One of the things I learned when running a watch repair business

In 2000 I started a retail watch repair business called The WATCH Lab. This was in Clayton Square Shopping Centre in Liverpool. The business was niche and took off immediately.

Being both customer-facing and working with highly qualified watchmakers, I got to hear both sides of how different types of watches work and how the public is lead to believe they work.  One of these was that of automatic watches.

The majority of the public including myself before my time with The Watch Lab thought that an automatic watch is self-winding. You put it on, wear it and it keeps perfect time.  Right? Well not quite.

In my watch repair business, we serviced automatic watches.  In the early days, customers would come to collect their fully serviced and valeted precious timepiece and take it away with a smile on their faces.  Often, a couple of weeks later they would return with the same watch but not with the same smile they had. Conversations would go like this;

‘You serviced my Rolex watch last month.  It took 6 weeks and you charged me £400.  When I wear it, it doesn’t keep time.  I am not happy to say the least.’

We would then book the watch in and return it to the workshop under guarantee.  7 days later the watch would be returned to the branch after being fully tested with a note from the Master Watchmaker saying ‘No fault found.  Ensure the customer winds the watch before wearing’. But surely, this is an automatic watch and is self-winding? Here lies the misunderstanding about automatic watches.

When an automatic watch is unworn and left for any period of more than 2 days. it will stop. If that watch is then picked up and put on the wrist again, it will run but will not keep good time. It will run slow, even if it has just been serviced. What the public generally doesn’t not know, and to be fair the manufacturers are not good at explaining, is the following.

Automatic watches need to be manually wound for 10 to 20 times before wearing if from stopped.  Doing this puts power into the mainspring effectively giving it a boost. Wearing the watch from this point will allow the movement to keep good time.

To wind an automatic watch, if it has a screw-down crown (winder), firstly unscrew it so that it is no longer fitted tight to the case. The watch can be physically wound at this point. Wind the watch before any attempt is made to set the date and time.

Wind the crown in a clockwise direction for between 10 and 20 turns.  Then, pull it out to set the date and the time.  Finally, if a screw-down crown, screw it back into position so as to lock it onto the case and keep out water.

An easier and better way for both convenience and for the health of the movement is use a luxury watch winder. By doing so allows an automatic watch to continue to run therefore eliminating the need for manual winding and re-setting of the day, date, and any complication. It also is good for the movement by the continuation of lubrication of internal components.

A luxury watch winder is a must for a luxury watch. Cheap watch winders can cause problems by overwinding and putting unnecessary pressure on internal parts. Luxury watch winders run watches in the optimum way by use of pre-programmed cycles, specific turn numbers, clockwise and anticlockwise directions, and specific periods of rest.

At The WATCH Lab, once I got to grips with the do’s and don’ts relating to automatic watches, both mine and the customer’s lives got that little bit easier!

Jonathan Barker


Champ Digital Ltd