General Wristwatch Troubleshooter
Answers to common questions about unexpected behavior of mechanical, automatic and quartz watches
- The hands or bezel markings do not line up perfectly - can this be fixed?
- Why are my minute and second hands are not hitting their marks at the exact same time?
- Why does my automatic watch keep losing time? Does it need repair or adjustment?
- Why does my automatic watch stop at night or otherwise run down in less time than the stated Power Reserve?
- How can I tell if I'm getting the stated Power Reserve on my automatic watch?
- Why does my date not change right at midnight?
- Why does my date change at noon instead of midnight?
- Why does the date sometimes drop 1, 2, or 3 days behind or show the 31st when it is actually the 1st?
- Why is my "sweep second hand" actually moving in small jumps?
- My mechanical or automatic watch is off a few seconds per day, how can get better accuracy?
- Why don't identical watches/movements run exactly the same?
For troubleshooting tips specific to certain models of Omega brand watches,
also see: Omega Watch Troubleshooter
The hands or bezel markings do not line up perfectly - can this be fixed?
Don't panic. A barely perceptible misalignment is not unusual and normally is not a sign of a defect or problem.
Certain moving or movable parts of a watch, particularly the second hand and the rotating calibrated bezels
on sports models, have their exact stopping positions controlled by mechanical components (springs, gears, and
rachets). So the exact precision of the stopping points for these elements can change slightly over time as the
new mechanisms settle in and gradually wear over time from use.
The unaided human eye can perceive detail down to about 1/100th of an inch (0.25 millimeters), so it is
possible to barely see these normal alignment differences of 1 or 2 hundredths of an inch. The few
places where these might be noticed are:
- The markings on a rotating bezel compared to the corresponding marks on the dial.
- The second hand of a quartz watch, where it stops every second.
- The second hand of any watch when the watch is stopped.
These are not defects or imperfections. They are minor differences within normal tolerances of precision and
wear for such mechanisms. In some cases, the watch manufacturer may intentionally set components a small fraction
of an inch off to compensate for how the mechanism is expected to settle in from use.
Certain parts, like rotating bezels, hands, and dials are at different heights relative to each other.
Depending on the exact angle you look at the watch, the parallax of three-dimensional perspective can cause
them to appear misaligned by small fractions. This is simply an aspect of human perception that no product can
force itself to look correct under all circumstances.
It is not unusual for a new luxury watch owner to scrutinize their watch to extremes and stress over any
perceptible inconsistency they can find. Omega is committed to delivering extremely fine watches and will address
any real problems with their products. But some buyers go to the level of observing details that are below the
threshold of reasonable expectation of perfection in a consumer wristwatch. A surprising number of watches get
returned and many customers are unhappy over staggeringly trivial details. Relax. It is just a
wristwatch. Do not behave like someone that never owned anything expensive before by demanding a return or
exchange over nearly imperceptible trivialities. If you do, then YOU are the one ruining your enjoyment over
Why are my minute and second hands are not hitting their marks at the exact same time?
No watches are geared to force the minute and second hands to exactly their marks simultaneously.
Think about it: for a watch to do that, the minute hand would have to jump in 1-minute increments when you set
the watch to stay in sync with the current position of the second hand. That's just too impractical to
accomplish with a mechanical watch.
Instead, the minute hand on mechanical watches stays in whatever alignment relative to the second hand
that you leave it in when you set the watch. So all you have to do is set the watch correctly and it will
stay perfect. If your minute and second hands are not currently in sync, your watch is perfectly fine and
is suffering only from the watch manufacturer's typical negligence in providing adequate instructions
describing the best procedure to set your watch.
Here is the correct and simple procedure to ensure the alignment is right. It works on any mechanical
watch with a 'hack' feature--meaning the second hand stops when you pull the crown all the way out to set
That's all you have to do. When set the watch this way, the hands start off in the correct alignment and
will stay that way. The only conditions that could likely change the alignment are if the watch is set
again without this attention to detail or the watch receives a physical shock significant enough to bump
the alignment off.
- Stop the second hand exactly at 12.
- Set the time, positioning the minute hand *exactly* on the appropriate minute mark.
- Restart the watch.
Why does my automatic watch keep losing time? Does it need repair or adjustment?
If your automatic watch seems to be running slow, the answer may be that it is 'power starved.'
Simply put, you might not be wearing it enough active hours of the day to keep it properly wound.
Without enough power stored in the spring, the mechanism of the watch runs slightly slower then needed
to keep accurate time. In fact, it may even briefly be stopping without you noticing!
So before you get frustrated at the apparent poor performance of your fine watch or take it
in for a probably totally unneeded repair, read the section that follows about Power Reserve to better
understand your automatic watch's needs.
Why does my automatic watch stop at night or otherwise run down in less time than the stated Power Reserve?
