Over Wind or Over Wound Watch Mainspring.

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Where in the world did the phrase, "I over wound my watch" come from anyway? Do you think you can actually over wind your watch? Did someone tell you that you over wound your watch?

These are all good questions and to an extent, the term "over wind and over wound" are correct. Yes we know and have heard it at least a thousand times, that "you can't over wind" a watch. The people who say that have heard the term before, and don't know what they are talking about. They seem to parrot the phrase in order to impress someone with their knowledge of watches. Well, here we go, they may be right and they may be wrong as the term was used.

The term "over wind" originated back in the days of blue steel mainsprings and animal fat oils that were used to lubricate watches. So lets get one thing out of the way now. In technical terms, you can't actually over wind a watch. The mainspring will only go so far into its coil, if you could keep winding your watch, something would break. The stem might be the first thing to break, then for sure you would strip the teeth off the clutch. If the clutch and stem were to withstand the stress, then for sure the teeth in the crown wheel and ratchet wheel would strip. Now this would be over winding your watch. Now the details...

Blue steel mainsprings were rather weak in terms of their ability not to take on a "set." This is when the mainspring conforms itself to a little larger in size than the space it occupies within the mainspring barrel. When they take on a set, it is difficult for the fully wound mainspring to release itself from its own coils and powering the watch.

Watches were lubricated with animal fat oils. Over a period of about one year, these types of oils would tend to gel and become thick and tacky. Now, if you have both of these elements present in your watch, and you wind it up all the way, as far as it will go, the thick oil will bind the coils of the weak mainspring together and the coils will not slip and power the gear train. Here, you have now over wound your watch. Had you only wound it up say three forths of the way, the mainspring would still slip and provide some power to your watch. So you see, in this sense, you can and did over wind your watch.

Old jewelers many years ago, would tell people that they over wound their watchs and that was the reason they stopped. For the average customer, the lack of information was OK. Why go into great detail as to why the watch stopped. It just took time away from the bench. The jeweler would tell them the watch needed to be cleaned. This took care of the problem for about a year or so until it needed to be cleaned again.

It is interesting that now, after all of these years, we still hear people saying that they, "over wound" their watches. There are still many old watches out there that have not been serviced for decades. People will wind them up, and they will run for awhile, then one day, the dreadful "over winding" takes place.

White alloy mainsprings and synthetic watch oils. These were very important inventions in the field of horology. The white alloy springs for the most part would not break and maintained their original "S" shaped form. The new oils did not gel and become thick like the old animal fat oils. Watches could go for much longer periods of time without the need for yearly cleaning. With these modern advances, the old terminology of "over winding" started to slowly fade away, just like the old watchmakers who coined the phrase in the good old days. A period of horological history that has long since vanished.

We hope that you found this topic interesting and useful. If we can help you with your questions or solve your "over winding" questions.
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