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How to Regulate a Watch: A Guide to Precise Timekeeping
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How to Regulate a Watch: A Guide to Precise Timekeeping

Regulating a watch helps you maintain its accuracy and performance
Feb 15, 2024

Watch accuracy is, so far, the most important thing to consider when buying a timepiece. However, over time, even the most accurate timepieces may experience deviations in timekeeping. Understanding how to regulate a watch will be a go-to solution to correct the accuracy of a watch movement. So, how do you regulate a watch?

Basically, the accuracy of a watch is influenced by factors such as the balance wheel, escapement, hairspring, and, in the case of quartz movements, the regulator. Understanding these elements and their functions is fundamental to successfully regulating a watch.

Regulating a watch is a skill that allows you to fine-tune its movement, ensuring optimal accuracy. In this article, we will take you through the intricate process of adjusting your timepiece, demystifying the art of horological precision. Let's dive in!

Understanding the Basics of Watch Regulation

Watch regulation is the process of rectifying the timekeeping accuracy when it is either running too fast or too slow. Ideally, your timepiece should maintain a deviation of no more than one minute per day. For instance, the widely-used modding Caliber NH35 is known to operate within a range of -20 to +40 seconds per day. 

It is important to distinguish "regulation" from "adjustment," as the latter pertains to modifying a watch's rate under varying conditions. Adjustment is a more intricate task compared to regulation, making it advisable for non-professionals to avoid attempting it and instead entrust such endeavors to skilled watchmakers.

If you observe a consistent gain or loss of time in your watch, it might be an indication that regulation is needed. While individuals with some knowledge and basic equipment can regulate their watches, caution is paramount. Manipulating the inner workings of the movement demands extreme care, as a single error could lead to irreparable damage to the watch movement. 

How to Regulate a Watch

Regulating a watch requires several tools. You'll need a case back opener, precision screwdrivers, a demagnetizer, and a timegrapher. A timegrapher is a device that measures the accuracy of your watch and helps in fine-tuning its performance.

To regulate the watch, start by winding the watch until it reaches full winding capacity and position it securely between the clamps of the timegrapher for analysis. The integrated microphone will capture the watch's movement, providing detailed statistics.

Upon analysis, two lines will be displayed on the screen. An upward slant indicates that the watch is running fast, while a downward slant signifies that it is running slow. The space between the lines reflects the beat error, with a narrower gap indicating a lower beat error. Any irregularities in the lines signal a more significant issue, warranting professional attention from a watchmaker.

If the lines appear straight and consistent, shift your focus to examining the amplitude, aiming for a range of 280-320 when the watch is fully wound. Subsequently, evaluate the beat error, which should ideally be below 0.6ms. In cases requiring adjustment, open the case back to access the back of the movement.

Within the movement, identify two levers situated on top of the balance wheel: one connected to the end of the hairspring, known as the mobile stud carrier, and the other positioned near the end of the hairspring, referred to as the regulator. To address the beat error, use tweezers to adjust the stud carrier until the beat error aligns with an acceptable range.

Proceed to address the rate by manipulating the regulator. The movement typically features a + / - indicator, guiding you in the direction to move the lever. Adjust the regulator toward + to gain time and toward - to lose time, aiming for a rate between 0 and +10 seconds per 24 hours for optimal performance.

After completing these adjustments, secure the case back and reassess the movement in the dial-up position. With these steps, the regulation process is successfully concluded, ensuring the accurate and precise operation of your watch.

Read also: Exploring the Intricacies and Accuracy of Sellita Movements

What Causes an Inaccurate Movement

There are several common causes that lead to inaccurate movements. Below are some of them:

1. Magnetization

Exposure to magnetic fields is a common cause of inaccurate movements. Magnetic forces can interfere with the balance wheel and escapement, disrupting the regular oscillation of the movement. This issue is more prevalent in mechanical watches but can also affect quartz movements.

2. Shock and Impact

Watches are intricate instruments with delicate components. Sudden shocks or impacts, such as dropping the watch or hitting it against a hard surface, can misalign or damage these components, leading to erratic timekeeping.

3. Temperature Fluctuations

Extreme temperature changes, either too hot or too cold, can affect the viscosity of the lubricants used in the movement. This can result in increased friction or changes in the rate of the escapement, leading to inaccurate timekeeping.

4. Wear and Tear

Over time, the internal components of a watch may experience wear and tear. This can affect the proper functioning of the movement, causing deviations in timekeeping accuracy. Regular maintenance and servicing are essential to address this issue.

Final Thought

Knowing how to regulate a watch is helpful to ensure that your timepiece remains a reliable and accurate companion throughout its lifespan. Understanding the factors that can contribute to inaccurate movement and mastering how to regulate a watch can help you take proactive measures to maintain optimal timekeeping performance.

While some basic regulations can be performed by enthusiasts, it is crucial to acknowledge the complexity of watch movements and, when in doubt, seek professional assistance. A qualified watchmaker possesses the expertise to diagnose and rectify more intricate issues, ensuring that your timepiece is not only accurate but also operating at its optimal efficiency.

Read also: Automatic Watch Accuracy: How Accurate Should It Be?

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