How to set the time and date on a mechanical watch

It’s going to seem silly to you, but when you want to adjust the time and date of a mechanical (or automatic) watch, you have to do it with great care and bearing in mind that we can damage the mechanism of the watch if we do it wrong…

The best advice we can give you is to read the instructions for your watch as soon as you buy it: don’t assume that they all work the same.

And you have to be very careful if your mechanical watch shows you the date and the day of the week on its dial. Be very careful with this type of watch with these complications, that you can load the movement of the watch.

  • As a general rule, never change the date or the day of the week when the hour hand is between 9 pm and 3 am. The clock doesn’t care what the real-time is. It is the time that the clock shows that you have to care about.

An example? You haven’t worn your automatic Seiko SNZG15K1 watch for many days, one of the most popular the Japanese brand for its military aesthetics, its low price, and good quality, and you find the watch as follows:

Question: Can you change the date and day of the watch with the hour hand in that position? NO. NO. NO. You can load the movement and the date change can stop working (due to the friction of certain gears that start up at a certain time interval every day).

change time in a mechanical watch
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As each caliber has different specifications, we recommend that you read the instructions of the watch as soon as you buy it.

As a general rule, it is often said that the date should not be changed between 9 pm and 3 am, but there are some watches, such as some of the Nomos brands with caliber DUW 6101, that have a very short date change restriction: only you should avoid changing it between 11:15 pm and 00:45 am.

We repeat: it depends a lot on the watch and the manufacturer. Check it out.

Does all this mean that if you make a mistake you are going to load the mechanism? Well, it depends on the watch… Seiko is usually quite tough, and the same thing happens with these Nomos models. But better not risk it.

Safe procedure for changing the date and day on mechanical (or automatic) watches

  1. Set the hands of the clock to 6:30 before changing the date and the day of the week: in this position, there is no doubt… You will not break anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s AM or PM. You will always avoid the danger zone. And it is easy to remember the position.
  2. When you have put your hands in that position, move the crown to the point that allows you to change the date and day of the week. One will be changed by turning the crown clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

You do not have to enter the day of the week and the date you are in… you have to enter the previous day and then go back to the time change by pulling the crown out to the correct position, and moving the hands forward until the change occurs. change of day at 12 at night. This way you know you are setting the correct time (AM or PM).

This is because a watch with a day and/or date function measures time in 24-hour increments, both AM and PM, so the day and date wheel will not change at 12:00.

This way you will know that you are setting the correct time, and you will see how the clock changes the date to which you want to set.

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I have already set the hands of the clock to approximately 6:30. I am sure that I am not going to kill any clock mechanism by changing the date and day.

Safe procedure for changing the date and day on mechanical (or automatic) watches

Now I put the crown back in position to change the date to the day before the one I want to set. Today is September 14, 2022, Wednesday: I have to put September 13, Tuesday.

Since I set it the day before, I put the crown back in position to change the time. I turn the hands clockwise until the date change occurs at 12:00 in the morning. So I am sure to find myself in AM or PM on a mechanical watch.

A few questions about mechanical watches that you may have and their answers

Can you break your automatic mechanical watch by moving the hands counterclockwise? 

Well, it depends on the caliber. Better to always do it in the right direction. The instructions should state if you can do it the other way around.

Do the date and day of the week change at the same time on mechanical watches? 

Maybe yes, or maybe not. Namely. Normally it changes the date and then the day or vice versa, at an interval of about 5 minutes after midnight. It will depend a lot on the caliber. It does not mean that the watch has been damaged. On more expensive watches they may change at the same time.

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Can you overwind an automatic watch? 

Never. The automatic mechanism is independent of the rest of the movement. You can wind your automatic watch as much as you want. Normally 30 or 40 laps is more than enough for the power reserve to be “full”.

How can you know that the mechanism that moves the date and the day of the week of your watch has broken? 

Easy. It stops giving the correct date and if you have a fast date forward, this option stops working. If the watch changes the date and day at 12 o’clock in the morning, the movement works correctly.

Don’t worry. You may have changed the date at the moment of danger, but the caliber has resisted like a champion. Many watch brands already put security mechanisms in place to avoid this kind of thing… but others don’t.

Does it seem that your automatic watch does not work? 

Wind it up or put it on your wrist for a bit so the movement builds up. You will have run out of power reserve. Do not think that it has been completely broken. Give him an opportunity.

Does your mechanical watch advance the time a lot (5 minutes per hour or more)? 

It is possible that it has been affected by a magnetic field and that you have to demagnetize it. We tell you about it How to fix a magnetized mechanical watch.

Has your watch dropped to the ground and stopped working? 

God… how disgusting. With total probability, something has broken or misplaced in the movement of the watch. You will have to take the watch to your watchmaker.

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Is your clock losing or gaining many seconds? 

In this case, many things can happen.

  • It may not have enough power reserve: put it on more or wind it up to fix it.
  • The watch is in low temperatures or in high temperatures. More than 38ºC or less than 10ºC are not good temperatures for a mechanical watch. The metal of the inner mechanism may expand or contract and cause it to not tell the time accurately.
  • The position of the watch also affects how accurately it tells the time. See how you leave it when you take it off and change the position to know which one suits you best.
  • Your watch hasn’t set foot in a watchmaker for many years. It is possible that the oils have disappeared and that the gears are not quite well placed… Check it out.

What is the normal precision of a mechanical watch? 

It cannot be compared to that quartz watches, but it will depend a lot on the model. COSC-certified watches are the most accurate in the world in this range.

They can work in a range between -4 and +6 seconds per day. A normal range of accuracy is generally considered to be +/- 25 seconds per day. Everything will depend on what the watch cost you (normally).

The more expensive it is… the more we are going to demand.

More details of the process that COSC watches have to go through:

  • The chronometric certification of mechanical wristwatches is based on 7 criteria established by the ISO 3159 standard, which must be fully met.
  • The chronometric certification of quartz watches, mechanical pocket watches, or fixed timekeeping mechanical devices is based on internal requirements inspired by the ISO 3159 standard but adapted to the specificities of the instruments.
  • Each piece is examined daily for 14 to 20 days, depending on the type of instrument.
  • The certificate means that ALL instruments are handled by agents of the COSC, a neutral and independent body.

Conclusion: How to set the time and date on a mechanical watch

Something as simple as setting your mechanical watch on time… can be fatal for your watch if you do it at a certain time. Be very careful. You must always read the instructions on the watch and follow the advice we have given you to change the date and day. Treat it with love.

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