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First, it is a good idea that you remove the watch from your wrist before winding or setting. This will make the job much easier and also ensure that no arm hair or clothing threads get tangled in the winding mechanism. It is best to wind and set the watch while holding it over a cushioned area in case the watch slips from your hands. You would be amazed at how many of our watch restorations come back for service because the owner dropped the watch on a tile floor when winding or setting. Don’t let this happen to you!
A few words on “over-winding”: There is a misconception that you can “over wind” a watch. What is happening when a watch seems “over wound” is that a fully wound watch will stay that way because the watch has stopped running for some unrelated reason such as the watch needs cleaning or has a broken balance staff. The stopped operation of a fully wound watch is not caused by the actual winding of the watch but is the result of the watch not being able to unwind through it’s normal function of operation due to another problem.
The Watch Crown: Most mechanical wristwatches are wound and set by using the “winding crown” normally located on the side of the case at the 3:00 position. The crown turns clockwise and counter-clockwise to allow you to wind the watch or change the time forward or backward. The crown may also be used to change the calendar or advance a moonphase function if your watch has one. The crown has multiple (2 or 3) “click” modes relative to how far it is pulled away from the case as follows:
Winding a Mechanical Watch: When the crown is in the normal or Winding Mode position it is pressed in towards the case. In this Winding Mode the crown can be turned clockwise to wind the mainspring of the watch which gives it power to run. Turning the crown counter-clockwise will not wind or unwind the mainspring but some people prefer to use a back and forth motion when winding. There is a misconception that turning the crown counter-clockwise harms the watch but this is false. Wind the watch in the manner that is most comfortable for you. Wind the watch slowly and carefully and feel for the full resistance that will come when the watch mainspring is completely wound. For manual wind watches you will feel tension and no longer be able to wind any further when the watch is completely wound. Once the watch is fully wound do not try to wind it any further. If the watch winds and winds without resulting in complete resistance either there is a problem like a broken mainspring or perhaps the watch has an automatic wind movement.
Time Setting Mode: (1st click) When the crown is pulled out and away from the case you will hear/feel a single click. The watch is now in Time Setting Mode and the crown can be turned clockwise to advance the time or counter-clockwise to turn the time backward. Once in the Time Setting Mode, simply turn the crown until you reach the correct time and then press the crown back into the normal Winding Mode when complete.
Setting the Day and Date: Some wristwatches have a day or day/date aperture and the day or date can be changed while in one of the setting modes. There are several variations on day / date setting depending on manufacturer and specific watch model. You will need to experiment with the various methods discussed below in order to find out how to best set the day and date on your mechanical vintage watch.
Setting the day or date while in Time Setting Mode: (1st click) For all model watches when the watch is in Time Setting Mode you simply advance the time past midnight and the day/date will advance. On some models you can change the time back and forth from between 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM in order to advance the day or day/date more quickly than advancing the time ahead by 24 hours. On some model watches moving the time backwards will also move the day or date backwards but on some models it will not.
Quickset Setting Mode: (2nd click) On some models which have a “quickset” feature you can quickly change the day and date by using an additional day/date Quickset Setting Mode. This setting mode is activated when the crown is pulled out and away from the case with two clicks. Again, the first click puts the watch in Time Setting Mode but if your watch has a quickset feature the crown will pull out a 2nd click into a Quickset Setting Mode which will allow you to quickly change the day and/or date. When you reach the Quickset Setting Mode, simply turn the crown clockwise or counter-clockwise to change the day and date without interrupting the time. On some models the day will change when the crown is turned in one direction while the date will change when the crown is turned in the opposite direction. On some Omega watches the day or date will change as the crown is pulled out on the 2nd click and the crown does not require turning. Take care not to pull out on the crown too hard. On some Benrus date hand calendar watches the date is changed when the crown is pushed in past the normal Winding Mode.
Pusher Day Date setting Mode: Another way some wristwatches allow you to change the day or date is by a recessed pusher on the side of the case. A special pin pusher tool or a paper clip if small enough can be used to depress the pusher and advance the day or date without disrupting the time. On some vintage complications this type of pusher also controls the moonphase or tidal indicator on moonphase or solunar watches respectively. It is important to mention that you should not depress these pushers when the time on the watch is near midnight as the gear train is activated to control these features and the pusher will conflict with the operation of the watch. Always set the time to noon before activating any day, date, moonphase or solunar pin pusher.
