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  1. #1

    Default Difference in run time before winding

    Morning all,

    This may be a pointless question and will certainly display my lack of knowledge but I came across something I found interesting. As I am new to pocket watches and just received my second one I thought I would run a test or two. At noon Wednesday I wound up both watches fully and set them both to noon. I checked on them both throughout the day and both kept the same time down to less than a minute with each other as well as a couple of my electric wristwatches so I am confident that they are reliable time pieces. In fact I will be going out of town next week and plan to carry one of them as my only time piece. The odd thing though was that I let both run all the way down to see how long they would operate. Both are Waltham railroad watches that have been mentioned here. The one I got for Christmas ran for just over 36 hours which honestly surprised me. The one I received this week ran a few minutes more than 24. This doesn't worry me in any way but I found it curious. Is this a common difference among watches of similar build from the same maker? How long should the average watch from this era run when in good condition?

    Rick H.

  2. #2

    Smile Re: Difference in run time before winding


    Unless the watches have been properly cleaned and oiled within the last 24-36 months, any discussion of running time between windings is meaningless.

    Railroad watches built after the turn of the century would run (keeping a rate of +/- 30 seconds/week) for 42 hours. For those built earlier, 30-36 hours would be the minimum expected.

    P.S. Unless you know that it has been properly cleaned and oiled within the last few years, you should have a watch serviced before running it very much. It may be helpful for you to read the Encyclopedia article on Watch Service and its related links, especially the one to the message board thread on the subject. The Encyclopedia article on Choosing a Pocket Watch Repair Person may be useful as well.
    That guy down in Georgia

  3. #3
    Registered user. pmwas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding

    Just to add - a few minutes more than 24h means malfunction in any mechanical watch. Might be just oiling, might be more serious, but any watch should run approx. between 30-40h on one full winding.

    as for the question itself - the watches were made to certain standards, of the same parts and should run pretty much the same.
    Big differences between serviced, working watches might be a result of damage, wear and just previous repairs (notice the mainspring is most likely a replacement after all these years). Still, a well serviced watch in good condition should stick to it's specs pretty much.
    Last edited by pmwas; 03-10-2017 at 12:41 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding (By: pmwas)

    These are my numbers that I use, based on real-life experience with overhauling and repairing hundreds of watches, including many dozens of pocket watches. They are not from any sort of publication or anything. They reflect what the watch does after *my* level of cleaning and overhauling and tuning - and I cut no corners.

    In an antique pocket watch, anything over 42 hours is really good and met with a sigh of relief. 36 to 42 is pretty danged good, not worth trying to do more fiddling with. 30 to 36 sort of depends on the quality of the watch. If it's a railroad-grade watch, it's unacceptable, and indicates time for a snipe hunt. If it's a dollar watch, thank your lucky stars and step carefully away from the bench so you don't roil the aether. Under 30 hours it had better be a zero-jewel memento watch of some sort.

    The run time is affected by several agents. First and foremost is dirt and gummy lubricants. If the watch isn't clean, the mainspring's power gets eaten by the friction in the time train. I've had watches come in that do not run at all that have gone home running 40+ hours on a wind with nothing more than a Glen-level clean-oil-adjust. The other contributor is the health of the mainspring. If a blued-steel mainspring has spent fifty years fully wound in a gummed-stopped watch, you'll be lucky to get ten hours out of it. A tightly-set 18s mainspring can measure 2.5 inches (6.5cm) across out of the barrel, whereas a new one will blossom out to easily four times that diameter. A set mainspring doesn't have the drive to unwind itself compared to a new one, so the inherent friction in the time train overwhelms its ability more quickly.

    As the others have said, it is absolutely best to have the 36-hour watch cleaned up before running it very much. I'm not quite picky enough to say "don't run it at all", but for the sake of the watch, please don't let it go a year, ok? The one that runs only 24 hours really and truly does need to be overhauled.

    Hope this helps!


  5. #5

    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding (By: glenhead)

    Both watches run beautifully. The 24 hour watch has a problem when wound. It is as if there are some badly worn teeth on a gear somewhere. It will slip and make a noise as though gear teeth are slipping. It has a few rather rough spots in the wind and they seem to come and go. Something is wrong and it will be getting service but aside from this issue it runs perfectly. The other watch is velvet smooth in all operations and it too keeps near perfect time. Both are railroad grade. I'll have both cleaned and serviced, repaired as needed in the next few months. I don't mind spending some money on these. They have been around more than 100 years and work well. That amazes me and it's worth spending some money to keep them in very good condition.

    Rick H.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding (By: f2shooter)

    The 24 hour watch has a problem when wound. It is as if there are some badly worn teeth on a gear somewhere. It will slip and make a noise as though gear teeth are slipping.
    A clue in itself.. possibly a broken mainspring or it slipping on the arbor, either of which has an effect on applied power.

  7. #7
    Registered user. ANDY YALE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding (By: terry hall)

    If I read it right, he's saying it slips when he is winding it. Which is likely the keyless work - stem set too shallow, ratchet or transmission wheels loose or dirty, busted or weak spring, and so on.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Difference in run time before winding (By: ANDY YALE)

    Yeah it was slipping and grinding a bit when winding but something has failed and now it no longer winds at all. It goes out for repair probably tomorrow.I'll let everyone know how it comes out.

    Rick H.

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