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How To Set And Wind A Watch
A Beginner’s Guide

Not all watches require winding, just the mechanical ones. Owning a mechanical watch is a great experience. Although it’s fun to look at, having to wind it can be a pain. 

Fear not, as we’ll be running through everything you need to know about it. Once you do, you’ll learn how to wind it up the right way. (Yes, there is a wrong way to do it).

We’ll also be discussing how you can set a watch, as well as how you can do this with other watch types.

Are Mechanical Watches Worth The Money? 

You may think it’s a pain to own a mechanical watch since it requires winding. Yeah, this bit is annoying. That’s why you’re here, right?

That being said, mechanical watches are great to own. They don’t need batteries so you never have to pay to get them replaced. So, you don’t have to worry about battery leaks as well.

If you’ve ever owned a Quartz watch, you’ll know how annoying battery spills are, especially since the acid can rub on your skin and burn you.
 
One of the best things about owning a mechanical watch is that they’re really cool. Most of them come with a skeleton design or naked back so you can see its gears in motion. 

What’s more, mechanical watches are specialty products. A few years from now, you could sell one for a lot of money. This is especially the case if the mechanical watch you own is on the pricier side. 

The watch is also cool as it’s so different. It’s a trip back in time as you experience what watch owners had to live with many years ago, constantly winding their device. Not only is this cool, but it makes you appreciate watches more.

What Is A Mechanical Watch?

Before we dive into how you can wind your watch, you need to understand a few things about it. 

First we need to discuss what exactly a mechanical watch is. If you’re not a watch nerd, you may not know that there are different types of watches. This list includes Mechanical, Solar, Quartz and Swiss. 

A mechanical watch, unlike its counterparts, is any watch that has gears inside it. The gears keep moving to keep the watch going. These gears are what you’re going to wind.

In terms of mechanical watches, automatic ones are a subtype and are the most popular.

Well:

An automatic watch is a watch that moves on its own. Crazy, right? It does this by moving with you. As the watch is on your arm, kinetic energy from your movements keeps the gears going. If you don’t use it for long, the gears would give in and you’ll have to wind it.
mechanical watch

What Happens When You Stop Wearing An Automatic Watch?

As we briefly discussed in the above point, we talked about how the automatic watch has its gear motion affected when not worn. This depends on how long the power reserve lasts. The time on the reserve depends on what type of automatic mechanism the watch has. 

For example, many of Seiko’s 7S26 watches have a power reserve of 40 hours. 

This means if you don’t wear the watch for 40 hours, it’s all good. The gears are still going to work. However, once this time period has passed, you’ll need to start winding it.

Mechanic Vs. Automatic Watches

Now, you need to know the difference between the two:

As discussed, automatic watches are a subtype of their mechanical counterparts. They function with gears in place, however, they’re still different. 

The only similarity is the gears inside them. When you own a mechanical watch, you’ll have to keep winding it to ensure the movement is in place. With an automatic watch, some of them don’t even come with a hand winder. 
automatic fashion watch

How Does A Mechanical Watch Work?

Before we get to how you can wind the watch up, you need to know how its gears works. 

This will give you an idea of why continuous winding is important. 

A tightly coiled spring is inside the watch. As long as it’s tight and in place, the watch will keep running. If something were to happen to it (we’ll discuss what these things could be later on) it would immediately uncoil. 

Thankfully, there are mechanisms in place to prevent this. There are several gears with teeth that keep the coil loaded. The mechanism of gears in place is called escapements. 

The escapement consists of a wheel governed by a lever that keeps on pivoting. This pivoting action is further governed by the ‘hairspring’ which is a spiral. 

Essentially, the hairspring, although small and delicate is the core of the watch. It beats continuously and how accurate the watch is depends on the tension the hairspring is under. The tension is amplified by the materials used. Today, most hairsprings are made from silicon or a metal alloy.

With this mechanism, a mechanical watch can work fully and have an accuracy of 99.9%.

You’ll see jewels in many automatic watches. They’re extremely common in mechanical ones as well. The number of jewels used in the watch can differ. The more accurate (and expensive) it is, the more jewels it has. 

Although ‘jewels’ sound fancy, no, your watch doesn’t have rubies or emeralds inside it. These so-called jewels are synthetic pieces of glass. 

How Do You Wind A Mechanical Watch?

Well, it looks like we’re finally here. So, let’s not waste any time.

To make sure the spring is as tight as possible, the watch requires you to wind it. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to take place that often. You can wind it every now and then, possibly every two days. However, this depends on the type of mechanical watch you own. 

