Causes of Automatic Watch Running Fast or Slow
An automatic watch works through the kinetic energy produced by your wrist movements. This could lead to the watch running faster or slower eventually. There are a few explanations for this. It could be because of a lack of movement or a worn-out mainspring.
Let’s look at the triggers of an automatic watch running fast or slow:
Incorrectly adjusted balance wheel
The balance wheel, also known as an “oscillating weight“, regulates the rate of a watch’s movement. If it’s not adjusted correctly, your watch can run too quickly or too slowly.
To adjust the balance wheel, you must gently bend the spokes around it. This is a tricky process and should be done by an experienced watchmaker. A professional can also clean and lubricate any parts related to the balance wheel’s operation for better performance.
Incorrectly adjusted hairspring
A hairspring is an important part of an automatic watch. It has a big impact on accuracy. If a watch runs slow or fast, it may be because the hairspring is not adjusted properly. So, adjusting the hairspring can help improve accuracy.
The hairspring consists of two coils. They act like a spring and become tense when movement or another force is applied. When the winding stem and rotor (a weighted wheel attached to a wheel that winds up the mainspring) work together, they generate tension. This tension causes the hairspring to move back and forth. The more energy generated, the more tension on the hairspring. This brings greater accuracy of timekeeping.
For an automatic watch to run accurately, its hairspring must be correctly set according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If it is not set properly, it can cause the watch to run slow or fast. It needs to be adjusted by a professional who understands how it works and can get it to function at its best.
Incorrectly adjusted escapement
Escapement adjustment gone wrong? Your automatic watch could be running either too fast or too slow. The escapement regulates the energy from the mainspring, and is made of components like the balance wheel, pallet fork, and escape wheel. If these are not perfectly aligned, you’ll experience an incorrect speed control.
Make sure to care for and service your watch regularly, so it doesn’t get damaged from long periods of inactivity.
Dirty or worn out components
The most probable reason why a watch runs fast or slow is a worn or dirty tooth on one of the wheel trains. Even minor irregularities in the wheel train can alter amplitude and cause accuracy problems.
The wheel train includes components such as escapement, balance wheel, and mainspring. Extreme wear or dirt particles stuck between teeth can affect accuracy.
In some cases, it’s necessary to check the watch bearings – small pieces of metal that link middle wheel and escape wheel gears. If these parts become stuck, they can cause the watch to speed up or slow down.
Corrosion on components that involve motion, e.g. fork followers and reversing wheels, can also affect accuracy. Lastly, check if the hands are taught enough, so the friction doesn’t slow down the movement.
How to Diagnose Automatic Watch Running Fast or Slow
Do you think your automatic watch is running too fast or too slow? If so, there could be a few explanations. Here’s how to figure out what’s causing the issue.
- Diagnose if your automatic watch is too fast or too slow. That way, you can decide what needs to be done.
Check the accuracy of the watch
A watchmaker assesses if an automatic watch runs fast or slow with a timing machine. It compares the watch rate to the manufacturer’s specs. The machine can measure up to 1/10th of a second.
An oscilloscope is another tool used. It captures and measures the watch’s pulses over time. It shows any variance, helping the watchmaker detect where adjustments are needed.
Regulating screws can also be adjusted if necessary. These can initialize or stop the watch rate. Modern watches have tiny screws that need a professional repairman to adjust them accurately.
Inspect the balance wheel and hairspring
Inspecting the balance wheel and hairspring is a good way to begin troubleshooting if an automatic watch is running too fast or too slow. The balance wheel controls the energy flow of the quartz movement, so it can be checked for signs of wear or damage. An experienced watchmaker or technician can use a loupe to inspect it. It may need resetting or balancing, or other service might be needed.
The hairspring is the spring of the quartz movement and regulates energy flow. It must have the correct tension to stay within its range for accurate time. A qualified watchmaker can measure and adjust it, if required. Too little tension can mean the watch is running too quickly or too slowly due to worn parts or poor lubrication.
Check the escapement for wear and tear
The escapement’s purpose is to control the balance wheel’s power for an automatic watch. To check the watch for wear, inspect the escapement cautiously. It’s very fragile.
Look at the gears and moving parts with a magnifying glass or microscope. If any appear worn or chipped, the watch could be running faster or slower. Also, if they’re dirty or corroded, they won’t work properly. Cleaning and lubricating may help.
If there’s no wear and tear, test their function by rotating them while still connected to their spring. Observe their movement in response. If they don’t move as expected, they need replacement or adjustment to restore accuracy.
Check the power reserve
To diagnose if an automatic watch is running too fast or too slow, check the power reserve–the amount of energy left. Low power reserve can lead to a slower watch. Too much energy can cause it to run faster.
Wind it up, then leave it for 24 hours. Shake it gently. If there’s resistance, it has a rechargeable power source. Little resistance indicates low energy storage, running too slow.
If it’s due to an empty mainspring or excessive tension, take it apart and adjust the movement. This must be done by a professional to avoid damaging the crystal glass or internal gears.
How to Fix Automatic Watch Running Fast or Slow
Automatic watches are precise and accurate, however, they can have problems. After a long period of use, it could start running too quickly or slowly. There are many reasons for this, so it is critical to identify the issue before trying to resolve it.
