How and when to wind mechanical watches?

You’ve just bought a new watch and you’re wondering how and when to wind it up? You’ve come to the right place: we got you covered with our tips for watch geeks 😉
Winding up watches is different regarding the type of caliber you own: automatic, hand wound or quartz movement. Let’s find out the different actions required for each movement type.

As you may guess, manual watches won’t run by themselves. You will need to interact with them and especially to wind the barrel spring in order to give power to all the mechanism. That’s the magic of manual watches: it’s all about the interactions between the watch aficionado and his timepiece! But let’s go back to the winding tips:

First of all, without the caliber’s type consideration, we recommend you to take the watch off your wrist. It will avoid putting a wrong pressure on the winding system (the crown) and to damage it. While you have the watch in your hand, it becomes easier to find the different crown’s position and to wind it.


I'm in love with the finishing of the calibre 843 from my @jaegerlecoultre ! How do you like the côtes de Genève?!

A photo posted by Toolwatch ⌚️ (@toolwatchapp) on

Hand wound caliber 843 from Jaeger-LeCoultre

Manual-winding calibers:
Let’s have a look to the manual-winding watches first. As it’s said in the name, you need to manually wind-up the barrel spring by turning the watch’s crown several times. At this point don’t try to force on the crown. You just need to wind until you feel a resistance. It will indicate that the spring is totally wound-up.

Manual-winding calibers have usually around 48 hours of power reserve (meaning that the barrel spring will take 48 hours to unwind and therefore not giving any power to the watch anymore). But don’t wait the watch to stop before re-winding it. We suggest you to wind your watch on a daily basis, at the same time (even if you have a 10-day power reserve). It will provide a better energy to the watch to function correctly for the next 24 hours.

Gorgeous calibre 3120 from @audemarspiguet ! This one runs at +1.9sec per day on! #accuracy #ap #royaloak

A photo posted by Toolwatch ⌚️ (@toolwatchapp) on

Automatic caliber 3120 from Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak

Automatic calibers:
Winding an automatic mechanical watch is also mandatory to have it properly work (especially when the watch was stopped from not being worn). If you haven’t worn it for a while, you should wind it several times (20 spins would be good enough) to make it works again before putting it back on your wrist. Unlike the hand wound watch, you won’t feel the resistance when it’s fully wound up. A clutch automatically stops winding the watch to prevent damaging parts.

Ultimately, if you wear your watch on a daily basis, you won’t have to wind it up again. An oscillating weight (as on the photo above), automatically winds the watch according to your wrist’s movement. The weight turns around an axis and winds up the barrel spring. This is why a clutch has been added to prevent the weight to brake the spring. The average power reserve of automatic movements is also around 48 hours.

If you don’t wear it regularly and don’t want to set up time and date each time you wear it, you can invest in a watch winder (our favorite watch winder is hand made and available online). This device will rotate simulating your wrist’s movement and wind the watch as if it was actually worn. It doesn’t cost a lot and can be useful, especially when you have calendar functions that can be a pain to set up properly!

NB: the winding position of the crown is usually position 0 (no need to pull out the crown from its original position). However you still will have to unscrew the crown of course.

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Having a fully wind-up watch, either a manual winding or an automatic one will provide you with the best possible accuracy. A watch hitting the end of its power reserve might show some accuracy issues. Accuracy is the most important thing for a watch, you should check it regularly and that is what you can do for free by going here 😉

Quartz calibres:
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Quartz calibre from Seiko

Quartz powered watches don’t need to be wound up. You only need to softly pull the crown in the first position to set the time. Afterwards no other interactions will be required with the watch for the next two years (average length of the battery). Yes, a quartz calibre works out thanks to a battery. The term quartz only refers to the beating system of the watch (no need for balance spring to give the “tic tac”).


One last thing!
Do you know who invented the first ever automatic movement?
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It’s Abraham-Louis Perrelet from Le Locle around 1770. His invention was using an oscilating weight like the rotor but didn’t moved around an axis like today. It was “simply” going up and down, following body’s movements. Of course it was inside a pocket watch by this time 😉

See you soon for a next article to share our love for mechanical watches !