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When Not to Change the Date on a Watch? The Art of Timing

When Not to Change the Date on a Watch? The Art of Timing

The time between 9 PM and 3 AM is a period when you’re not supposed to change the date on a watch. Find out the reason and best practice to set the watch here!
May 18, 2024

Winding your mechanical watch to set the time is deceptively simple. But, do you know that a simple thing, like changing the date at the wrong time might cause damage to your movement? There are times when changing the date on your watch is not advisable. So, when not to change the date on a watch?

As a rule of thumb, there are at least two things you should know about setting the time on your mechanical watch. First, always make sure to turn the hands clockwise. Second, do not adjust the date within 3 hours of midnight. That’s it!

Yet, you definitely want to know the reason why not to change the date on your watch carelessly and how to properly set your watch. That said, this article will explore the instances when it’s best to let your watch tick away without tampering with the date function.

How the Date Change Mechanism Works

Before talking about when not to change the date on a watch, let’s briefly discuss how the date change mechanism actually works. While the specific details may vary between different watch movements, the basic principles of how the date change mechanism works are generally consistent. 

There are several mechanics involved in this process, including the date wheel, intermediate wheel, date jumper, and midnight ratchet wheel. Let’s delve into the mechanics of this process:

Date Wheel

The heart of the date change mechanism is the date wheel, a disc with the numbers 1 to 31 printed or engraved on its surface. This wheel is usually positioned just beneath the dial of the watch, with only the current date visible through a small window.

Intermediate Wheel

Connected to the date wheel is the intermediate wheel. This wheel serves as the link between the timekeeping mechanism and the date-change mechanism. The intermediate wheel receives power from the movement’s main gear train.

Date Jumper

The date jumper is a lever that is engaged with the teeth of the date wheel. It is responsible for moving the date wheel forward by one position at the appropriate time. The date jumper is typically under tension from a spring.

Midnight Ratchet Wheel

Positioned adjacent to the intermediate wheel is the midnight ratchet wheel. This component ensures that the date change occurs precisely at midnight, aligning with the start of a new day. The ratchet wheel controls the release of energy to the date change mechanism.

Each serves different purposes to deliver the right mechanism. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the date change mechanism typically operates:

  1. As the timekeeping mechanism advances, the intermediate wheel receives power and begins turning.
  2. The intermediate wheel transfers this power to the date jumper, which is held under tension by a spring.
  3. As midnight approaches, the tension in the spring overcomes a detent, releasing the energy stored in the spring.
  4. The released energy causes the date jumper to engage with the teeth on the date wheel, advancing it by one position.
  5. The process is swift and occurs precisely at midnight, ensuring a seamless transition to the new date.

Read also: How to Change a Watch Battery: A Guide for Watch Owners

When Not to Change the Date on a Watch

There is a period when it’s advisable not to change the date on a watch. This period is called the ‘danger zone’ which refers to the time when the automatic date change mechanism is actively engaged, usually between 9 PM and 3 AM.

During this period, attempting to adjust the date manually may disrupt the delicate gears responsible for the date change, leading to misalignment or damage. It’s recommended to adjust the date when the hour hand is somewhere along the bottom half of the dial – if you want to be safe, change the date around 5:00 (AM or PM).

So, why is it bad to change the date during that period? All the mechanical components for changing the date collaborate to gather power and torque, initiating around 9:00 PM. For certain watches employing a conventional date and day change mechanism, they remain active until approximately 3:00 AM. 

Therefore, utilizing the quick date set system within this timeframe gives stress on gears that the watch isn’t designed to endure. A separate system is responsible for propelling the date wheel forward during manual adjustments. 

Engaging in such practices may lead to potential damage to the automatic date and day change mechanism that typically operates around midnight. Therefore, it’s advisable to keep the hour hand positioned toward the bottom of the dial before initiating any date changes.

The Best Time to Change the Date on a Watch

As mentioned before, it’s recommended to adjust the date when the hands are somewhere at the bottom of the watch dial. To make it precise, it’s best to change the date around 5:00 – AM or PM, it doesn’t matter. Here’s the reason.

When your watch indicates 5:00 AM, the regular date change mechanism is fully disengaged, and both the semi-instantaneous and instantaneous mechanisms disengage well before this time.

Conversely, at 5:00 PM, none of the date change mechanisms have initiated engagement to accumulate power and torque.

Final Thought

Understanding when not to change the date on a watch is part of preserving its functionality and longevity. While adjusting the date on your watch may seem like a simple task, it’s important to exercise caution and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid unnecessary wear and potential damage. By being mindful of the circumstances mentioned above, you can ensure that your watch continues to keep you punctual and stylish for years to come.

Read also: How to Set a Time on a Watch: Tips for Mechanical Timepiece

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