This guide will show you how to fix an automatic watch running fast or slow:
Clean the components
Cleaning watch components is an easy task when fixing an automatic watch. First, use a case opener tool to remove the case back from the watch. Then, brush away any dirt or dust inside the case. Wipe each component, like the balance wheel, mainspring barrel, and pallet fork, with a soft cloth. Focus on any debris around delicate parts, such as the escape wheel and pallet stones.
When you finish cleaning the components, reassemble your watch or take it to a professional watchmaker for inspection.
Adjust the balance wheel
The balance wheel is a part of the watch. It oscillates and regulates the speed. Adjusting it can fix running issues in an automatic watch. Before doing so, check that your watch’s movement and spring are good.
Carefully turn your watch over. The balance wheel is usually on the bottom side of a manual-wind movement, or slightly above center on some automatic movements. Handle all parts gently – they can break easily.
The gold-colored part around the balance wheel is called a regulator index. With a thin screwdriver, unscrew or tighten it depending on whether you want the watch to go faster or slower. Test it with a timing machine to get the accuracy you need. Check it against an atomic clock to make sure it works well. Repeat the steps if accuracy isn’t reached:
- Unscrew or tighten the regulator index.
- Test it with a timing machine.
- Check it against an atomic clock.
Adjust the hairspring
The hairspring of a watch is its main time-keeping source. Improper adjustment can affect accuracy. To adjust it, you need tools:
- A screwdriver
- Oil spatula
- Watchmaker’s caliper
Use the screwdriver to loosen the regulator screws on the dial side, keeping the watch still. Grab one end of the hairspring firmly with tweezers and pull it gently away from its center. Make sure it’s tight against the center.
Extend the spring fully. With an oil spatula, move your finger in circles along the spring until you reach two thirds of its full extension. Use the watchmaker’s caliper to note the time taken for each rotation.
Carefully move your finger back along the coil length with an oil spatula, till it’s set at half extension. This should be done precisely. Attach it firmly into its original position using tweezers.
If done right, this should regulate the timekeeping on your automatic watch, and stop it from running too fast or slow.
Adjust the escapement
The escapement is an important part of a mechanical watch. It regulates and distributes power from the mainspring. If the watch runs too fast or too slow, it might mean the escapement isn’t functioning well.
An adjustment to the escapement may be needed if your automatic watch starts running fast or slow. Here are the steps:
- Turn the handset counterclockwise until it can’t move any further.
- Find the loupe screw on either side of the winding stem. Turn it clockwise with mild pressure. Don’t turn it too much or it will damage your watch.
- Gently pull out the gear until you feel no resistance. Don’t pull too hard or too fast.
- Put moderate pressure on the hole where you pulled out the gear. Then, use a small flat-head jeweler’s screwdriver to turn the screw clockwise. Don’t apply too much pressure or it will scratch the internal parts.
- Alternate between turning each side two or three times until you get the desired accuracy. This will help ensure your watch works properly.
Analysis of the watch showed it was running too fast. Possible causes: worn escapement wheel, malfunctioning escapement wheel, or incorrect balance wheel timing. It’s essential to identify the cause before attempting repair.
This part focuses on repairing the watch once the cause is known.
Summary of causes and solutions
Automatic watches can have too much running time or totally stop. This is caused by a range of factors like inadequate servicing or wear and tear. To discover the cause, try these steps:
- Mostly, a mainspring incorrectly adjusted causes too-fast running time. However, other reasons may be a worn hairspring, balance wheel arms fatigue, or faulty stem setting levers.
- To prevent these problems from getting worse, service your watch regularly. Ask your local watch specialist if your watch has abnormal behavior.
- If needed, replace parts that have been worn. Do this carefully, with advice from a professional.
To keep an automatic watch in perfect condition, get regular maintenance and professional care. With consistent inspections and adjustments, accurate timing can be achieved!
Tips for maintaining your automatic watch
Maintaining an automatic watch is important. Here are tips to keep it in top condition:
- Store it in a dry place with minimal temperature swings.
- Keep away from extreme heat, liquids and vibrations.
- Keep away from strong magnetic fields.
- Have any repairs done ASAP.
- Brush off dirt or dust before taking it in excessive heat.
- Use mild solutions when cleaning by hand.
- Submerge only in cold water.
- Don’t open casings at home; it may cause damage. Take it to a qualified technician for repair.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What causes an automatic watch to run fast or slow?
A: An automatic watch can run either fast or slow depending on a few factors. The main factor is the accuracy of the movement. An automatic watch can also run fast or slow due to the mainspring being too tight or too loose, the watch being magnetized, or the watch not being serviced regularly.
Q: How do I know if my automatic watch is running too fast or slow?
A: You can tell if your automatic watch is running too fast or slow by comparing it to an accurate time source. If your watch is running more than 5 minutes faster or slower than the accurate time source, then it is running too fast or slow.
Q: How can I fix an automatic watch that is running too fast or slow?
A: The best way to fix an automatic watch that is running too fast or slow is to have it serviced by a professional watchmaker. If the watch is running slow, they may need to adjust the mainspring tension or replace the movement altogether. If the watch is running too fast, they may need to adjust the balance wheel or replace the movement.