An automatic watch is one that normally doesn’t need winding because the natural movement of your wrist is enough to keep it good and wound. Occasionally, you may have to manually wind your automatic watch, but winding it isn’t necessary most of the time. Nevertheless, there are times when an automatic watch will start running either too fast or too slow, and this can be disheartening to say the least. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to throw out the watch just because it’s doing this, and it doesn’t always mean that your watch needs an expensive service. In fact, more often than not, a watch running too fast or too slow simply means that you need some fine-tuning, which a good watch repair technician can accommodate.
If your automatic watch has been running fast or slow lately, you’ve come to the right place. Below is some information that can be a big help, and it’ll make it a lot easier for you to determine what you need to do about the problem.
7 Reasons Why an Automatic Watch Might Be Running Fast or Slow
There are numerous reasons an automatic watch running fast or slow might be a problem. If you have a job where accurate timing is a must, you simply cannot have this problem with your watch. Below are seven reasons why this might be happening with your watch.
1. The Movement Has Become Magnetized
This is actually a lot more common than most people realize. Why does it happen? Because everyone is surrounded every day by items with magnetic fields in them, including cell phones, certain office equipment, a clasp on a glasses case, purses and briefcases that have magnetic closures, or even a rheumatic bracelet, to name a few. In today’s digital and electronic world, it’s actually amazing that magnetization isn’t a much bigger problem than it already is. With watches, it can be a huge problem because it can cause them to work the way they simply aren’t supposed to work.
Today, roughly 80% of watches that need to be serviced are because of problems due to magnetization. This is also why a lot of watch manufacturers are starting to use silicon balance springs that won’t wreak havoc on the watch when they get near something magnetic. If this is the problem with your watch, you’ll need to have it serviced so that it can be demagnetized. The technician can provide you with an estimate of what it will cost to have this done.
2. Extreme Temperatures
Most watches, including automatic watches, simply aren’t made for extreme cold or heat. They can usually handle certain amounts of heat and cold, of course, but not extreme ones. When a watch goes through extreme temperatures, it can cause the parts in the movement to expand and contract, which means the friction is increased or reduced and, therefore, the accuracy of the watch is affected. Exposing your automatic watch to extreme heat or cold once or twice is one thing; exposing it to extreme heat or cold on a regular basis is never a good thing.
3. It Suffered Some Type of Impact
Hard impacts, such as dropping your watch on a hard floor, can affect the accuracy of your automatic watch. This is often the case when the problem is an automatic watch running slow. When a watch suffers a hard impact, the key of the spring inside of the watch is altered, causing it to work incorrectly and keep time less accurately. Impacts can also cause a dial to move around and create binding on the digits, which is a problem becoming more frequent in recent years.
Watches have many delicate components on the inside, and any hard impact can jostle some of those components around and cause it to work improperly in numerous ways, including inaccurate timekeeping.
4. The Condition of the Watch or Movement Is Poor
Sometimes, an old movement or a watch that is in bad shape will run either fast or slow. The components inside of a watch can number 100 or more, and there are oils and lubricants that help keep those components running the way they should. Over time, those oils can either dry out or simply start working less efficiently. It does this because without the right amount of oils and lubricants, friction results on the many different parts, and if it stays this way for long, the parts simply break. The solution? Your watch needs to be serviced – and better today than tomorrow!
5. Problems with the Spring Component
One of the most important components inside of a watch is the spring mechanism, which is one of the components that allows all of the other parts to work together so that the watch can work properly. We’ve already mentioned that the spring’s key can be altered, but the spring also might be clinging together and causing it to malfunction. Just like the other components inside of a watch, the spring is very delicate and needs to be in the right position and in the right condition for the watch to give you accurate time. If the spring is “off” in any way, it directly affects the accuracy of the watch.
6. You Let it Die Too Often
Automatic watches don’t like to be wound manually, which is why you need to wear yours as often as possible to keep it running properly. If you go too long without wearing it, or you are continuously letting it “die” so that it needs to be wound manually frequently, it can cause the watch to run either too fast or too slow. Simply put, automatic watches were meant to work through regular and continuous wrist action by the wearer, so when that doesn’t happen, especially if it doesn’t happen frequently, it can cause the timing of the watch to be inaccurate.
Extreme fluctuations in gravity, which happen occasionally, can directly affect the accuracy of your automatic watch. What can cause this? For one thing, the angle of the case itself will cause gravity to deform the balance spring, which has a lot to do with the accuracy of the watch. When you aren’t wearing your watch, for example, at night while you sleep, make sure you lay the watch face up on a flat surface. This will keep all of the internal components in the right direction, so to speak, which means the time is always going to be more accurate than it would otherwise.
How Accurate Is an Automatic Watch Supposed to Be?
First of all, there is no such thing as a watch, including an automatic watch, that is 100% accurate 100% of the time. Why? Simply put, it is because watches have moving parts, and nothing that has moving parts is going to be 100% accurate. As a general rule, an automatic watch will lose or gain up to 10 seconds per day. If you’re willing to pay a lot of money for your watch, you may end up with a watch that is more accurate, but even expensive automatic watches will lose or gain a second or two every single day.
Numerous factors affect the accuracy of an automatic watch. If the watch features a chronograph function, an alarm, a calendar, or any other specialized function, this can cause the watch to lose or gain several seconds per day. The main reason for this can be summed up in one word: physics. Since physics affects each and every component inside of the watch, and since extra functions mean extra components, it is easy to understand how this might affect the watch’s accuracy.
The accuracy of an automatic watch is also affected by the number of oscillations the balance wheel (one of the components) takes. The average automatic watch executes eight swings a second, or four complete oscillations, meaning it has a frequency of 4 Hz. You can compare that to the number associated with a quartz watch, which is 32,768 Hz. The higher the frequency, the more stable and accurate the watch is, which is why quartz watches will always be more accurate than automatic watches, and that will never change.
Watch manufacturers have found ways to improve the accuracy of an automatic watch, and some of them include:
- Controlling the gravity and temperature of the watch.
- Improving the lubricants and oils used on the components of the watch.
- Improving the overall design of all of the inner parts.
- Using materials of a higher quality.
In fact, chronometers, which are certified precise mechanical watches, have gone through all of these and numerous other minor changes and are, therefore, the gold standard when it comes to having a reliable mechanical watch.
Finally, if you’re curious about how accurate your own watch is, there are two things you can do to find out:
- Manual measuring, which means checking the time on your watch daily with the time on another device, such as your computer.
- Utilize an app for this purpose, such as WatchCheck or ToolWatch.