How To Wind A Pocket Watch Properly

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Wondering how to wind a pocket watch properly? Pocket watches, just like other mechanical timepieces need some kinetic energy from the mainspring to run. This power comes from winding the mainspring which serves to store power reserve. Winding a pocket watch is part off maintaining and caring for a pocket watch without which it begins to age out so soon.

HowTo wind a pocket watch                                             Img: Guide how to wind a pocket watch

Related to pocket watches


How long does a pocket watch last

How Long Will My Pocket Watch Last? How long your pocket watch lasts depends on the proper care and maintenance you give it. Actually, a pocket watch truly, is an investment timepiece, guaranteed to offer exceptional style to the owner for generations.

However, the overall longevity of your pocket watch depends on how much correct care it receives from you. It is very common you notice that a misused vintage pocket watch Or even damaged pocket watches begins to wear out and show signs of age when you don’t service it regularly.

Another evidence of poor handling of pocket watches is observed when a full wind of the watch isn’t long lasting. Sometimes, an old, unserviced watch is not winding or you are struggling to wind it.

Although we might not define what is perfect care you can give your ideal pocket timepiece, winding is an important way to take extremely good care of your pocket watch. Winding is very necessary and always required when you want to store the watch safely.

To make it much safer when handling your pocket watch, Gaining an understanding of how your pocket watch runs is greatly important. We will show you how to wind your pocket watch and how long the wound watch will run in this article.

We will let you know how often your watch should be cleaned, wound, maintained and serviced. We will also guide you to ensure your pocket stands remains durable and can stand the test of time or be passed down to great grand children.

Shop this Gentleman Vintage Magnifier Skeleton Pocket Watch with Chain, Mechanical Hand Wind


Mastering How to wind a pocket watch

The part of the watch that stores mechanical energy that keeps that watch ticks continuously is the mainspring. When winding a timepiece, be it by hand or with a watch winder, what you are in effect doing, is winding up the mainspring so that it stores potential energy.

This energy gets releases back, to turn the watch hands and the movement. The reasons why the mainspring still does not explode like a slinky spring after you wind it, is the barrel(metal “can”) that protectively houses the mainspring.

Some mechanical watches keep the power reserve from the wound mainspring, for a pretty long time. As the watch hands move, the power reserve is used up and the timepiece would stop working when the mainspring energy is fully depleted.

That is why In that case, you need to rewind the watch, older pocket watches that are already damaged, may not last after winding, and that would mean you can store them for a long time without a regular hand winding.

Pocket watch can be wound in two typical ways: stem-wound or key-wound.

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Stem-winding a pocket Watch

Stem-winding a pocket watch is done by turning the watch crown in a clockwise direction. According to design in a stem-wind pocket watch, the winding wheel has a ratcheting mechanism which makes the watch to only wind in one direction. The anti-clockwise direction only helps in ratcheting back the timepiece to facilitate or ease the winding process.

Here is how to hold the watch during winding. Depending on your dominant hand, right-handed people hold the pocket watch on their left hand and uses the right hand to wind. This is completely opposite to what guys with dominant left hand will do.

Lefties will hold the winding knob of the watch with their left hand while holding it on the right hand. Whatever they way you choose to securely hold the timepiece for winding, the forward stroke of your thumb is the winding stroke.

If the watch is damaged, old, and needs needs servicing, you will often hear a grinding noise when winding the timepiece. Perhaps, the winding gears or the mechanism isn’t engaging at all. With so many gears and wheels in a watch movement, any broken component would cause rough winding.

That is why you need to regularly take the luxury timepiece for professional servicing. A professional watch repairer can look into the watch functioning, to prevent that sort of forced winding, which may cause the watch movement and internal components to get broken.

Related: Best pocket watches for men

how to wind a pocket watch with key

Img: winding Waltham P. S. Bartlett key-wind watch in coin-silver case

Key-winding a pocket Watch

Unlike a stem-wind watch, a key-wind watch does not have a crown or a winding knob. Instead, you will wind the mainspring by turning a key that fits through a hole located in the back inner-lid of the watch case.

Only a watch winding key that has a square hole at the end, fits perfectly over a square winding arbor of the pocket watch.

By just Turning the key with your hand, it winds up the mainspring of the watch. Unlike the unidirectional stem-wind watches, Key-wind watches can be wound by turning the key in clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.

how to wind a pocket watch - How To Wind A Pocket Watch Properlyhow to wind a pocket watch - How To Wind A Pocket Watch Properly Img: Pocket watch winding keys

Normally, you should always Start by turning the key carefully in the right-hand(clockwise) direction. If that turns easily against the spring tension and a ratchet clicking noise is heard, that is the proper winding direction.

