How to Wind a Wrist Watch

How to Wind a Wrist Watch

by: Sandy Parke

Many of my lovely lady customers write to me after they purchase an antique wrist watch with a mechanical movement asking which is the correct way to wind a watch. They ask if it needs to be wound forward or both forward and backward. And they also ask how much should they wind it, how often should they wind it, and how to tell if there is real resistance at the end of the wind?
How to wind it. When you wind a ladies antique wrist watch, hold the watch in the left hand and use the right index finger and thumb on the winding stem. The only direction that is actually winding it is the forward direction. The backward direction is available on many watches only for the purpose of resetting your thumb to be in the right position to wind forward again. So, is it right to wind forward? or both forward and back? Either way is fine.
How much should you wind a watch? Wind it up all the way to the point at which you feel resistance and then stop. If you do not wind it up all the way, it will not keep accurate time (in most cases).
How to tell when there is resistance. Are you having a hard time figuring out if that last wind was resistance or not? And you are concerned about overwinding it? A good way to figure out when to stop winding, is to hold it close to the ear as you wind it. You will hear the winding mechanism clicking forward. As you get to the end, you will actually hear that it is finished or you will hear that your thumb just accidentally did not push forward but fell off the winding stem.
This is also a good way to wind when you have those 1920s and 1930s watches that have tiny stems. It is a little difficult to hold onto those tiny stems because some of them do not stick out very far, so holding it by your ear tells you whether or not you are actually winding it or if you just think you are winding it.
How often should you wind it? It is important to wind a watch at least once a week. And, of course, you would not expect it to keep running for a whole week but it will keep the mechanism healthy. Many of you have platinum and diamond watches and do not wear them everyday. That is fine. But you must wind them up at least once or twice a week to keep them in good running order for the year. I wind on Wednesdays and Sundays in the morning. Not winding them except on rare occasion will cause the oil to get sticky.
When should you wind it? If you are wearing your watch every day, you should allow the watch to completely unwind before you wind it up again. Most ladies wrist watches will run at least 18 hours and many of them will run for 36 hours. Allow them to unwind all the way before rewinding.

About The Author

Sassy Parke, owner of

Sassy Classics Antique Jewelry specializes in womens wrist watches and has a large variety of antique and vintage wrist watches from the early 1900s to the 1970s.

This article was posted on January 15, 2004