'Power Reserve' means the number of hours the watch should run from being fully wound up.
But a common mistake with automatic watches is to wear them only a few hours a day, or every few days,
and think that is enough movement to keep it wound. Automatic watches need to be worn regularly and for
more than just a few hours a day with you moving normally (more than watching TV or napping). Even then,
the watch may be far from fully wound at the point you take it off at the end of the day, so may not
continue to run overnight or over a full weekend. How much you wear the watch over weekends is
important too, as people's behavior is frequently different them, often leaving the watch much more or
much less wound by Monday.
An automatic watch uses its stored power constantly by running continiously. But it only
gains more power if you manually wind it or from the automatic winding that occurs from your motion
while you are active while wearing it. The net effect is that if you are not wearing it enough, it
uses more power during a day than it gains from the number of hours of active motion it receives.
Since almost all automatic watches lack an indicator of how 'full' their power reserves are, here
are some usage guidelines to help you keep your reserves up:
- If your automatic watch stops, manually wind it about 20-30 turns when you put it on. Don't
depend on the automatic winding to get your watch back up to power--that can take too long and still
leave your watch low on reserves by the end of the day.
- In general, an average watch wearer's motion is enough to power an automatic watch for 2-3 times
as many hours as it is actively worn.
- If you wear your automatic watch at least 10-12 active hours 7 days a week, you should maintain
50% (about 20 hours) of power reserve by the end of the day when you take it off.
- It does not hurt an automatic watch to manually wind it every once in a while to make sure its
power reserve is 'topped off.'
- And finally, automatic watches are not the right solution for everybody. That is why
battery-operated quartz watches are popular too. Some people really need watches that run for days
or months without attention or need to wear. Although some owners and salepeople might lead you to
think otherwise, there is nothing wrong with selecting a quartz watch over an automatic if it
better fits your needs or lifestyle.
How can I tell if I'm getting the stated Power Reserve on my automatic watch?
To test to see if your watch is really getting its full power reserve, try this: manually wind your
watch at least 40 turns and make sure the time is correct. Then leave it on the dresser for two to three
days and see what time it stops. If it runs for close to the stated power reserve (usually 40-44 hours for
many modern mechanical watches), then your watch is perfectly fine. If it runs significantly less than that,
it may need cleaning or an adjustment.
If your power reserve is functioning correctly, then you may need to simply manually wind the watch
when you take it off to ensure it is sufficiently wound. Or you may choose to change your wearing habits to
keep the watch on your wrist for more active time. And finally, you can always consider getting a watch
winder to keep your automatic watch ready to wear even when you do not use it regularly. For more information
on winders, see the zOwie Watch Winders FAQ.
Why does my date not change right at midnight?
There are two major ways a mechanical date window changes on a watch. So the answer to this question
depends on which type you have. This applies to any watch, mechanical, automatic or quartz, where the
date window is implemented as a mechanical function instead of an electronic display.
Watches with slow date change have the date roll over very slowly. Sometimes these watches may take
one to four hours for the date to completely roll over. This is perfectly normal for many watches. Though it
can be confusing if you are awake between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM and want to be certain what date it is.
Watches with rapid change date have the date window rollover very fast--often within a fraction
of a second. This is a more precise way of displaying the date, but requires a more complicated mechanism.
Having the precise time that this rapid change occurs be off from midnight is a common issue. Rapid date
change watches usually come from the factory set for the date change to within 10 minutes of midnight. But
it is not unusual for this to get further out of adjustment over time from one of several causes.
It is possible that a shock to the watch right around the date change can throw the mechanism off.
The more common causes are from the owner manually changing the date within three or four hours either
side of midnight, or setting the time backwards across midnight. The frequency that this problem occurs
makes it disconcerting that few watch makers provide warnings about this in their instruction manuals.
What happens is that if you alter the date setting while the date change gear is near to pushing the
date forward, you may push the mechanism slightly out of alignment. This seldom causes any real damage,
though it can. Most often, it will shift the time that the date change occurs--usually further from midnight.
The good news is that this is easily corrected when the watch is being serviced. Simply mention
the date change is off when you send the watch in for its routine cleaning or other service.
Why does my date change at noon instead of midnight?
Most mechanical calendar watches are not AM/PM aware--they simply advance the date every other
time the hands pass forward across 12:00. Where people get confused with this is because they assume it
is more complicated than that.
When setting a watch that has run down, make sure you roll the hands forward past 12:00 at least once
so you can see when the date changes. Then set the time accordingly so the next date change will occur
at midnight, not noon.
Digital watches do not have this confusion, because you have to explicitly tell them whether it is AM
or PM. Watches that display 24-hour or military time also are clear on where in the 24 hour day the time is.
But most watches display a simple 12-hour representation of the time--leaving it up to the wearer to
understand which half of the day thay are in.