If you feel something like a slipping or counter-resistance, you’re probably not force winding it in the correct direction.

You need to have the right key size for your pocket watch which can help wind the watch properly. If you don’t have one, check pocket watch key sizes online. People with pretty big hands cab grab the key easily and turn the watch.


What if I Lost or Misplace my Pocket Watch Winding Keys?

It is common mistake for people with key wind pocket watches to lose the keys.

If you ever lose the winding key of your antique pocket watch, get a key-wind replacement online or from stores selling watch accessories.

If you have used one before, you understand that a single key may come is selected sizes, but only one will wind up your pocket watch.

Some keys are used to set up the pocket watch, if you are lucky,to have a single key that has the winding square the same size as the the setting arbor.

Related: Best watches with internal gear and mechanism showing – open heart watches


Some possible Winding Problems

There are some issues that may cause a watch not to wind. Check the following problems If you are trying to wind your watch and it doesn’t.

1. No winding resistance

You may attempt turning the winding crown (or key) and it keeps turning forever. If the winder runs continuously and and never builds up any mainspring power reserve, then check your mainspring. A broken mainspring will never hold an tension or mechanical energy.

2. The key or crown does not turn at all

Sometimes, the winding knob Or key refuses to turn in any direction. If that happens, probably, the watch fully wound and gears are broken or hooked against an object. Many people don’t know that you can never over wind a watch. A completely wound timepiece can not be wound again, unless the tension reduces. Offer the watch to a repairman to check if your fully wound watch fails to run.

3. Winding square position

For key wind watches, The hold in the case must line up with the winding square. If it does, your watch is likely in a wrong case. Or it has a wrong movement.
The only option is that you Look for the right movement or the right pocket watch case.

4. The fear of winding

A few people wonder why their pocket watches run only for few hours. There can be other causes but one cause is the fear of breaking the mainspring when hand winding the watch fully.

However, that isn’t the case, you can wind the spring all, until it cant wind anymore. People fear that a full wind may just destroy the power spring, but this is not true except you use brute force or a pair of pliers to crank beyond the stopping point.

Don’t be reluctant to wind your watch to full potential, you won’t break your mainspring if you do it gradually.

Shop : Best hand wind pocket watches


How much and how often to wind a vintage pocket watch?

How Much should you wind your vintage pocket watch? How often should you wind it?

It depends of the watch’s full power reserve.some pocket watches run for 20-28 hours after full winding. This means you can likely be winding such a timepiece every day.

While other pocket mechanical watch springs can hold power for 30 hours. most high end luxury pocket watches can hold up to 50 hours after a single winding. Awesomely, others like the Illinois Bunn special motor barrel hold power reserve for about 60 hours.

Longer run times in wound pocket watches means you wouldn’t be winding them so frequently. Such watches with high capacity power reserve may have more efficient, low-friction movements. Such high quality movements run on less mainspring power.

This offers a possibility of designing a thinner and longer mainspring that could fit into the same size mainspring barrel.

If you are regularly using Your vintage pocket watch, it may quickly be running out of mainspring power, so you should probably wind once a day. Some people have developed a good habit to be winding their watches at same time each day.

Frequent Winding makes your watch to run consistently in timekeeping, without losing many seconds. Shop ORIENT World Stage Collection Pocket Watch Hand Winding Sapphire Glass WV0031DD


Pocket watches with winding-indicators

Some luxury pocket watches come with power reserve indicators. You will notice these handy watches because they have a small dial with a scale indicating how much power is left in the wound mainspring.

. The wind indicator runs from zero to higher values. When the mainspring is fully wound, the up-down indicator points at zero on the scale. Think of it as the number of hours that have elapsed since the watch was last wound.

When winding a wind-indicator watch, it is common practice stop winding when the indicator reads zero. Don’t attempt to wind your pocket watch past the zero mark on the indicator, because that is the manufacturers default spring tension level that can provide the best timekeeping.

Winding beyond the zero means over stretching the spring to its elastic limit. Again, you should not allow the power reserve to run down to below the 35 mark before you rewind the watch. Keep you winding regular so that the power reserve never drop outside of the middle of the mainspring.

Wind indicators pocket watches are highly valued and sort after by pocket watch collectors. If you have one, even if it is old, you will have a good marketed for it.



Pocket watch winding factors

How possible or fast a watch winds depends on a number of factors

1. Number off turns

The number of turns in the winding arbor in a pocket watch determine how long to fully wing the watch. You need many winding strokes to wind a mainspring with many turns. In same way, the number of half turns in the winding stem varies according to the watch model.

2. Mainspring thickness

some pocket watches have thick short mainsprings while others are powered by thinner long mainspring. A Full winding is quickly reached with pocket watches that have thicker mainsprings. – perhaps, you may do about five turns of power.

