To wind, or not to wind: it’s one of those perennial pub debates among watch enthusiasts. There are those who claim that keeping a watch’s engine running when it’s not in use will aid its longevity by preventing lubricants from congealing, but in truth, if a watch is worn even occasionally that’s unlikely to happen. Or you could go a really specialist route: I know a collector who buys only chronometers, and reasons that there’s no point in having the most accurate wristwatches if you don’t keep them set and running all the time – a kind of destiny fulfilment.
But that’s not the reason for most people to own a watch winder: it’s to save the hassle of setting the damn thing each time you change watch. It may not seem a major event to set the time and date, but if you change watches daily it can be annoying, particularly if they have screw-down crowns. And if you own complicated calendar watches it’s pretty much a necessity if you want to avoid the often convoluted process of setting those.
And let’s face it, if you’re a dedicated collector of something, you may well want to display it. In which case, where to start? The best watch winders will include features such as programmable settings, long-term battery power (so they can be kept in a safe if necessary), USB charging, and – most importantly – near-silent motors that last. The worst will make a racket and fall apart. Getting a good winder does therefore require a certain level of investment, but that’s no more than a finely-honed watch collection deserves.
The to-the-point simplicity and solid engineering of Barrington’s entry option is a strong contender for the budding collector or those short on space. At 11x15cm, it’s small enough to sit on your desk, though if your watch collection is growing, the Buckinghamshire-based firm has a smart solution: its newly-introduced “Jump” feature allows multiple winders to be daisy-chained together while sharing a single power source, meaning you don’t need to find an extra plug socket as you add a winder or two. An ultra-quiet Japanese-made motor drives the rotations, programmable to different settings of number of turns per day and directions of turn. barringtonwatchwinders.com
WOLF is older than most watch brands, having been founded in 1834 as a maker of jewellery boxes – and like very few watch firms, it’s still in the family, lead now by fifth-generation CEO Simon Wolf. You’d expect a winder with that kind of patrimony to have a bit of class, and the Roadster surely fulfils the brief. Its look, with an ebony Macassar veneer front, is inspired by the dashboard and feel of old luxury cars. It’s available in single to eight-winder versions, and besides the usual programming options, Wolf gives you the option of delaying starting rotations up to 72 hours for watches with long power reserves. wolf1834.co.uk
Thanks to the multi-axis tourbillons of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Greubel Forsey et al, we’ve become used to seeing gyroscopic motion in watches themselves. For rather less outlay, though, you can instead wind your watch gyroscopically. There might be something of the yuppie desk toy to this, but it’s a remarkable device nevertheless from Bernard Favre, an inventor and producer of accessories based in the watchmaking heartland of Neuchatel. The Planet Classic moves a watch in three directions, is fully programmable, and charges via a mini-USB. Order it directly from Favre’s website. bernardfavre.com
A watch winder being an inherently blocky object, it’s difficult to make one seem understated. Linley has done just that, however, with a two-watch cabinet that displays the British firm’s customary craft, finesse and design intelligence. The case, about the size of a champagne bottle gift box, is made out of sycamore wood with a birch veneer that’s dyed grey, with room inside for two watches and a space under the lid for storing watch accessories. The winding mechanisms themselves are made by respected maker SwissKubik, which means they come with a computer interface offering personalised programming, and are powered either by battery with a three-year life span, or by USB. On the lid there’s a polished silver plaque that can be engraved. davidlinley.com
Looking more like a piece of luxury hi-fi kit than a watch winder is the Templa, a four-watch unit that should satisfy both tech-head watch collectors and bachelors pimping their “cribs”. Its smoked glass doors slide apart electronically, while the control panel at its base includes settings for turns per day, direction, quick-wind mode and, mysteriously, an alarm switch. It may look funky – you can also switch on LED back-lighting for the watches – but Rapport is a serious player. A true British heritage brand, it started out as a clockmaker under Maurice Rapport in the late 19th century, and is today one of the leading players in luxury watch winders. rapportlondon.com
There’s a certain Teutonic dominance at the top of the watch winder scene, with brands such as Döttling, Stockinger and Austria’s Buben & Zorweg fighting it out for “most likely to be found on a Russian superyacht” honours. Besides massive standalone winders that look like they’d find a ready home on the Death Star, Buben & Zorweg also makes more compact models. The Revolution V8 includes a spring-driven clock with an eight-day power reserve, a security glass cover on an aluminium chassis and a crocodile skin exterior, and room for eight watches. Find it at Harrods. buben-zorweg.com
Dorset-based Halstock is a new name in watch winders, though it’s a leading player in bespoke wood-crafted interiors, fitting out some of London’s grandest homes. Little Halstock is a new venture in partnership with Luke Wycherly, a hugely gifted young cabinetmaker who is now applying his skills to watch winders, humidors and other smaller items on a bespoke basis. Cabinet maker Luke Wycherly put around 400 hours work into this bespoke watch winder case, with 10 different timbers featured in the marquetry. His particular speciality is incredibly delicate marquetry, as evidenced by the spectacular “exploded movement” design on the inside of the lid of this unique piece, which would be priced at £14,000. halstock.com