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.
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.
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.
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.