A though a full wind is quickly completed, this kind of arrangement with a thicker mainspring may result in a hard-to-wind watch.

Other pocket watches have different winding wheel ratios what require pretty longer time and many winding strokes for full wind to be completed. The gear ratio is calculated in such a way to make the watch slower, easier and smoother to wind, with little effort. You should note that winding wheel ratios vary by pocket watch models.

3. Winding crown

The size of your pocket watch winding crown also affect how quick a full wind is reached. A larger the crown, makes it easier to wind the pocket watch while a small sized crown does not offer the grip that would be suitable for a smooth winding.



Winding is complete when the watch crown stops, it is then that the timepiece is fully wound.

Force winding may cause more damage. Understand that no harm can come in winding the watch unless it is forced in a winding process.

Automatic Winding are also called Self-winding watches. They use the movements of watch’s body to wind up the mainspring in a slow but continuous manner.

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Winding modern Automatic vs Mechanical

Let us first define the terms “self-winding” and “automatic” as it applies to a watch.
Basically, a “mechanical” watch is a time piece that gets its power from a tightly coiled mainspring. This mainspring is the source of the mechanic energy the watch relies on and it often comes housed in a drum or barrel.

Here is how energy from spring is converted into rotating hour, minutes and second hands. As the main spring winds, it stores potential energy or tensions as it coils up. When it unwinds or uncoils, the stored energy provides the power for the gear train escapement, balance wheel and hour, minutes hands.

On the other hand, an “automatic or self-wind” watch is a special mechanical timepiece. It has a mainspring just like a mechanical watch, but the difference is that it is wound when you are simply moving or swinging your arm or wrist.

As the wearer’s wrist moves, the swing Motion causes a rotary pendulum (or rotor) inside the watch to rotate or oscillate while automatically winding up the mainspring.

The term “self-winding” does not mean that the watch can wind itself. The watch must seat on the wearer’s wrist when it is moving, before winding can occur. If you cannot wear the watch to wind it, simply shake the automatic watch with your hand.

Related: Best Automatic Watches Under $500


Overwinding Mechanical wound watches and Automatic

Generally, Most modern automatic watches today can be hand-wound. That goes same with hand-wound mechanical watches. but Can you overwind an automatic watch?

As concern modern automatic watches, You can’t over-wind a timepiece. Automatic watches are built in such a way that The winding mechanism will simply decouple from the mainspring when it is fully wound. In that case it will be winding into infinity. When you notice this, know that is when you should stop winding your watch.

Not all pocket watches with automatic moment have over wind protection. Some Old pocket watches have poor quality and they still use older mechanisms which were never designed to protect the mainspring from over-winding.

In the other hand, Manual winding watches do not have the over-protector. In this case, you will need to rely on feeling a resistance when the mainspring is fully wound. So as you feel a little opposition to the winding, just let the winding stem will stop moving.

Make sure to know how to accurately identify your pocket watch first. From the type of pocket watch, you will know if it’s possible to do winding on it manually. You would also understand the consequences of winding it completely and what may likely cause to to stops.

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The difference between an automatic and a manual winding watch


manual winding and automatic watches are both mechanical watches because they feature a movement (complete mechanical mechanism) that runs the watch.

Both mechanical and automatic watches require a battery. the power to run the hands and the mechanical movement is reserved or stored in the mainspring.

Both categories of watches can be wound. To let the mainspring deliver power, you must wind by hand or automatically.

Both manual and automatic movement watches will stop running when the power reserve in the mainspring is used up completely. If you don’t know these, you may thing that you watch is bad or broken.


A manual winding watch is a type of mechanical movement watch with a mainspring which you have to wind by hand to power the watch. The amount of power reserve you store for running the movement, depends on how much you wound the mainspring. Obviously, the watch will stop sooner or later, the time just varies by models. My recommendation is you should wind it at regular intervals.

On the other hand, an automatic watch is also another type of mechanism movement watch, with the mainspring which winds automatically. The watch winds, unnoticeable, when you are wearing it on wrist or when you swing your arm.

The automatic watch movement uses a weighted rotor inside, which balances itself under gravity. It is the balancing that automatically wind the mainspring. It is possible that your automatic watch can run forever without you actively winding it except by wearing it all times.

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Can automatic watches be over-wound?

No, they can’t over wind Automatic watches. The winding mechanism built into the timepiece ONLY winds the mainspring if it’s not already fully wound.

But if mainspring is fully wound, the internal rotor will stop spinning in the direction that winds the mainspring. That was so brilliant. The watch manufacturers got a way to prevent accidental over-winding the mainspring.