Why does the date sometimes drop 1, 2, or 3 days behind or show the 31st when it is actually the 1st?
As mentioned above, most mechanical calendar watches take a very simplistic approach to handling the date.
This is because the modern Gregorian-based calendar follows somewhat complex rules. While the rules
are simple for a digital watch to handle, they get very complex to execute in a tiny mechanical device. Most
particularly complicated is that correct computation of the number of days in each month requires the watch to
keep track of not only the current date, but also the month and year.
A conventional calendar watch is mechanically very simple--it takes the elementary approach that ALL
months are 31 days. The watch simply rolls the date forward by one every other time the hands pass forward
across 12:00. The date goes up to 31 then restarts at 1. They are not aware of any concepts of month,
year, decade or century.
The only down side to this greatly simplified approach is that five times a year, you have to manually
roll the date forward to correct for this. In addition to the normally short month of February, there are four
months of the year that have only 30 days: April, June, September and November. So on the 1st day of the
following months, you will have to advance the date by one so your watch will correctly display the 1st.
The "perpetual calendar" watches that do handle this are much more cumbersome to set. They have to
understand not only the day but also the month and the year. Making a mechanism that can not only do that
but can be changed and reset when needed is pretty intricate. Since it is FAR simpler to merely correct
the date five times a year, few manufacturers bother to add the expense of such a feature to their watches.
Digital watches have no problem with the number of days in a month because they can easily set and
track both the month and day.
Why is my "sweep second hand" actually moving in small jumps?
That is the way is it supposed to work. The 'sweep' motion of a mechanical watch movement's second
hand is not like the sweep of the second hand on an electric clock. Depending on the 'beat' rate of the
mechanical watch movement, the second hand typically moves 5 or 8 times in a second. That is
considered 'sweep' in a mechanical watch movement.
Due to the "persistence of vision," the limit of human perception is about 18 movements per second.
That's why early movies from around 1900-1920 which were shot at 16 frames-per-second look jumpy, but
modern film (24 frames/sec) and TV (30 unique frames/sec in the NTSC format used USA & Japan) give the
appearance of continious motion.
So the 'sweep' action of 5 to 8 movements/second looks somewhat, but not perfectly smooth and continious.
My mechanical or automatic watch is off a few seconds per day, how can get better accuracy?
Keep in mind that because of gravity, a mechanical watch runs a little differently in different positions.
Also remember that each time you open a diver's watch or other watch with water-resistance, you have
to have the whole thing pressure tested again to make sure the water-resistant seals were put back right.
So it is best to avoid unnecessary opening of the case to have a watchmaker regulate the watch!
If your watch is a Chronometer and is off by over 10 seconds per day, it may be is worth having a watchmaker
adjust it. But if your watch is only off by a few seconds per day, try the following method of compensating for it.
Before you go to bed, check the accuracy of your watch against a reliable time source. Write the information
down, then place your watch on the nightstand and go to sleep. When you wake up, measure the accuracy again,
write it down, and put the watch on. For the next several days, keep doing the same thing except put the watch
in a different position each night. Try face up, face down, crown up, crown down, 12 o'clock high, and 6 o'clock high.
After you have tried all the positions, you will have a list showing exactly how much your watch gets off during
the day AND how much it gains or loses in each possible position at night. Find the position to keep it at night that
does the most to cancel out the variation the watch experiences during the day.
For example: If your watch loses 5 seconds while being worn during the day, try to find a position in which
the watch gains about 5 seconds overnight. That way, by simply knowing which position to put your watch in on
the nightstand while you sleep--you may be able to cancel out the daily variations and have a very accurate watch!
Why don't identical watches/movements run exactly the same?
Given two identical mechanical watches, or watches with the exact same mechanical watch
movement inside, it would seem that the accuracy and performance under different positions
should be the same--but they will not be. Each may be noticably different in their performance.
These are mechanical devices, built to exacting tolerances finer than 1/100ths of an inch.
Even virtually imperceptible variations in alignment in such tiny parts can make a difference.
That plus exact levels of lubrication and wear patterns as the movement settles in are enough
to make the exact operation of each 'identical' movement slightly different.
Consider, each mechanical movement is counting out 672,000 beats per day. If one or more
miniscule variations in wear, alignment or lubrication makes a 0.00001 (one hundredth of a percent)
difference, that will throw the watch off by 8 beats a day--or a difference of 1 second. So
over relatively short periods of time, even miniscule variations are amplified into discernable
variations in the accuracy.
That's why all movements have what is effectively a universal compensator--the big regulation
screw that adjusts the base speed of the movement. That single feature allows the overall
regulation to compensate for a multitude of these extremely minor variances in tolerances and
performance, allowing you to have a coin-sized mechanical device on your wrist that can even
attempt to compare decently to the accuracy of million-dollar atomic clocks!