What Does Hacking Mean in a Watch?

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Watches these days have tons of unique features, and these features are getting better and more advanced with each passing day. Many people are still unaware that there are watches that allow you to set the second hand; in short, the process is called hacking.

Normally, setting the hour and minute hand is possible, but not the second hand. With hacking, your watch is essentially much more accurate, which is important especially for people whose occupations require them to keep accurate time, such as pilots and medical professionals.

What Is Back Hacking?

Back hacking is the term used for being able to stop the movement of the watch at will. Hack watches are mechanical watches that have a mechanism that allows you to stop and set the second hand. Afterwards, you can restart the watch at the exact moment it matches a timepiece that you have set it up against.

In other words, if you have a timepiece that you know is 100% accurate and you want your hack watch to match that particular timepiece, you can hack your watch and then reset it so that the two timepieces match perfectly. Watch hacking is an excellent way to make sure that your watch is as accurate as possible from that point forward.

People in certain occupations use hack watches. For instance, the watches are often used on ships for navigation purposes and to synchronize the actions of personnel who they might not be in direct communication with at all times, such as people on a military mission. It works well in situations where the time has to be exact and where people working together have to be on the same time even though they may be in different physical locations.

Why You Don’t Need a Hacking Watch

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself how cool it would be to have a hack watch yourself; however, if you do get one, you might be a little disappointed in them. Why? For two main reasons. First of all, hack watches are mechanical watches, and mechanical watches have a lot of variables that will affect their timekeeping.

In practical terms, this means that you’ll lose any accuracy you gained by hacking the watch by the end of the day. Even expensive mechanical watches such as Rolex will gain or lose four to six seconds every day, which means that you’ll still have to hack the watch on a daily basis to keep it accurate.

The second reason why you really don’t need a hacking watch is because of the price. Hack watches are, with rare exception, very expensive watches. If you’re one of these people who doesn’t like paying a lot of money for your watch but you want a hack watch, you’ll likely be unhappy with the price that you have to pay for one of these watches.

Are hack watches worth it? For people who genuinely need this feature, they are definitely worth it. For the average person, however, the accuracy of the average watch is more than good enough to suffice.

How Do I Hack My Non-Hacking Movement Watch?

If you want to hack your watch but you don’t have a watch with that capability, is there anything else that you can do or are you just out of luck? Oddly enough, there is a way that you can hack a non-hacking movement watch if this is what you want to do. To back hack a mechanical watch, here is what you can do:

  • Pull the crown out as you do when you want to set the time. This is not the same position as you use when setting the day or date. For most watches, you’ll be pulling out the crown until the very last click.
  • Turn the crown counterclockwise towards yourself but go very slowly. Tiny micro-adjustments occur when you do this, and it takes time to work right. Keep turning very slowly in a counterclockwise position until the second hand on your watch stops.
  • Eventually, the second hand on your watch will stop. When it freezes up, you’ll know that the process worked. If it doesn’t, keep slowly turning the crown until it does.
  • At this point, you can set the time on your watch precisely down to the very second.

Keep in mind that this action doesn’t work for every single watch, but it’s worth a shot if your watch is a mechanical one. Also, setting your mechanical watch to the closest minute is still very accurate and means that you likely won’t be more than 30 seconds off from that point forward. Many experts also recommend that if you want top-notch accuracy and you don’t want to buy an expensive hacking watch, you should switch to a quartz watch instead.


Watch hacking is sometimes called second-hand halt mechanism or seconds stop function, so if you hear any of these terms, just know that they all mean the same thing. Hacking a watch does have its purposes, of course, so if this is something you’re interested in, it behooves you to do your research and determine if it’s worth it in the end.

Knowing that your watch is 100% accurate down to the second is a good feeling, but since you’ll still lose seconds by the end of the day, you have to compare that fact to all of the other pros and cons of a hacking watch. In the early 1900s, hacking watches were commonplace in certain occupations, particularly the military, but certain people still prefer using them over regular watches and you might be one of those people.