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How to set the time on a mechanical automatic watch safely

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This is how to set the time on an automatic watch safely so you don't unintentionally break anything.

These instructions apply to any mechanical automatic (or hand-wind) watch that has a date or day-date function.

While these instructions are very simple, believe me when I say that if you always set the time in the way I describe below, you greatly minimize the risk of breaking your watch.

This is the process, and it must be done in order:

Step 1: Make sure the watch has charge, meaning the seconds are ticking. If you can manually wind the watch, wind it fully. If your watch has no manual winding, shake it back and forth gently for about 1 minute and that will give it enough charge so the seconds start ticking.

Step 2: Pull out the crown and start turning to set the time until the date clicks over at midnight. After that, keep turning until the watch reads 2pm. Yes, this means turning the crown to midnight until the date changes, then keep going until you pass 12 o'clock again and then to 2 o'clock.

Step 3. Set the date (and day if present) to yesterday. For example, if the date is THU 3, set to WED 2.

Step 4. Set the time again to the current time. You will turn until the date clicks over to today, then set the time, and the time and date will match appropriately.

Why do this?

The specific reason to do this is to avoid damaging the date complication.

Ordinarily, what most people will do is take off their watch, leave it sit for a while and it loses all its charge. The mistake is made is when they put the watch back on, give it charge and then immediately set the time and date. This is a mistake because more often than not, the watch ran out of charge right when the date was changing, as that requires more spring power compared to just running the time. As a result, when you set the date, it's all too easy to strip a gear or damage some other part of the date complication.

Setting the day and date when the time is set to 2pm is much, much safer because it is nowhere even close to when the watch changes the date. On cheaper day-date mechanical watches, the date changes at midnight and the day changes at about 4am. On expensive day-date watches, both the date and day change at midnight. Regardless of what type of automatic watch you have, when the date and day are changed at 2pm, no stress occurs on the date complication at that specific time.

Again, if you charge the watch first, set time to 2pm second, set the date and day to yesterday third, then set the current time, date and day last, that is by far the easiest way to keep your watch running longer and avoids damaging the date complication 100%.

Published 2022 Mar 3

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