Orbita Watchwinders ¶
Do you need a watch winder? It’s a question we often get asked as purveyors of fine mechanical timepieces. With over 30 years of experience selling fine watches, and just as long repairing and servicing them, we feel that a good quality winder is a sure investment in maintaining your collection and keeping your watches in top order. It’s not only a matter of convenience; it’s part of proper maintenance.
The idea behind a winder is simple – having a moving block that holds the watch, rotating regularly to wind the mechanism when you aren’t wearing it. This is particularly handy if you have more than one automatic, and you are tired of constantly re-setting the time and date whenever you want to wear a watch. But the real benefit is in the long-term – mechanical watches are designed to be used regularly, and if you leave a mechanical movement static for months, the tiny amounts of oil used to lubricate the moving parts will dissipate. This is normal, but if you don’t use the watch often you accelerate the process – with regular use a modern watch can go between 3-5 years between services, but if left static for a long time you will likely have to service the watch within as little as a year. If you have picked up an old watch that has been sitting in a drawer for years and wound the movement, you’ll immediately feel the lack of lubrication through the crown (it feels and sounds like you are crushing sand inside the case).
We recommend running a mechanical watch at least once per week. If you don’t wear it that often, take the time to wind it manually and set it as a matter of habit. At the store we wind and set any watch that we pull out of the cabinet to show a client to ensure our timepieces are functioning properly. We’ve seen many neglected watches that seized due to lack of lubrication after years of sitting idle, and we’ve had many watchmakers tell us time and time again that regular running is critical to ensuring longevity and good performance from a mechanical movement. With a winder you can set and forget your watches and rest assured that the movements will be kept in top order. It’s also very handy if you have a complex date watch, like a triple calendar (or a perpetual calendar, if you are so lucky) where resetting the date is a time-consuming process.
Just like anything else, you have a wide variety of choices when it comes to winders – both in function and in style. Some are good, some are great, and some are terrible. When it comes to function, there are two main types – continuous and intermittent. The cheapest winders you will encounter will be continuous types, meaning that they rotate a pad constantly while turned on. These are to be avoided – constant running, especially if it is only in one direction, puts unnecessary wear on the rotor bearing and winding mechanism of the movement. It also doesn’t give the mainspring a chance to wind down a bit before being rewound - keeping it at full tension all the time has a tendency to bed in the spring, particularly on vintage watches.
Better quality winders are intermittent, and wind in both directions. Most will have various settings for the number of turns per day. Newer movement designs often require less winding than vintage movements, and certain complicated movements require more winding to keep running, hence the advantage of tailored turns-per-day. Bi-directional winding is better for the movement, and also ensures that watches that wind in only one direction will be accommodated (many designs would only wind when the rotor was spinning in one direction, such as any chronograph with a Valjoux 7750 calibre).
Cheaper winders will use Eastern-made motors with plastic internal gears, which have a tendency to strip or break after a few years. They might be cheap to purchase, but they won’t have the longevity of more expensive units. They are also typically very noisy – something that is extremely irritating if you keep the winder near your bedroom at night. The best winders are made in the United States and Switzerland, featuring high-quality silent motors and metal internal components. After having had many brands over the years, we have settled upon Orbita winders as the best quality for the money. These American-made winders are well built, totally silent, and wind the watches efficiently. They also offer an excellent 5-year warranty, though in our experience they have had an almost perfect record for quality and reliability. They also supply winder mechanisms for many major manufacturers, who resell them under their own name or package them with complicated haute-gamme pieces. Audemars Piguet, Ulysse Nardin, Breguet, Jaeger LeCoultre, Tag Heuer, Corum… All use Orbita mechanisms. They are also the pioneers of the manual-wind watch winder – the Sempre system that uses an adjustable set of rollers that grip the watch and wind it regularly.
Orbita has two main variants, the Rotorwind lithium system and Programmable AC powered motors. Rotorwinds are the most popular models, and use lithium battery packs that typically last between 3-4 years. The main advantage to the Rotorwind is that it requires no external wiring, so it can be installed in a cabinet or safe without modification. The Programmable models offer more functionality and are typically installed in more luxurious boxes than the Rotorwinds; the Rotorwind models have two turn-per-day settings (high and low), while the AC models have several turn-per-day adjustments. Orbita even provides a database of watch models with their winding directions and recommended turns per day so you can tailor your winder to suit your watch collection.
In either case, many different cabinets and assemblies are available. Orbita provides modular standalone Sparta units without casings, in single, double or triple rotor models. The Monaco and Avanti offer a variety of wood cabinets with optional drawers, glass panels, and add-on capability – certain models can have additional rotor packs installed later as your collection expands. For the serious collector with a large inventory of watches, they offer the flagship Rossi modular system that can be built to suit the individual’s tastes (for a custom safe or room installation, for example). The Bergamo line offers retractable hidden panels integrated into furniture. My personal favourites are the Futura and Tourbillon lines, which feature an open design with very clean, minimalist assemblies that would look right at home in a modern art museum (or a steampunk display). You can have any style you desire, in everything from a single-rotor up to 40-rotors or more.
Quality and finishing is always excellent with Orbita cabinets; the wood is fine and thickly laquered, the glass is heavy and bevelled, the hardware for the hinges and locks is made of polished brass, and all the interiors are lined with soft touch felt. The rotors are big enough to accommodate almost any watch, from ladies model up to a U-Boat. The pads are clever as well – most winders use a hard pillow that doesn’t fit every watch (if you have small wrists and watches with metal bracelets, odds are you won’t even be able to secure the watch at all with hard pillows). Orbita uses a soft rubberized foam pillow that can be compressed as much as needed, but still remain secure.
We have a variety of Orbita winders available in different finishes and styles, and can order larger modular units for personalized setups. If you have more than one automatic watch in your collection a winder is a great investment, and in our opinion Orbita offers some of the best winders for the money on the market. For information on our selection of winders, please call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.