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Is Your Pocketwatch Hard to Wind?

Something I hear a fair amount is that a watch is hard to wind.

Assuming a pendent-wind watch is in good condition, and has been recently and properly serviced so that nothing is jammed, rubbing, corroded or gummed up with old worn out grease, the amount of effort needed to turn the crown to wind is a direct result of how the watch is designed.

The first factor of course is the strength of the mainspring that is being pulled into tight coils inside the watch.  Particularly on a larger pocketwatch, the force stored up in a wound spring is surprisingly great. To make it easier to coil the spring a typical watch has a pinion and two gears between the crown and the mainspring arbor, which pulls the spring itself. The gear ratios of these turning parts determine how difficult the crown is to turn, and how many turns it takes to fully wind the watch. The designers trade off making the watch very easy to wind, but taking many, many turns, versus taking very few but more difficult turns.

On watches with what we call "exposed wheels", you can see the two principle parts moving when the watch is wound; the main wheel and the ratchet wheel. The gear ratios of these two is the determining factor in how easy or difficult the watch winds.

The movement shown here has exposed wheels. The main wheel is at the bottom. It is directly turned by a pinion, at the bottom, connected to the crown. The main wheel turns the ratchet wheel shown here as the larger of the two taking up the lower left on the movement. The mainspring barrel is directly below the ratchet wheel.

In a watch that otherwise has no problems and is in good working order, with correct lubrication, and the correct mainspring installed, there is no adjustment possible that can make the watch easier to wind.

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