# How good are automatic watch winding mechanisms?

Gold Member
TL;DR Summary
Do automatic watch winders only work for some people?
I have been looking at 'Horology' forums but they all seem to be more about buying watches and less about the way they work and about mending them. (Money money money). I sort of hoped that good old PF might have some ideas about my problem.

When I was 21, my parents bought me an Omega automatic watch (no quartz in those days) and it was always wound enough to keep good time. Another (cheap diving) watch kept well topped up and then I got into electronic watches. Last year I bought a Tissot Visodate and it needs frequent manual winding to avoid it slowing up / stopping.

A friendly watch repairer was very little help. He just suggested seeing how long it would run on a full spring and it passed that test easily. My Tissot has a window on the back and you can see the escapement working and also the eccentric weight moving round and working the winding mechanism. He suggested that I am just not active enough to provide enough winding energy in a day. That was a bit of an insult for an old geyser, or so I thought

I actually made a winding machine which does what the available ones do - 700 rotations a day with reversing every so often. I discussed that in an earlier thread but don't bother to go there. That keeps the watch going and keeping time but, without an overnight dose of rotations, the spring runs down.

I'm sure that some PF members must have used automatic watches and I need some of that PF attitude which likes problem solving and 'notices things'. So is my problem a common one or is that watch mender just not thinking outside the box? Am I really so snail-like these days?

Lnewqban

Mentor
Sadly, watches are just not a thing for me anymore, I have a cell phone. The perfect swiss army phone with watch, calculator and host of other apps... no winding needed just plug and play everyday.

Many many years ago, I had a Swiss Army watch with the ruby red ring and no-nonsense analog clock face with battery. It stopped working and we brought it in for repair but it lost time and wore down the battery. The watch repair guy suggested new innards and again it worked for a while and then failed. I thought of getting a new one but felt I'd likely not wear it as I don't wear fashionable things like watches or rings or wrist bands.

Gold Member
Summary:: Do automatic watch winders only work for some people?

So is my problem a common one or is that watch mender just not thinking outside the box? Am I really so snail-like these days?
Counter to the PF rules, I have to say that I have heard a few times in the distant past, that others have had the same problem. In those cases it was traced to the first phrase in your above quote, and to the second sentence.

Not so common these days when a battery replacement clears the symptom.

Gold Member
Counter to the PF rules, I have to say that I have heard a few times in the distant past, that others have had the same problem. In those cases it was traced to the first phrase in your above quote, and to the second sentence.

Not so common these days when a battery replacement clears the symptom.
I think it’s probably down to reduced level of activity because I used at least two in the past successfully. I could always wear it on mr right hand as an experiment.
I’m reluctant to stop wearing it because mechanical watches are brilliant Engineering (but not a good Engineering Choice, I guess)
Looking in the back, through its rear window, and seeing it working is a joy.

jedishrfu and Tom.G
2022 Award
He suggested that I am just not active enough to provide enough winding energy in a day.
Is this a lockdown problem? I've certainly moved a lot less this last year compared to my usual routine.

jedishrfu
He suggested that I am just not active enough to provide enough winding energy in a day.
Maybe you are just winding down.
Have you considered changing from traditional Irish to Scottish dancing, or Morris dancing with a handkerchief in the left hand? Or maybe designing an exercise regime especially for people with automatic watches.

Replacing the internet with semaphore flags may also improve the situation.

Could it be that holding and reading newspapers or books was sufficient in the past, but that now computer keyboards have restricted the motion of the left wrist?

If you are unlucky, the matter will resolve itself with the onset of Parkinson's.

DaveE, Dr.D, hmmm27 and 3 others
Staff Emeritus
Maybe you are just winding down.
I saw what you did there.

Gold Member

Gold Member
an exercise regime especially for people with automatic watches.
Especially teenage boys, is what you probably mean.

Do you remember the joke "Why do Morrismen wear bells on their ankles? So they can offend blind people too."?

If I made a lot of new friends, I could wave at them every time they walk past.

etc. etc.

