Can You Over-Wind A Mechanical Watch?

Zen L. from Bangkok, Thailand asks:

Can I overwind my manual watch? I recently got my first manually wound watch, despite generally preferring automatic. I have heard that although automatic watches have a way of protecting against overwinding, a manual watch can actually be damaged. Is this true? Or does this differ from movement to movement? There is also no power reserve indicator, so what can I do to make sure I don't damage my watch, but keep it telling good time? Thanks!

Of course, there is no single answer that will apply to all mechanical movements as there are so many differences out there. What we will say is that for the most part you cannot over-wind modern watches, but when it comes to some older movements it is possible. Further, we've had experience with "new" movements from China that are still made like old movements and they can be over-wound.

Most new watches have winding limiters that prevent them from being wound until they are damaged. This is especially true with automatic watches that simply wind into infinity because the winding system decouples from the mainspring. With modern manually wound watches you'll feel the winding stem "stop" when the mainspring is full. You could technically force it and break the watch, but most people know to stop when they feel the resistance.

When it comes to lower-quality mechanical movements made in China, or older movements that don't have these protection systems, then one needs to be more careful when winding them. When people used to wear these older watches they would count the number of turns and more or less re-wind them at the same time each day.

Once again, we have to advise people that for the most part, you can't over-wind a modern mechanical watch and it will offer an enjoyable wearing and operating experience without fear of accidental damage.

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  • DG Cayse

    Good answer re:overwinding.
    I will say that is possible, and quite easy it seems, to strip-out the ‘screw-down crown’ mechanical on a watch.
    Doesn’t seem to affect the winding or time-keeping ability – but the crown will no longer secure itself in the screw-down position.
    Be aware and be careful.

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