The mainspring is wound, as the name suggest, by turning the watch’s crown a few dozen times. While winding a watch is a simple process, there are a couple things to be aware of. First of all, wind the watch off of your wrist. While it may be tempting to give the crown a few twirls while you’re surfing the Web at work, the angle can be awkward and put lateral stress on the delicate winding stem. Secondly, don’t overwind your watch. You’ll know when it’s wound when you can’t turn the crown anymore. This isn’t like topping off your gas tank, so don’t try to give it a little extra. Stop winding when you first feel resistance. Try to wind your watch once a day. A watch typically keeps best time when the mainspring is above half tension. The typical watch has about a two-day power reserve so winding it up before you strap it on each morning is a good habit to form.
(Hand) Winding Rules
1. Wind the watch off your wrist to minimize stress on the winding stem.
2. Don’t overwind. Stop when you feel resistance.
3. Make a habit out of winding your watch every day before you strap it on. If it’s an automatic, just strap it on.
The automatic, or self-winding, watch, functions as its name suggests. As long as you’re wearing it, the mainspring maintains tension thanks to the weighted rotor in the movement that oscillates with your arm’s movements. A slipping clutch prevents the spring from getting overwound. Unless you don’t wear your watch daily or you’re an extremely inactive person, you won’t have to wind your automatic. But if you do, just give the crown 20 or 30 spins until the seconds hand starts moving, set the time and then strap it on. Unlike the handwound watch, you can’t overwind your automatic, but don’t overdo it — the winding mechanism in an automatic is typically less robust than that in a handwound watch and thus more vulnerable to breaking with careless or excessive use. Let the watch wind itself. And if you don’t wear it regularly, invest in a quality watch winder.
Setting a watch is a pretty straightforward process, but it does have some dos and don’ts. The most important rule is not to set the date if the watch’s time is between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Note that we said “the watch’s time”, not the actual time of day. If you pick up a watch that isn’t running and you aren’t sure when it stopped, pull the crown all the way out and spin the hands until the date changes. Then you’ve found midnight; next, advance the time past 2 a.m. before pushing the crown in to set the date. Why, you ask? The date-changing mechanism starts to engage the gear train after 9 p.m. and only disengages after 2 a.m. Setting the date during this period can break off the delicate teeth of the mechanism, resulting in a costly repair. It’s also a good idea to set a watch forward rather than running it backwards. This is, again, to prevent damage to the date mechanism. Of course, if your watch doesn’t display the date, none of this matters.
As we mentioned above, the mortal enemies of a mechanical watch are moisture, shock and magnets. Fortunately, modern timepieces are pretty good at resisting all three. Synthetic gaskets, screw-down crowns and tight tolerances keep water out of a watch — assuming they’re all in good shape. Most watches, even dress watches, are rated for water resistance to at least 3 atmospheres, which is equivalent to roughly 30 meters. That may sound deep, but it’s nearly the minimum rating for a watch, so though your Patek Calatrava will probably survive a dunk in the pool at a bachelor party, we don’t advise taking it for your daily morning swim. (For that, stick with a timepiece rated to at least 50 meters.) While screw-down crowns are the best insurance against moisture, even some 200-meter rated dive watches use robust double-sealed free-spinning crowns. Regardless, if you spend a lot of time in the water (by choice or by accident), it’s a good idea to have your watch’s water resistance tested annually, and to have gaskets replaced.
Do's and Don't
1. Don’t wind on your wrist.
2. Don’t overwind.
3. Don’t let your poor watch languish without winding.
4. Don’t set the date between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
5. Don’t set the time backwards.
6. Don’t swim with a watch rated for the minimum 30 meters.
7. Don’t split wood, free frozen bolts or golf with it on your wrist.
8. Don’t keep it in close proximity to magnets like those found in speakers, televisions, or your iPad.
9. Don’t let your watch get gross. An old toothbrush and some running water are all it takes.
10. Don’t ignore watch maintenance. Once every five years isn’t much to ask, you cheap bastard.