DaveE
Gold Member
I would really like to hear of someone who had the winding mechanism re-built (with more oil?) and that fixed the problem.
But I think it must be fundamental. Having a rear window, I can see how it behaves and, when it's near fully wound, the weight doesn't move easily when I apply a small torque to the winder knob, the weight moves freely. That seems to indicate that the winder can actually give maximum wind on the spring.

Staff Emeritus
If you are unlucky, the matter will resolve itself with the onset of Parkinson's.
Best one-liner of the day.

jedishrfu and sophiecentaur
Keith_McClary
Have you considered changing from traditional Irish to Scottish dancing
Also you can get solar watches, but then you will be running around chasing sunbeams.

anorlunda
Staff Emeritus
@sophiecentaur , you're not alone. Here are some leads. There are other videos on the dangers of watch winders, and the pitfalls. There's one on how to make a beautiful gyroscopic winder from plywood. A video on "Do you need a watch winder." There's even a beginner's guide on watch winder ownership.

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Edit: I almost forgot. Budget watch winders and automatic watch winder repair.

jedishrfu
Gold Member
@sophiecentaur , you're not alone. Here are some leads. There are other videos on the dangers of watch winders, and the pitfalls. There's one on how to make a beautiful gyroscopic winder from plywood. A video on "Do you need a watch winder." There's even a beginner's guide on watch winder ownership.

### ​

Edit: I almost forgot. Budget watch winders and automatic watch winder repair.

Yep - I have made one and it works but. Just one more thing to do at bed time. Unscrew wooden leg, take out teeth and put in a glass, take out deaf aids, cup of cocoa, let cat out.

anorlunda
Dr.D
I have a self-winding watch that belong to my grandfather. I get it out to wear every year to 18 months when the battery goes dead in my Seiko. I've noticed that the self-winder looses pretty badly (2 to 3 minutes per day), but I attribute that to
1) my reduced activity in old age
2) it probably needs a good cleaning/re-oiling
As previously noted, mechanical watches are mechanical engineering marvels. I have fond memories of the time I spent as an employee of Hamilton Watch Co. in Lancaster, PA.

sophiecentaur and jedishrfu
Mentor
Making watches is time well spent. :-)

Its as close to traveling in a time machine as you can get.

Gold Member
I attribute that to
1) my reduced activity in old age
But making the rotating weight 50% higher MI, the energy stored could be 50% greater, which would take care of everything.
Perhaps there could be an age-related modification option?? Even totally knackered old 'uns could manage a slightly heavier watch.

Mentor
What if you hooked your watch to a walking stick and took a hike daily. The stick swing could be greater than any wrist swing, is good for protection from dogs and scoundrels and helps with balance.

Another would be to attach it to you leg or pants pocket to get a better swing.

Lastly, you could practice the art of shaking your cell phone to increase your pedometer reading with your watch instead as I've seen folks do who are getting some sort of work health break for walking without really walking. Bad people.

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Dr.D
But making the rotating weight 50% higher MI, the energy stored could be 50% greater, which would take care of everything.
Perhaps there could be an age-related modification option?? Even totally knackered old 'uns could manage a slightly heavier watch.
It is a matter of frequency, not kinetic energy. My arm motion is quite enough to cause the weight to swing, but it does not happen frequently enough.

Gold Member
It is a matter of frequency, not kinetic energy. My arm motion is quite enough to cause the weight to swing, but it does not happen frequently enough.
I'm not suggesting it's to do with KE. The way I see it is that it's a matter of total angle displaced, with the work that's done on the spring being angle times torque. The torque is (at least partly) do to the off-centre mass. You can see the winding 'pinions' moving alternately as the watch is tilted in alternate directions, by the displacement of the weight. A different gearing could / would produce proportionally more work done on the spring. But I can clearly see a finite amount of 'stiction' as the weight hesitates to move until the displacement is significant. There seems to be friction at work, resisting initial movement. I'm sure an good horologist (or even a book) would indicate how much hysteresis should be expected.
Of course, there are a huge number of factors in the actual watch mechanism design but the spring winding is almost separate. More expensive watches have more so-called reserve but that, in itself can't help if there's just not enough energy getting into the main spring in the first place.