Vintage Watch Blog

Over the years we have published a number of articles to assist collectors and enthusiasts to get the best out of vintage watch ownership.

Help! Why doesn't my watch work?
Vintage Watch FAQs / Feb 8th, 2017 3:41 pm     A+ | a-

Occasionally we receive emails  from concerned customers who, after receiving their new watch, can't get it to operate as it should.

Usually there is no need to worry as nine times out of ten, it's due to an unfamiliarity with vintage watches.

Here is some pointers if you are struggling.  We'll start with the real basics.

1. It's wasn't running when I opened the box!

You may open the box to your new watch and it may not be running. If this is a mechanical piece, don't panic!  This is normal. We manually wind every mechanical watch we sell before despatch, but by the time it reaches you the chances are that it has reached the end of it's wind or is is about to, so the watch will stop.  It needs winding.  If you bought an automatic and that isn't running on arrival,  again, don't panic, see number 3 below. If you have bought a battery watch and it it isn't running, don't panic, just contact us.

2. How to wind your watch

Manual wind watches need to be wound FULLY before they will keep time over 24 hours or more. The single biggest reason for a watch stopping prematurely is because it hasn't been wound sufficiently and this is the first question we will ask if you have received a watch from us that you believe isn't working correctly.  Most of the time the explanation below will resolve the issue.

Most people are nervous of 'over winding' a watch but the term is somewhat of an urban myth.  Watches are said to be over wound when they stop or seize in the fully wound position, not as a result of 'over winding'. To wind the watch fully the crown must be rotated clockwise some 10-20 times until the natural stop of the mainspring is reached. At this point, the resistance to winding becomes so great that it is obvious that the spring is fully wound.  Once fully wound the movement should run continuously for at least 24hours depending on the movement.  A single rotation of the crown is unlikely to run the watch for more than a few seconds. Winding the crown anti-clockwise will not wind the watch. You will hear a faint clicking noise, but this is the winding gear, free-wheeling like the pedals on a bicycle when you coast downhill.  This facility is provided to enable you to grip the crown and wind the watch with a back and forth motion without actually releasing the crown.  This makes it easier to wind but be aware the crown only winds the watch in one direction.

3. Automatic Watches are mechanical watches too

Automatic watches are NOT battery powered. They are also mechanical watches with the addition of an eccentrically weighted rotor mechanism that winds the mainspring from movement of the wearer as the watch is worn instead of manually winding via the crown.  Again, if the mainspring is not wound sufficiently the watch will stop.  Considerable wrist movement is required to fully wind an automatic watch during wear and some early non-efficient models including bumper designs should only really be considered a maintainer, once the spring is wound manually.

The vast majority of automatic watches can also be wound manually.  This facility is important if you wear a watch for only part of day and won't be wearing it long enough to wind the mainspring by movement alone.  If you find your automatic watch doesn't run properly, wind it manually first.  If you constantly have to manually wind it or it still doesn't run then we can investigate these issues.  Be aware that an automatic mainspring will continuously wind and will have no fully wound stop like a manual wind watch.

4. Hand Collision

Although we take the utmost care to pack our watches carefully, there is little we can do to legislate against the package being moved violently which can occasionally dislodge the fine tolerance on the hands.  Rarely, a hand can come dislodged entirely and in most cases is an easy fix and it does involve you sending the watch back to us to resolve.

5. My watch is running way too fast!

Sometimes a watch can run as fast as 15min too fast in a day.  Rest assured that we would never sell a watch exhibiting these sort of errors, but the reason for this occurring is that the hairspring has become 'coil bound' during transport. This is quite common after a service where the fresh oils can sometimes find themselves in contact with the leaves of the hairspring. Again, this is easy to resolve if the watch is returned to us.

6. My watch is running way too slow!

It is not possible for a mechanical watch to run much slower than 5 minutes a day, so what often is the case, is that the watch is stopping and restarting later once jolted or the hands aren't carrying (see 7 below).

7. The watch is running, but the hands aren't moving

This is more common than you would think and is characterised by a moving second hand but the minute and hour hands are stationary or dropping large amounts of time.  The reason for this is the clutch mechanism that drives the hands.  If it loses friction, it will no longer drive the hands around the dial, although the second hand continues to run. Returning the watch to us will enable us to resolve this issue where we can re-adjust the cannon pinion or other friction drive.  This problem often occurs if you have been winding the hands vigorously in order to set a correct date.  Check there is no 'hidden' fast date feature which can sometimes be activated by winding past 12 then back to quarter to, to flick the date over again. This is much faster and less harmful to the watch.

8. I can't pull the crown out

Most likely you aren't pulling hard enough.  Try inserting a fingernail between the case and crown and lever it gently out or wiggle the crown a little to release it from the setting spring.  Again, people are nervous about vintage watches and how much force to apply. The same goes for chronograph pushers which sometimes need considerable force to push them.  Remember, always apply the least possible force first; forcing it or getting angry with a vintage watch will certainly break it! Before pulling harder make sure you don't have a locking crown. These are fitted on Rolex, Tudor and Omega waterproof models and require the crown to be twisted anticlockwise to unlock it before the crown can be wound or pulled out. Also be aware that some watches use split stems which means that if an excessive force is applied when pulling out the crown to set the time, the winder will come completely adrift from the watch.  Not a massive problem to resolve if you manage to retain the crown and stem but rather disconcerting when it happens.

Hope this helps, if you are in doubt, talk to us first.

Do you have a question about your own watch?. Please Contact us
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