Remember The Gremlins? I am a child of the 80’s, so The Gremlins certainly played a vital role in my childhood. Remember the rule about the Mogwai – never feed them after midnight? Well, believe it or not, the same rule applies to mechanical watches. Sort of.
Have you ever read the instruction manual that came with your automatic watch? I know, only a total watch geek would ever read that. Guilty as charged. But humour me for a few minutes and take it out, please. Somewhere in there, you will see a chapter or paragraph on “setting the day and/or date.” Check it out. The manual probably warns you NOT to set the day/date when the WATCH time is between two specified times. For example, my Hamilton and Oris watches’ manuals warn against adjusting the day/date when the watch is between the hours of 22:00 and 2:00. Apparently, the day/date mechanism is “activated” between these hours and a rapid adjustment of the day/date could damage or break the mechanism. Other watch manuals suggest not to set the date between the hours of 8:00 pm and 8:00 am. I think the general rule of thumb is to never set the date between the hours of 8:00 pm and 8:00 am and, to be even safer, make sure the hands are pointing away from 12:00 when setting (i.e. set the watch to 6:30 pm when adjusting the date).
Here is my method of starting up an automatic watch (in the morning) after it’s been sitting for a while. First, I advance the time past 12:00 to determine whether the watch is on AM or PM. I then adjust it to about 5:30 pm and set the date to the previous day’s date. Then, I advance the time past 12:00 and the watch will switch to AM and the date will now read today’s date. Next, I wind the watch 10-12 turns manually to get the movement running. Finally, I stop the second hand at 12:00 and then synchronize the time precisely to my cell phone. I actually set the watch ahead or behind the actual time depending on whether the particular watch runs fast or slow.
This is one “rule” of mechanical watches. But there are others. I am NOT a technical expert. I am NOT a watchmaker. I have NEVER worked on a watch movement. I do NOT fully understand the inner workings of a mechanical movement. But I read regularly on the subject and often discuss such matters with dealers, salespeople, watch connoisseurs, and watch collectors. Here are a few “rules” I have learned. Please, if you would like to add something, or correct something, post a comment. These are things I have read or heard, but there may not be totally accurate. Therefore, feel free to chime in.
Never adjust the time “backwards” (i.e. counter-clockwise)
Apparently, this can “force” the mechanism of a watch movement and cause wear or damage.
Always re-start by manually winding it, not by shaking it or wearing it for a while
Several sales reps have explained this to me. It seems that the manual-winding mechanism can seize up if not used regularly. As well, it is somehow “better” for the movement not to always run with a very low power reserve. Therefore, it’s safer to crank it up manually each time you re-start it.
Don’t swim with your watch unless it was recently serviced
You know that diving watch you got as a graduation gift? Have you ever had it serviced? The water seals actually wear out over time and need to be replaced. If the watch was never serviced, or not serviced in the last few years, it might not actually be able to withstand your typical 300M dive.
Avoid strong magnetic fields
Doctors have told me that magnetic fields from their equipment have actually magnetized their watches, causing them to run slowly and with poor power reserve.
These are some of the “rules” I have learned over the years. Have I missed anything? For sure, if you spend a chunk of money on a fine timepiece, you want to care for it properly and make sure it runs and lasts for a long time. And remember – never feed them after midnight…