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The Watch Winder’s Subtle but Significant Role

What is this mystery box on the counter?

A Watch Winding Box

Visitors to my store frequently express curiosity about the item in this picture. It has become quite the conversation piece, particularly when it’s in use. Do you know what it is?

The device is a Watch Winder, the function of which is to keep an automatic watch wound, when not being worn, by emulating the wrist movements typical of the wearer. It systematically rotates an automatic watch at pre-programmed intervals to ensure accurate time-keeping.

Watch Winders through the Ages

The original Watch Winder was invented by watchmaker John Harwood in 1923 as a way to demonstrate to customers that the movement in the automatic watches he designed functioned properly and similarly to mechanical watches.

Later, an American inventor named Warren Marrison designed an electrically powered watch winder, which he patented in 1953. This early design used a motor to rotate the watch, mimicking the motion of the wrist to keep the watch wound.

During the 1970s, watch winders that featured multiple winding stations were introduced, allowing collectors to wind more than one watch at a time. Refining that design, the 1980s introduced the first automatic watch winder with a programmable timer, which allowed for presetting the device to wind watches at specific intervals. Rolex later improved on these designs, generating more sophisticated versions of the invention. 

The 1990s saw a huge increase in demand for luxury watches, which led to an upsurge in high-end watch winder purchases. At this point many luxury watchmakers saw the wisdom in developing their own exclusive watch winders that contained designs and features reflective of their respective brands. 

Modern-Day Watch Winders

Modern-day watch winders are extremely sophisticated in design and winding technology. Some watch winders even offer Bluetooth connectivity, allowing programming control from remote devices.

Beyond their practical function, watch winders have come a long way in terms of style. There are many types and styles of Watch Winders available – their primary purpose still to ensure accurate time-keeping; however, now, one can obtain Watch Winders that are as much “jewelry” as the watches inside.

Do I need a watch winder?

That depends. If you wear your automatic watch every day and it is rarely off your wrist for more than 24 hours, you probably don’t need a watch winder. The motion of your wrist “winds” the watch while you wear it and stores enough reserve power to keep the watch wound for 30-40 hours unworn.

However, if you are one who wears your watch infrequently or leaves it sitting for long periods of time, or one who rotates between multiple automatic watches and you want them ready to wear at all times, a watch winder may be a wise investment.

Also, if your watch has a perpetual calendar and/or other complicated functions that would be annoying to have to frequently reset, a watch winder is a good solution.

Watch winders are available at a variety of price points, styles and sizes. You can get yours at JM Scully Jewelers!


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