Blog: overwoundCopyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2020 all rights reserved.
I make additions and corrections to this web site frequently, but because they are buried somewhere on one of the pages the changes are not very noticeable, so I decided to create this blog section to highlight new material. Here below you will find part of one of the pages that I have either changed or added to significantly.
The section reproduced here is from my page about watch movements
If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me via my Contact Me page.
One very common description by sellers is that a watch is not going because it has been "over wound" — the mainspring is fully wound but the watch doesn't go. This is nonsense. It is like saying that a car won't start because the fuel tank is too full of fuel. Don't believe stories that being over wound is a fault in itself, or that a watch will stop because it is over wound. Just like a car with a full tank of fuel that won't start, the reason a fully watch won't go is because there is something wrong with it, not because it is fully wound. This might be something simple that is easy to fix, and it might be something serious that could be very expensive, or even impossible, to fix.
It is really quite difficult to damage a watch by winding it — unless you have a grip like a vice, muscles like a gorilla, and no sense of feeling. Watches are built to be worn by normal human beings. You can't actually stop a watch by "over winding" it, although if you keep trying to turn the crown when the watch is fully wound this can cause the balance to swing too far and, in very extreme cases, this might damage the impulse jewel.
To wind a watch manually, turning the crown in the clockwise direction winds the spring, turning it anticlockwise does nothing. There is a ratchet in the keyless work that allows the crown to turn in the anticlockwise direction which makes winding easier; you don't have to release the crown and re-grip it at each turn. You should be able to feel that the crown turns in the anticlockwise direction more easily, and feel and hear the little clicks as the ratchet works. When you feel that the crown stops turning in the winding direction as easily, the spring is fully wound so just let go. Do not keep pressure on the crown when the mainspring is fully wound.
If you have had a watch for a few years and it doesn't wind easily, varies in its timekeeping or stops unexpectedly, then it most likely needs a service. All mechanical watches need a service every few years to clean out old gummed up oil and replace it with fresh. You wouldn't run a car for years without changing the oil, would you?
If you are thinking about buying a watch and the seller describes it as over wound, then you need to be extremely cautious. It is possible that the seller might actually believe that this is the problem, or they might be trying to hide the fact that there is something seriously wrong with the watch; caveat emptor, buyer beware.
If it was your watch and it stopped working, then you would know its history and whether you had done something to it, such as dropped it. But with an unknown watch you don't know what has happened to it in its lifetime. It may be that the watch has not been serviced and the oil has gummed up; a simple service would sort this out fairly cheaply. But it could also be that there is a more severe problem, such as a broken balance staff or some internal wear or damage. This would be more expensive to rectify, quite possibly much more expensive, and sometimes even impossible, to fix — or impossibly expensive.
Once you get to know a bit about watches you will be able to make a judgement on this. If the balance is swinging freely and doesn't wobble on its pivots, and there is no obvious damage, then you can be fairly sure that a service will sort out the problem. But if you are not confident in assessing this, it may be better to pass on until you have more experience.
Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2020 all rights reserved. This page updated June 2018. W3CMVS.