Professional Jeweler Archive: Time Stands Still

May 2000

Timepieces: Education & Repair

Time Stands Still

You’ve replaced the battery and the watch still doesn’t run. Here’s how to find and solve the problem

Let’s test your sleuthing skills and find out why a watch doesn’t run even with a new battery. The problem-solving approach differs depending whether you have a quartz analog watch or a digital. Here are some guidelines.

Diagnosing the Problem: Quartz

You can determine the problem without opening the watch case by using an electronic quartz watch analyzer. These cost $90-$400 and are available from watch supply companies.

You also should know how to detect problems manually in case you don’t have an analyzer and your store doesn’t plan to buy one.

The most common problem – after dead batteries – occurs when the second hand jumps back and forth but doesn’t advance. The new battery is trying to drive the watch, but the gears are blocked. This is a sure sign the watch needs to be cleaned. The inside of the watch can be contaminated because of a leaky gasket, cracked crystal or dried lubricant. (Always clean away any contaminants when replacing the battery.)

The solution is to remove the case back and clean the inside with compressed air. Keep the air from the coil (brass-colored wound wire). If the problem persists, refer it to your watchmaker or repair service.

Diagnosing the Problem: Digital

If the watch is digital, you have only a few options (after replacing the battery), and all require the services of a professional watch repairer:

  • If the watch runs but you can’t set the time or change functions, the buttons may be filled with dirt and must be disassembled, cleaned and lubricated. If the contact switches the buttons actuate are corroded, they must be derusted or replaced.
  • If the watch doesn’t run, there are several possibilities. The AC must be cleared (see Professional Jeweler, March 1999, p. 85) or the battery controls or internal contacts must be cleaned. Sometimes the electronic circuit deteriorates, so the circuit or even the entire movement must be replaced.

Setting the Watch: Analog

Set the time and date before returning the watch. It’s another attention to detail the customer will appreciate. If the watch has an hour and minute hand (or second hand), simply pull out the crown and turn it to set the hands. If you can’t pull out the crown, don’t grab it with pliers. The stem is likely rusted and/or the crown is so packed with dirt it won’t move. Refer this to your watch repairer.

Many water-resistant sport watches have a screwdown crown. Unscrew the crown before setting the time.

If the watch has a calendar, it probably has a two-position stem. Pull the crown to the first click to activate the calendar setting. Pull to the second click to set the hands.

If the watch has a day/date feature, turn the crown in one direction to change the date, the opposite direction to change the day. With an older watch, you may have to use the first position to change the date, but you must run the hands manually around the dial a full 24 hours to change the day. Some older models require you to turn the hands to change the date and the day.

One very important point when setting an analog watch with a day or date: Turn the hands around the dial until the calendar changes. This establishes midnight for the watch. Then count each hour to set the hands to the correct time. Noon is 12 hours past midnight. To set for 2 p.m., for example, turn the hands past midnight, watch the date change, continue 12 more revolutions to noon and then on to 2 o’clock.

It seems simple, but customers often don’t know how to set their watches. Your expertise in this simple procedure can establish their trust in you.

Setting the Watch: Digital

Digital watches can be difficult to set. In general, look for the “mode” button, push it two or three times in succession and continue to hold down the same button.

The watch is ready to set when the digits on the face start to flash. Usually the hours flash first. Push one of the other buttons (often noted as “set”) to set the current hour. When the hour is set, push the original “mode” button and the minutes flash. Follow the same procedure for the month, date and day.

Digital watch-setting procedures have many variations. If you’re not familiar with setting the watch, contact the supplier, your repair shop or the nearest watchmaker.

– by David A. Christianson, Certified Master Watchmaker

David Christianson is fourth-generation owner of Christianson Jewelry, Kendallville, IN. He is president of the American Watchmakers Institute, a certified master watchmaker and a fellow of the British Horological Society. He discusses watch repair for the sales staff in this column each month. Send questions, suggestions and comments to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102;

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