It is always best to wind your watch fully at about the same time every day. This trains the mainspring for optimum operation. For most people the best way to accomplish this is to wind the watch fully when it is put on their wrist in the morning. A properly operating manual wind mechanical watch should run on a full wind for at least 36 hours. However, don’t wait until it winds down. Wind it at about the same time each day for proper operation. There is a misconception that you can “overwind” a watch. In reality what is happening when a watch seems “overwound” is that the watch is fully wound and will stay that way because the watch has stopped running for some other reason such as the watch is broken or needs cleaning. These problems are not caused by the actual winding of the watch but are the result of the watch not being able to unwind through it’s normal function of timekeeping. If your watch will be unused for several months it is still a good idea to wind it periodically. This makes sure that the oil inside is not stationary and allowed to set. Wind it, and check it the next day for accuracy. If you notice any change in timekeeping then the watch should be inspected by a knowledgeable watchmaker who is well versed in mechanical timepieces.
A watch winder is a device that holds one or more wristwatches and rotates them so that the automatic wind function of each watch is engaged to keep the watches running and keeping time. Some people have several vintage watches with self-winding movements and for convenience they use an automatic winder to keep the watches powered, running and ready to wear with the correct time at a moments notice. While certainly convenient is not completely necessary to use a winder if you do not want to incur the expense of owning one. Without a watch winder you will need to set your watch each time you wear it if it has lost power due to inactivity. If you are concerned about watches sitting idle for a long periods of time make sure to occasionally give the unused watches a shake for 30 or more seconds to operate the watch so that the oil inside is not stationary and allowed to set.
Automatic watches are designed to wind by the motion of the user. A weighted rotor inside the watch moves as the user moves and this motion is transferred to the mainspring to wind the watch and give it power. On most self-winding watches the crown also can be used to wind the mainspring. When winding by the crown there is a risk of unnecessary wear therefore excessive winding by the crown should be avoided. That does not mean that you should never use the crown to wind the watch. What I recommend is that when an automatic watch is completely “unwound” and has no available power the user should wind by the crown 2 or 3 revolutions to help to “jump start” the watch immediately before usage. With this jump start there is less of a chance that the watch will lose all available power during the first few hours of usage due to low activity. If the watch is running properly and is used daily by a user with average activity the watch should be able to continually be powered by motion alone. Thereafter, the crown should only be used to wind the watch by the “jump start” method above after the watch completely loses power due to reasons of inactivity.
Most chronograph watches have one or two side pushers to control the recorder (often called “stop watch” or “chronograph” mechanism). There is some variation for which pushers are used to start, stop, pause and reset the chronograph functions depending on the movement manufacturer and specific movement model. For example on most vintage chronograph watches the top pusher starts the chronograph but on Movado 90 and 95M it’ s the bottom pusher that starts the operation. On most chronograph watches the start and stop pusher are the same pusher but on others they are not. The following instructions detail how most vintage chronograph watches operate but experiment with yours to better understand how yours operates or email us with questions.
Start/Stop Pusher: The top pusher on most models is used to start and stop the chronograph function. When the chronograph is starting from zero and this pusher is pressed the chronograph functions are activated. The center chronograph hand will begin to advance and will complete one revolution around the dial in 60 seconds if it’s left uninterrupted. Once this hand makes a complete revolution around the dial the minute counter (normally at the 3:00 location for pre-1970 manual wind chronograph watches) will advance by 1. Minutes will continue to count in the minute counter and if your watch has an hour recorder (normally at the 6:00 position) this will advance after 60 minutes have elapsed.
Besides counting seconds, minutes and hours the chronograph can be used to calculate many things depending on which “scales” or “tracks” are printed on the dial. For example, some chronographs can calculate the speed of an object (tachymeter scale) or the distance of an object (telemeter scale). These were commonly used by the military to help with aviation and artillery. Others dials have a pulsations scale to allow doctors and nurses to calculate pulse rates. There are many more examples. These calculations typically require the chronograph to be started at one event and stopped at another event. On most chronograph watches the top pusher is used to start and stop the chronograph in order to use the dial scale to calculate the event.
For example, a typical military range finder application for the telemeter scale would be to start the chronograph when visually observing a fired shell explode near it’s intended target and then stop the chronograph when the blast was heard. By using the speed of sound the chronograph scale would calculate the approximate distance to the object and targeting adjustments could then be made with this information.
Reset Pusher: On most chronograph watches the bottom pusher is used to reset the counters. In order to reset the chronograph to start a new counting operation or calculation the chronograph should be reset but only from the stopped position. Once you are sure that the chronograph is in the stopped position the reset pusher will reset all counters to zero (up position). Pressing the reset pusher while the chronograph is running may damage your chronograph!