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Pocketwatch 101 – Learn about Vintage and Antique Pocket Watches

Side-Winder and Side-Second Watches

What really makes a sidewinder watch?

On this page, we'll go into greater depth about side-winder and side-second pocket watches. In fact, we'll explore several possible combinations of movement, case and dial.

Hunter and Open-Face Movements

There are physical differences between watch movements which are designed for a hunter case, and watch movements which are designed for an open-face case. This is because a watch that's in a hunter case, with a lid over the dial, should have the winding stem at the 3:00 position. The reason for this, one can surmise, is that in our right-hand-biased world this configuration places the watch in a natural position for the right-handed viewer. In an open face watch, the winding pendant is "properly" at the 12:00 position. In both hunter and open-faced watches, the seconds dial is located at the 6:00 position.

Physically, this makes a difference in the way the movement is constructed. The seconds hand in a watch is carried by the pivot of the 4th wheel. That pivot projects through the plate of the movement and through a hole in the pocketwatch dial to carry the second hand. In an open face watch, the watch movement is laid-out so that the 4th wheel is 180° opposite the winding pinion (where the winding crown is located). In a hunter movement, the movement is laid-out so that the 4th wheel is 90° from the winding pinion. So this isn't just a difference in the way the dial is placed on the watch, it is a physical difference in the layout and construction of open-face and hunter movements.

Diagram of open face and hunter dials showing differences in layout. The winding pinion is identified by the position of the winding stem. The 4th wheel carries the second hand and is identified by the position of the seconds dial.

Diagram of open face and hunter dials showing differences in layout. The winding pinion is identified by the position

of the winding stem. The 4th wheel carries the second hand and is identified by the position of the seconds dial.

Hunter Movement / Open-Face Case: Side-Winder Pocket Watches

When a hunter-case movement with regular dial is mounted in an open-face case, it is called a "side-winder" because the winding stem will now be at the 3:00 position instead of the 12:00 position as it would be in a "normal" open-face watch. While this doesn't present any real operational difficulties, a side-winder is generally not considered to be a "correct" pairing of movement and case. Note that it's only called a side-winder if it is a hunter-case movement in an open-face case. We often hear people calling their hunter-cased watches side-winders because the winding stem is at 3:00... but it's only a side-winder if it's a hunter movement in an open-face case.

Two examples of American Waltham side-winder pocket watches

Two examples of American Waltham side-winder pocket watches

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Hunter Movement / Open-Face Case: Side-Second Pocket Watches.

Another alternative when mounting a hunter-case movement in an open-face case is to use a special "side-seconds" dial. The watch movement really doesn't care how the number on the dial are oriented. So if we start with a regular side-winder... winding stem at 3:00 and seconds dial at 6:00... and then "rotate" the dial 90 degrees (or rotate the movement 90* if you prefer) we end up with the winding stem back at 12:00 where it belongs, but now the seconds dial is at 3:00. Special dials were made to accommodate this configuration, and these were called side-seconds dials as shown below.

Hamilton Model 2 hunter-style movement in open-face case with side-second dial

Hamilton Model 2 hunter-style movement in open-face case with side-seconds dial

Open-Face Movement / Hunter Case

Occasionally we run across an open-face movement that has been placed in a hunter case. This places the winding crown at the 12:00 position and since it's an open-face movement, the seconds bit sits at the 6:00 position. In the opinion of this watchmaker, it's an awkward combination as the watch feels "sideways" in your hand when used normally, but I'm sure it's jut a matter of what you're used to. In our experience, most open-face movements in a hunter case are re-cased watches... they were not originally sold that way.

Watches like this are encountered less often than side-winders, so it's reasonable to conclude that more hunter-cased movements were re-cased in open face cases than the other way around. This may reflect changes in style as hunter-case watches went out of fashion and open face watches became the norm.

Dueber-Hampden open-face Model 3 movement installed in hunter case

Dueber-Hampden open-face Model 3 movement installed in hunter case

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