Allow me to introduce you to the Orbita Sparta 1 Mini watch winder. I originally discussed this watch on Luxist and mentioned how it was being marketed as a women’s watch winder line. Actually, Orbita released a line of colors for women, but there are also male colored versions available. So in all, the Sparta 1 Mini is available in something like 6-8 colors with men’s and women’s colors. Here is the white version which is pretty unisex if you ask me. Price is very reasonable for this winder given what you get. There are two prices. The AC powered plug-in Sparta 1 Mini model (as tested) retails for $195, and can be found online at authorized Orbita dealers for about $150. The lithium ion battery powered version of the Sparta is more, with a retail price of $295 (can also likely be found on authorized retailer sites for a bit less). Plus, the battery powered version has a different style and is known as the Sparta Open watch winder.
The Sparta 1 Mini is a basic and inexpensive model from Orbita, but does everything you want it to do for winding a single automatic mechanical watch. Orbita makes many watch winders in beautiful woods, or for multiple watches, so those are also available – but in all, there is no really “better” way to wind watches that what you are provided with here. One of the best things about this Sparta 1 Mini is the refinement and winding mechanism. I haven’t always been so keen on all Orbita watch winders, but this model does the task of winding very well – with next to no fuss. It is prudent to mention right off the bat that the Sparta is available in both AC (plug-in) powered, and battery powered models (the Sparta 1 Min and Sparta Open respectively). I really would have liked the unit to do both of these things, and have the option to run off of either type of power, but it isn’t that big of a deal. You just need to decide which is right for you. The AC powered model is pretty straight forward. The unit comes with plug that attaches to the rear of the unit. The plug separates from the back of the unit so that Orbita can sell the unit in various countries and supply the right plug type for that region. The battery powered version uses special lithium ion batteries that are the same size as a D cell battery. The batteries aren’t the type you can buy at your local drug store, but they are available online and directly from Orbita. The good news is that you won’t have to worry about this too often as the batteries last for at least 5-7 years. The has to do with two things. First is the fact that the winder uses very little power, and second is because of mAh rating of the batteries is very high.
Overall the construction of the winder is good. The body is quality plastic and the white is a faux lizard skin material that has a semi-metallic look (there are also faux leather versions available). Feels nice and looks good on a wardrobe or shelf. Orbita does mostly their own manufacturing as far as I can tell. You get the feeling that the devices are made by engineers and watch enthusiasts – as opposed to some corporate committee. Watch winders are still sort of a niche product, so you get the sense that a smaller dedicated factory is putting these devices together. The unit feels a lot more solid that winders from China, I can easily say that. There is a small on/off switch on the rear of the watch winder. I am pretty sure that you can place and remove watches while the unit is “on,” but best practices dictate that you turn it “off” to place and remove watches.
Using the winder is easy. There is a foam brick and the actual unit that winds the watch. The unit itself removes from the winder body, but you technically don’t ever need to remove it. The option is there to help with inserting and removing watches. Look on the back of the winding unit and you see the RotorWind weight. This is a hint as to how the unit works, which is different than most watch winders of this type. The system is really clever actually and I quite like it. The Sparta 1 Mini uses a low power motor to slowly turn the winding unit. The whole process takes 5-10 minutes ans is virtually silent. Once the winding unit gets to a specific point, the motor releases and the weight in the winding unit pull the unit down and the momentum of the travel distance propels the winding unit (with the watch in it) back and forth a few times that enables the automatic rotor inside of the watch to spin in both directions. This action creates the force that mimics your wrist’s movement and winds the watch (regardless of the direction that the rotor needs to spin to wind the movement). The system is good for almost all automatic watches, and my experience is that watches I have tested with the Sparta 1 Mini stay well wound. So what you have is a clever system that uses very low amounts of power and is basically silent. It is also safe for the watches which is a necessary part of the equation.
Unlike Orbita winders, less expensive Chinese watch winders are prone to failure after a few months, but I haven’t heard about this from Orbita. Honestly, I have had several Chinese watch winders die on me… you are the exception to the rule if one last for 6 month to a year or longer. Like all electronic or mechanical things, once in a while watch winders need servicing, but I am confident in the lifespan on the motors in Orbita watch winders. This makes them worth the price, as they simply last a long time.
The Sparta 1 Mini comes with two foam bricks. They are in two sizes depending on the size of your watch strap, you’ll know which one to use. For me, I used the smaller brick. You can easily squeeze the brick into a closed watch strap or bracelet or close the watch over the brick. The foam material of the brick won’t scratch your watches. Placing the brick in the winding unit is easy and it fits in there snugly. I don’t worry about it slipping out, nor does it stick inside stubbornly. More expensive unit “house” watches more. This helps protect them from dust and from coming in contact with other things that might damage or cosmetically harm your watch. The Sparta 1 Mini has watch more or less exposed. Again, this is only a problem in certain situations and for select highly expensive watches. If you have a watch that you don’t want collecting much dust or needs to be utterly protected, there are closed unit watch winders available – but realize that a “housing” just gives you one more thing between you and your watch possibly making it less convenient to use your watch winder, and watch winders are all about convenience. Also, remember that the same type of winding (via the RotorWind system) is being increasinly used in more and more Orbita watch winders, even the very expensive winders that accomodate many watches – it is just that good of a system.
The Sparta 1 Mini has a very small size footprint. You can see the unit resting in the palm of my hand. A lot of single watch winders seem to take up more room that is necessary, but the Sparta 1 Mini seems to do everything necessary, but not be too large. Some of you reading this have tons of watch winders and always need more, and other have never purchased a watch winder, though you probably need one. Still others of you have never spent more than $50 of a watch winder before. I recommend that everyone with a growing collection of automatic mechanical watches invest in a watch winder. It makes living with multiple watches easier so that you don’t have to wind them each time you wear them if you cycle between a few watches. This is especially important when you have watches with several complications such a calendar – where setting it each time is frankly a pain. So there you have it, a good entry-level watch winder from Orbita. You get a fantastic watch winding system in a compact and attractive package. For some of you the price might seem quite high, and frankly it is if you aren’t used to spending this on watch winders. Others will see the Sparta 1 Mini as a bargain. It all depends on how involved of a watch collector you are, but you aren’t going to find much else with this quality mechanics and motor for the same price elsewhere.
Learn more about the Sparta 1 Mini watch winder line at Orbita here.