Han­dle with care

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing when you’re ad­just­ing a me­chan­i­cal watch, es­pe­cially the cal­en­dar, so make sure you read the in­struc­tions, writes Sean Li

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style | Watches & Jewellery -

Here’s some ad­vice: read the in­struc­tions be­fore you start ad­just­ing your me­chan­i­cal watch

You’ve taken the plunge and bought a new watch with all the bells and whis­tles. But be­fore you start mak­ing ad­just­ments, you might want to check the han­dling pre­cau­tions, par­tic­u­larly for com­pli­ca­tions. These tiny me­chan­i­cal mar­vels need spe­cial care or you may find it hard to con­vince the watch­maker that you didn’t con­trib­ute to the prob­lem when some­thing goes wrong.

The fact is, these time­pieces do not re­act well to cer­tain oper­a­tions, and some ad­just­ments must not be made at cer­tain times. Here’s a few tips to avoid the most com­mon prob­lems for cal­en­dar watches.

Per­pet­ual cal­en­dars I am fas­ci­nated by per­pet­ual cal­en­dars be­cause they track time on so many dif­fer­ent lev­els—se­conds, min­utes, hours, days, weeks and years, usu­ally with a moon­phase thrown in. But they are prone to han­dling er­rors, mainly to do with the tim­ing of mak­ing cal­en­dar ad­just­ments. The prob­lem is that it takes a lot of me­chan­i­cal en­ergy for these in­di­ca­tions to work, rel­a­tive to the watch’s scale. Nu­mer­ous cams and gears keep track of the in­di­ca­tions, and they must be en­gaged grad­u­ally over the course of sev­eral hours to make ef­fi­cient use of the me­chan­i­cal en­ergy of the time­piece.

So the chal­lenge is to re­mem­ber at which times ad­just­ments can be made to the in­di­ca­tions on your per­pet­ual cal­en­dar. Mid­day seems to be the most com­mon “safe zone.” You can set the time—al­ways for­ward—to noon and make the ad­just­ments. Just re­mem­ber to set the watch to the day be­fore, then slowly ad­vance the time to the next day un­til the cor­rect time is shown.

For per­pet­ual cal­en­dars that do not have push­ers to ad­just in­di­vid­ual in­di­ca­tions, but are linked and ad­justed via the crown, you gen­er­ally can­not turn the time back­wards. So the cal­en­dar ad­just­ment must be made slowly so that you don’t turn the cal­en­dar in­di­ca­tions too far for­ward. Sto­ries abound of those who have con­tin­ued to move the cal­en­dar for­ward, be­liev­ing it will re­vert to the be­gin­ning like a date dis­play—and who even­tu­ally have to send the watch to the ser­vice cen­tre to be re­set.

date dis­plays Even a sim­ple date dis­play is sub­ject to ad­just­ment con­straints. You should avoid chang­ing the date on a me­chan­i­cal watch be­tween 10pm and 2am as the gears are al­ready en­gaged to make the date disc ro­tate near mid­night. Un­less your man­ual says oth­er­wise, never turn the time back on a watch with a time dis­play be­fore mid­night, as you could dam­age the date-chang­ing mech­a­nism.

So if you want to avoid han­dling mishaps, it’s a good idea to check the man­ual for in­struc­tions spe­cific to your watch. Some watch­mak­ers have tried to address this is­sue by de­vel­op­ing more user-friendly mech­a­nisms. But don’t take it for granted—a few years ago I asked the watch­maker be­hind a well­known per­pet­ual cal­en­dar mod­ule how he re­mem­bered the in­struc­tions, es­pe­cially when cross­ing time zones. He said he couldn’t, so he didn’t bother ad­just­ing his watch when he trav­elled.

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