Your mechanical watch only runs when the mainspring is wound.
Normally, a hand-wound watch has a 40 to 48-hour power reserve. That means that your manual winding watch relies on you to regularly wind it by turning the crown.
For some of you, that’s reason enough to buy a quartz watch. For others, myself included, this interaction with your watch is one of the reasons to buy a mechanical watch.
Winding a watch isn’t rocket science but there are some things to keep in mind.
How to wind a hand-wound watch
First of all, never wind your watch while wearing it. Always take it off and hold it in one hand so you can wind it with your other hand.
The reason is that you’ll always pull the crown upwards when you’re winding your watch while wearing it. That puts unnecessary force on the winding stem and crown. The inner tube of the crown is a delicate part and you could easily bend it. It’s not likely that you’ll bend the winding stem but, in theory, you could snap it.
Make sure that the crown is in the neutral position. That means that the crown is pushed in – as close to the watch case as possible.
Some watches have a screw-down crown. If your watch has one, you need to unscrew the crown until it pops into the neutral position, ready to be wound. Don’t forget to screw the crown back on when you’re done!
- Take the crown between your thumb and index finger and start winding it away from you. There’s no need to be extremely careful but you don’t want to use brute force either. Be patient, no need to rush it.
- After a while, you’ll feel some resistance building up. Slow down until you reach the point that the crown can’t be wound any further. Don’t worry about “overwinding” your watch because that’s a myth. Sure, you could break the mainspring but then the mainspring was already in a bad condition and needed to be replaced anyway. However, you should never use brute force with a watch and this is no exception.
Sometimes, an original crown has lost most of the grip because the grooves are worn away.
You can easily fit a new crown if it’s a generic one but that might be harder to do if it’s a signed crown. If you can’t replace the crown but you don’t have any grip, you can buy a watch crown winder tool to help you.
How to wind an automatic watch
An automatic watch winds itself when you’re wearing it. However, you’ll have to jump start it if you haven’t worn it for a while.
On my automatic watches, I always rotate the crown 30 times before I set the time and start wearing them.
Be aware that not all automatic watches can be wound manually. Some automatics, especially vintage ones, can only be wound with the self-winding mechanism. If you have a watch like that, spend 30 seconds rotating the watch in your hand before you set the time and start wearing it.
If you don’t want to jump start your automatic watches, you could always invest in a watch winder.
Do you have a question about winding your watch? Let me know in the comments below.
Founder & editor of WahaWatches. I’ve been collecting watches for years. My favourite part is to pull them to bits.