As we discussed above, how often you’ll have to wind your automatic watch will depend on how long its power reserve lasts.

It's pretty easy to wind. All you have to do is get hold of the winder and keep turning. You’ll have to do this a couple of times. In fact, the number of times can be many, and it depends on what the manual states. 

If you’re careless and keep winding, you’re going to snap the winder off the watch. A tell-tell sign that it’s time to stop is when the winder feels tight and you can’t turn it clockwise anymore. 

When you wind, you keep the spring tight by having the mechanism in check. If it happens to uncoil, you made it revert back to how it was. 

Yes, this is pretty easy but you have to be extremely careful with how you wind it. 

You may think it’s just a knob that needs to be turned aimlessly let your hand take control. This shouldn’t happen as you could damage the winder. 

It needs to be wound at a specific angle. Of course, it should not be in an awkward position.

It’s good practice to wind the watch at least once a day. Although this is not required, it will ensure the piece is working at its best at all times. 

In terms of winding an automatic watch, the same principle is at play. The only difference is that you can’t really over wind an automatic watch. That being said, you shouldn’t overdo it. Stop whenever you feel a bit of resistance. 

winding a watch

What Can Affect Its Gears?

We discussed how a few things can actively disrupt the gears of your watch. These things make the coil unwind. 

As we looked at how you can wind your watch, we’re finally ready to look at what these are.

Magnetism

If you own any type of mechanical watch, magnets are your worst enemy. The gears are most likely metallic so if you bring a magnetic near it, you’ll pull the gears and springs out of place. Not only will it cause everything to unwind, but it’ll also wreck the insides. 

As you can imagine, the stronger the magnet is, the more the havoc it will wreak. 

You probably didn’t know this, but a lot of things can have a magnetic effect on your watch. This includes your television and mobile phone. By having them too close, you’ve just sabotaged your watch’s accuracy.
wearing a watch on the left hand

Water

Most mechanical watches come with a bit of water resistance. This is done by sealing it’s back, along with the other component like its case and display.

As it’s so tight, water can’t get in. If you managed to get water in somehow, you’ve sabotaged the mechanics of your watch as it can cause the gears to rust if they’re not stainless steel. 

The watches come with a resistance rating. It’s safe up to this depth underwater. You should be sure not to take it deeper than this as the water pressure would be too much for your watch to handle, causing water to seep in.
man-wearing-a-watch

How Do You Set A Mechanical Watch?

In this section, we’ll be running through how to set a mechanical watch successfully.

It isn’t difficult, but there are a few things you have to keep in mind.

First:

You’ll have to see if the watch’s time is between 9pm or 2am. Do you find it strange that I stated ‘watch’s time’? It doesn’t matter if it’s actually 9pm or not, you should check what the watch is telling you. This is because the gear mechanism isn’t the best during the 9 pm-2 am reading. 

So, by setting the watch during this time period, you’ll affect the spring, This will happen as you’ll scrape up the teeth that are holding the coiled spring in place.

With that out of the way, it’s pretty easy to set the time. All you have to do is pull out the crown. The watch may have one that’s recessed so you’ll need to exert extra pressure.

Here’s our second piece of advice:

You’ll have to be careful and only turn the crown clockwise. If you push it counterclockwise, you can damage its gears. 
setting a watch

How Do You Set Other Types Of Watches?

With that out of the way, let’s discuss how to set other watch types.

Of course, you won’t have to wind Quartz or Solar powered watches. However, you’ll still have to set them.

If you’re wondering how to change the time on a wristwatch, all you have to do is pull its crown and keep turning. There are no gears to worry about, nor do you have to worry too much bout pressure exerted.

Conclusion

It’s pretty clear that a mechanical watch is a delight to own. Not only is it pretty cool, but it’s also quite functional as you never have to worry about replacing its battery, or having a battery leak again. Yes, winding it can be a pain, especially if you’re a busy or forgetful person, but at the end of the day, this isn’t something that’s too difficult.

That being said, setting it is a bit of a process and you need to do a few things to make sure it’s set correctly. Other than this, it’s not too difficult as all you have to do is turn the watch’s crown.

Obviously, setting a watch that’s not mechanical is easier.
We hope you enjoyed reading the article and learned something new. Remember to tell us what you think below!
Author
When Thomas Vanderlaan was a child, the moment he learned about mechanical watches he was hooked. His first love being mechanical watches, he decided to pursue a career in engineering as he was entranced by the science behind its gears.
Thomas Vanderlaan
Thomas Vanderlaan
Watch Expert / Automobile Engineer