Today, Rolex exclusively makes automatic watches with so-called perpetual rotors. This means that Rolex watches are powered by the movement of your wrist. When you wear your watch, the rotor rotates, winding the mainspring, thus generating the energy necessary for powering the movement. Rolex invented its perpetual mechanism in 1931 and has since worked to improve the technological performance and functionality of its perpetual mechanism.
Prior to 1931, the go-to movement for Rolex and all other watch manufacturers were manual-wound movements that you had to manually wind on a regular basis to ensure they had sufficient energy and could continue ticking. But Rolex - and eventually most other watch manufacturers - deemed the automatic movement with a rotor more superior due to the practicality and functionality they offer.
Over time, Rolex came to replace the manual wound movements in its collection with automatic movements, and by the 1970s and 1980s, all manually-wound movements were replaced with automatic.
As such, all modern Rolex watches are automatic. In theory, that means that you don’t have to manually wind them, but that is actually not the whole truth.
Do you have to manually wind your Rolex?
If you wear your Rolex watch daily, the movement will be wound by the movements from the wrist. This means that you don’t have to wind your Rolex watch if you wear it on a regular basis.
The catch is that the watch needs sufficient movement in order to produce sufficient energy for the watch. If the watch does indeed run out of energy, Rolex advises that you should manually wind it first. This is to ensure that the movement is fully charged and functions properly. Because even if you do wear it, insufficient movements will likely mean that the movement is never fully charged.
If you stop wearing the watch for a few days
Automatic watches are dependent on the movements of your wrist. And so if you put your watch aside for a few days, it will not be charged under this period and will eventually stop. Rolex watches generally have a power reserve of 48 to 72 hours depending on the caliber used which means you can leave it for a day or two and still have the watch running when you finally start wearing it again. But if you leave it for several days or even weeks, it is advised that you manually wind it again to fully wind the mainspring.
If you live an inactive lifestyle
Another occasion that may require you to manually wind your watch is if you live an inactive lifestyle. Let’s say that all you do during the day is to sit at your computer and not walk around very much. Whilst even minor movement will be sufficient to get the rotor rotating and generate energy for the movement, it may in some cases not be sufficient.
In this case, it may ultimately mean that the watch will stop. In these cases, you can make it a habit to occasionally wind your Rolex watch manually to prevent it from stopping. And if it has stopped, it’s a good idea to wind it to get it started again. Moreover, this allows you to provide the watch with lots of energy to last a long time, even if you are inactive.
Always wind your Rolex if it has stopped
As mentioned, Rolex advises that you always wind your watch manually if it has stopped. So if you, for example, stop wearing the watch for a few days or don’t live a very active lifestyle, you should always wind the watch manually before you start using it. Rolex’s movements are clever because they both have rotors and they have a manual winding function. Cheaper and more affordable automatic watches don’t always have manual-winding functions, but all automatic Rolexes do.
”Before being worn for the first time, or if it has stopped, a Rolex watch must be wound manually in order to function correctly and precisely. To wind the watch manually, unscrew the winding crown completely, then turn it several times clockwise (turning in the other direction has no effect).”Rolex.com
There are several reasons why you want to wind it when it has stopped. Firstly, putting it on your wrist and subjecting to movements will get it to start, but you will then have to take the watch off and set the time correctly. Secondly, some people shake the watch violently to get it to start.
Whilst Rolex watches are built to last, it is not advised to shake the watch violently regardless. And lastly, putting the watch on your wrist after it has stopped will likely not get the watch to get fully wound, even if you get i to start. Therefore, begin by ”fueling up the tank” by winding so that the watch is fully charged and ready to go. This also ensures that even if you take the watch off for a shorter period of time, or sit still for just a few hours, it won’t stop.
If you have an older Rolex, you may need to wind it
As mentioned, all Rolex watches today are automatic. However, that has not always been the case. If you have an older Rolex watch that is manually-wound and doesn’t feature a perpetual rotor, you need to manually wind it on a regular basis to ensure that it has energy to function. With manually-wound watches, it is easier to estimate how much energy the watch has. Just look at the specified power reserve, and when you have wound it fully, you have that many hours until you need to wind it again. With automatic watches, it’s a bit more difficult as you don’t know how much the movements from your wrist has wound it.
Last but not least, Rolex has made a few quartz watches over the years. Whilst these are relatively rare and uncommon, we still want to address them. Because quartz watches are powered by batteries, it is not possible to wind them manually. When they run out of energy, you simply need to replace the battery. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about remembering to wind a quartz Rolex.