How to Know If My Watch Is Overwound, and How Can I Fix It?

Written by: Maz P
Updated on:
Rolex Watch

In the world of horology, watches are not simply convenient timekeeping devices, they are, at their core, an art form. Intricate mechanical wonders that require careful attention to function optimally, a watch needs to be handled and cared for with the utmost precision. One of the potential concerns in watch care is the possibility of overwinding. However, in many circumstances when a watch has stopped working or is performing erratically, overwinding is not actually the issue. So, how exactly do you determine if your watch is overwound? And if it is, how do you fix it?

Can you Overwind a Watch?

If you are new to the world of watchmaking, it is crucial to grasp the basics of a watch’s winding mechanism. Watches have a delicate balance of gears, springs, and escapements with overwinding occurring when the mainspring is manually wound excessively. This creates stress on the components and can potentially affect the watch’s accuracy. Any stress can also impact the watch’s lifespan, particularly for vintage timepieces.

Modern watches are easier to care for as they are designed with safeguards to prevent overwinding. With these safeguards in place, some watchmakers argue that modern watches are immune to overwinding and that overwinding is a historic issue that now only relates to older timepieces. However, complications can arise if these safety features fail, if the watch is vintage, or if it has been poorly maintained.

Can an Automatic Watch be Overwound?

Automatic watches are where the argument over whether a watch can be overwound really comes into play. Automatic watches, with their self-winding capability, are equipped with mechanisms to prevent overwinding. Powered by movement, an automatic watch will rarely be overwound. However, the mechanisms in an automatic watch can wear out over time and any protection against overwinding could fail. Regular maintenance and servicing of your timepiece is crucial to ensure these mechanisms function correctly.

Signs of an Overwound Mechanical Watch

Determining whether your watch is overwound is relatively straightforward but does require a keen eye for subtle signs. Symptoms of an overwound watch may include erratic timekeeping or unusual ticking sounds which are both usually signs of overwinding. It could also be that the timepiece stops working altogether, even when fully wound. Recognizing these indicators early can help in addressing the issue promptly.

If you have observed your watch over time and suspect your timepiece has been overwound, the way to diagnose overwinding is to start by gently winding the watch in a clockwise motion. Pay attention to any resistance or unusual sounds and if you encounter resistance or particular tightness before reaching the typical winding limit, it could suggest overwinding.

If, however, you are certain that the watch is wound correctly and is still not functioning, the issue most likely lies somewhere else in the winding train. This would then require further investigation which can be performed as part of a service.

How to Fix an Overwound Watch

Firstly, if you suspect your watch is overwound, resist the urge to force the winding further. With modern watches, the ability to easily wind stops when it has reached its winding limit. You can force through this but this is what would be overwinding and could damage the mainspring.

In most cases, the watch will slowly unwind itself and return to normal function. This can take a little time so it is best to be patient but if the problem persists, you will need to venture down other avenues.

For those new to the world of watchmaking, it is best to consult a professional watchmaker for advice and assistance in this matter. Attempting DIY fixes at an amateur level may exacerbate the problem or could also void the warranty of your timepiece. A skilled watchmaker will dismantle the movement, identify the root cause, and restore the watch to optimal performance.

If you are further along in your watchmaking journey and have some experience under your belt, of course, this is an issue you can tackle and remedy yourself. Your first step is to wind it down until it is accurately performing. You will also need to adjust the regulator to ensure the timepiece runs at the correct speed.

If it is an automatic watch, they are typically only overwound if on a watch winder with a speed that is too intense. Simply wearing the watch and reverting back to the power of wrist movement typically corrects the problem.

How to Prevent an Overwound Watch

Prevention is always better than a cure and this applies to an overwound watch. Accurate watch care will prevent the overwinding of a watch and is easier than fixing the issue once it has occurred.

When winding a watch, always make sure you follow the manufacturer’s recommended winding limit. Do not force the winding further as this is overwinding. It is also important to not automatically assume that overwinding is the issue and to make an accurate diagnosis first. It could easily be a problem somewhere else along the winding train.

How To Know If My Watch Is Overwound FAQ

All watches have a risk of being overwound but modern watches are designed with safeguards to prevent overwinding. However, older or poorly maintained watches may be susceptible.

The cost of fixing an overwound watch is subjective and depends on whether you are taking on the task alone or taking the timepiece to a professional watchmaker. Watchmakers all have individual prices and factor in the time, their experience level, and any required parts into their pricing structure. Fixing an overwound watch yourself is more affordable, if not a free solution but may require the purchase of a new mainspring if it has been damaged.

Prevention is often the best remedy. Regular servicing, as recommended by the watch manufacturer, can address potential issues before they escalate. Following proper winding procedures, especially for manual watches, is crucial in maintaining the longevity of the timepiece.

If you think I’ve missed anything or have anything to add, please comment below.


Photo of author
I started WatchmakingTools to share my passion and knowledge with those already bitten by the watchmaking bug. I’ve often spent hours searching online for answers on a specific issue, and even though there is a wealth of information out there, it hasn’t always been very useful, hence why I wanted to share my own findings.

Leave a Comment