Know that the amplitude and amount of swing movements of your arm, all day or when playing, is enough energy that can power your watch for a long time.

Note that not all automatic watches can be hand wound. What I mean is that hand winding an automatic watch, is possible, but not for all. Take for example, an automatic watch like Seiko SKX013 can’t be hand-wound.

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Can you over-wind your precious automatic timepiece by hand?

No, that is not possible and you can’t. The point s that if the mainspring is not fully wound, turning the crown will wind the watch. But if the mainspring is already full wound, winding it by turning the crown produces no positive effect. However, it may disengage the winding mechanism from the mainspring,


Is it dangerous to fully wind a mechanical watch?

Not really. I don’t see any danger in just fully winding mechanical watches in these modern times. The risk come with over winding it, even though, automatic watches have over wind protection.

Modern affordably priced automatic or manual winding feature at least a 38 hour while luxury and higher end timepieces hold up to 70 to 80 hours of power reserve.

The timepieces have modern mainspring that can keep power for up to a week to one month, without any winding. This allows the watch to be running while waiting for you to wear or wind it again.

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My automatic watch stops overnight, what could have caused it?

If your modern mechanical watch stops in the middle of the night, that is normal behavior when your watch ran out of power. If the mainspring is not wound to provide at least 12 hours of power the watch will be stopping frequently.
You just need to shake it, hand wind it or wear it again.

  1. Shaking the the automatic watch helps to spin the rotor, in the automatic winding mechanism.
  2. You can hand wind by turning the winding crown, in a few turns. A few turns of winding gives your mainspring a few hours worth of power.
  3. You just need to move your arm enough, and mainspring will wind to generate more than 2 to 4 hours worth of power reserve.

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Can you over-Wind a pocket watch?

No! There is nothing like overwinding a vintage pocket watch. automatic watches have a built-in slipping mechanism that prevents over winding. So you cannot overwind such automatic watches.


What happens if you Overwind a pocket watch?

The winding stop when the watch is fully wound and no additional wind is possible. Any further winding after the full wind is reached, means you are forcefully stretching the mainspring which can break.

You can only unwind the watch or let it run down. If after full wind the timepiece does not run, it probably requires servicing, may to get rid of dust, dirty, and friction or a broken component is holding it from running.

First do lubrication & cleaning, and if it does not run, seek services of a local watch repairer.

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Why won’t my pocket watch wind up?

Here are possible reasons why a pocket watch may fail to wind properly.

  • broken winding mechanism – you should take it to professional watchmaker,
  • broken mainspring – you should replace the mainspring .
  • Too much dirt and dust may accumulate in the movement
  • There is  friction and No lubrication

Always take you timepiece to Pocket Watch Repairman, who can service it and fix Common Issues.

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How do you fix a watch that won’t wind?

If your watch does not wind at all:

  • Wear it or shake it if that is an automatic winding watch
  • Spin the rotor or use an automatic winder
  • Hand wind it with few turns or winding strokes
  • Take it for repairs if the available options don’t wind the watch

Avoid Over-Winding A Watch, it may break the mainspring.

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How long will a pocket watch last

About 24 hours. Most mechanical pocket watch should last for at least 24 hours from a single full wind or mainspring tension.

A pocket watch with worn out or damaged mainspring will make your pocket watch will run short of power reserve faster, so you may rewind it every 12 hours.

That is why you should always ensure that your pocket watch mainspring is in good conditions and efficient. Only through good maintenance and regular servicing can you achieve high efficiency.

Related: How to convert your pocket watch to a wrist watch



How long does a wind up pocket watch run?

There is no straight answer as to how long a wound pocket watch with run, after winding. However, a wound mechanical pocket watch would lasts for at least 24 hours after a single full wind of the mainspring. Actually, the time depends on how much energy is stored up in the pocket watch mainspring.

The size and the length of the mainspring determines the amount of tension stored and how long the pocket watch will run. The answer to the question depends considerably on your watch, and the way it was designed.

As a general rule, a mechanical pocket watch should last for at least 24 hours from one full wind of the mainspring.

A worn or damaged mainspring will mean your watch will run shorter. You should, therefore, ensure the efficiency of your watches mainspring through good maintenance and regular servicing.

Related: How To Strengthen Your Wrists


How often should you service your pocket watch

It’s hard to tell, but the best recommendation is to service a pocket watch regularly or every 5 years according to manufacturers.

The regularity depends on quite a number of factors including the type of pocket watch you own. Antique and vintage pocket watches should get regular servicing much like 6 months to 1 year.

If you are wearing the pocket watch everyday, a more frequent servicing is required. If you don’t wear your modern day pocket watch so regularly, you can keep up with watch makers 5-years service period.

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