 40 hours or more, you could alternate watches or do a little hand winding every night to keep your collection on time, but this gets old.
And thus enters perhaps the essential accessory item for the automatic watch collector, the automatic watch winder. If you picked up a new automatic over the holidays, or you are looking ahead to Father’s Day or Graduation, they make great gifts for the budding enthusiast, or nice accessories you can pick up for yourself.
A watch winder works by spinning the watch inside the mechanism many times during the day, approximating the effect of wearing it on your wrist. It keeps the rotor moving, thus keeping your watch wound. From this simple concept, the execution can get a bit more complex. When I was looking for a winder, I wanted one that had variable turn rates, along with an option for turning direction, clockwise, counterclockwise, or both. It also needed to securely hold the watch in the winder.
The movement in the watch will determine what motion of the winder is required. An ETA 2824-2 (or clone) can turn either direction 650 turns per day (TPD), as will most Rolex movements. Most Panerai movements would be wound clockwise at 800 TPD, but a number of Patek Phillipe watches are wound in a counterclockwise direction at 800 TPD. Orbita, a maker of watch winders, has a fairly exhaustive database of movements with the winding recommendations (http://www.orbita.com/database-search). While you are there, go ahead and take a look at their very lovely winders.
For myself, with a small collection of relatively inexpensive automatics, I wanted a good watch winder, but nothing too exotic. For the holidays this year, I pointed my wife to the Accuratic expandable watch wider (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005IHB25W/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1PT6PGWQ3HKGN&coliid=ILJ20K6GUGPLR) as a gift idea, and I was very happy to open one up and start using it. Based on my initial experience, I recommend it. When shopping, I looked at a number of watch winders on line and selected a few options, with this unit leading the pack. One reason, which may not translate to everyone, is that I like the style. It is clean and modern, and expandable (the corners can be replaced with rails to hold multiple units together), so I can add additional units and the expanded set will look integrated. If I had bought a different style of winder, adding another unit would mean that there was a second, separate box sitting next to the first one. Beyond aesthetics, the other reasons I honed in on this unit are more universal.
When buying a watch winder, you have to have a winder that will hold your watch safely and securely. If it can’t do that, it is not going to useful. A number of watch winders, especially ones that turn two at a time on a single turntable, seem to be built for older, or at least smaller, watches. With the more beefy modern watch, or even a diver from years back, these types of winders do not have the width to hold a pair of larger watches side by side. If you can’t put two watches in a winder made for two, it becomes a bit pointless. Additionally, some of these types of winders use a very simple holder to support the watch, which may require resizing of bracelet in order to secure the watch. A better watch winder will have a tensioning device in the support to hold the watch more securely.
My next consideration was the motor and controls. I did not need to wind my watches with some exotic configuration, but if there are programmable units available, especially if they are not overly expensive, the flexibility is nice to have. More important that programming, the durability of the motor is a key issue. Small motors are, well, small motors. They are not expensive, so the inclusion of a name brand is a nice sign that the watch winder is looking to produce product of consistent quality.
Keep in mind, that “Japanese motor” in the Accuratic means that the motor comes from a Japanese company, not a Japanese factory. Mabuchi has factories in China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The controls on the Accuratic are simple but comprehensive. Simple touch switches toggle through the various options, and a small LCD panel shows the selected operating mode.
What you can’t tell from the web page is how quiet the unit is, but there are reviews to give you a clue. I set up my winder on my bedside night stand, and with the door closed, I can barely tell when it is operating. The display only lights up when you make an adjustment, so I don’t have another annoying light source in my bedroom (stupid LED on my DVR). There is also an option to run the unit on battery power, which is great if you have a watch you want to keep in a safe or if you want to travel with a winder.
For me, I am happy with the Accuratic, but it is not perfect. The look is modern, but it is still plastic, with a plastic door. However, it is priced at a good spot, securely holds my watches, is expandable, quite, reliable (so far), and versatile. There are a lot of other options out there on the market, especially if you are looking at more expensive units.
In the pricier vein, I would recommend you at least consider Wolf (http://www.wolfdesigns.com/category/watch-winders/) who teamed up with A Blog to Watch a while back and created a winder for their readers or Orbita (http://www.orbita.com/) seeing as how I am sugesting you use their database. But if you want something moderately priced, quite enough for the bedside, and versatile enough for pretty much any movement on the market, take a look at the Accuratic.
Matt Himmelstein – Contributing Writer
Engineer, weekend warrior and mechanical watch enthusiast. He prefers value oriented brands because, well, those are the ones he can afford while still paying for all his weekend warrior hobbies. New watch makers are also an interest because you can get often get a unique look, and the watch now comes with a story. His favorites in his small collection are a Christopher Ward altimeter style and an Anstead dive watch from a Kickstarter campaign.