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  1. #1

    Default what makes an old watch run fast ???

    I've run into this several times with older watches, both unserviced, or in need of service pocket & wrist watches, where the watch will run really fast... to me, it would seem that if everything is dry, or has old sticky lube, that the parts would drag, & the watch would run slow... not being intricately familiar with the workings, is there something that breaks or wears out, that causes a watch to run fast, if it hasn't been serviced in years... is this a fixable condition, or should a person steer clear of these watches, if it's know that they are running really fast ??

    thanks for any insight...

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Feb 2007
    Rolling Hills Estates, CA

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Magnum Wheel Man)

    Two factors. First, almost all of the possible faults with the hairspring -- coils sticking together due to stray lubrication or magnetization, or bends that case it to rub or the coil to meet -- tend to shorten the effective length of the hairspring causing the balance to run faster. Second if the watch is running very weakly the balance spends much more of its oscillation under the influence of the pallet fork it can run either quite fast or quite slow, but fast is the more common result.
    Will McCown -- Rolling Hills Estates, CA

  3. #3

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: flynwill)

    a shortening effect of the hairspring makes sense... I'm pretty mechanical minded, though I've not "dug" into a watch movement yet... my thought was as things got either dry or sticky, it would cause more drag, & thus make the movement run slow... I didn't think there was any "gear ratio changing" going on with wear or age, but I understand how if the hairspring were either stuck together or kinked, it could make the balance run faster...

    thanks for the info...

  4. #4

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: flynwill)

    To elaborate on what Will said, most anything that drags on the balance or hairspring can make the watch run fast. The fix may be as simple as a cleaning, adjusting the hairspring and demagnetizing the watch. Then again it can be a bent balance pivot, a broken balance jewel or a more serious problem.

    One way the watchmaker figures this out is to rate the watch in different positions. For example, if there is a large difference in rate dial up and dial down, then it may be a pivot problem. The only real way to figure it out is to clean and oil the watch and then see how it runs in the six positions. When purchasing a watch, you do the best you can to see if the watch runs well in six positions. If it does not, then you may adjust how much you are willing to pay for taking a chance. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lost. Every time you buy a mechanical watch, plan to have it cleaned unless you know and trust who cleaned it last.


  5. #5
    Registered user. Dch48's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Plattsburgh, NY

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Don Dahlberg)

    From what I've read, anything that causes a slight to moderate loss of power anywhere in the gear train can actually cause a watch to run fast. Lack of lubrication, dirt, and magnetism seem to be the most common culprits. What happens is that the balance wheel does not achieve a wide enough arc and thus swings back sooner than it should, releasing the escapement more often. You would think that a loss of power would make things slower and in old pendulum clocks that is the case, but in watches, it's usually the opposite.

  6. #6

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Dch48)

    thanks for the answers guys...

  7. #7
    Registered User Dave T's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Magnum Wheel Man)

    Very interesting and informative conversations about balance wheels and hairsprings.
    I just finished an Ingersoll Junior "dollar" watch. And during the process managed to snap off the end of the hairspring, (about 1mm in length". So...., I removed the broken end and re attached the spring.
    Wondering what effect a shortened hairspring has on a watch running fast or slow. I'm thinking a shorter "tighter" spring would make the watch run faster? but how much faster?

  8. #8

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Dave T)

    I did break that same way as yours, and relocated the HS by a stud. No issues. Need to remember to get your balance in beat by turning the hairspring collect to fix.

    Cheers, Watchfixer

  9. #9
    Registered user. Kevin W.'s Avatar
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    Apr 2002
    Nepean, Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Watchfixer)

    Likely a fair bit faster.Shorter rotation of balance wheel, watch runs fast.
    One clock at a time. Kevin West

  10. #10
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Boston. MA USA
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    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Kevin W.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Veritas View Post
    Likely a fair bit faster.Shorter rotation of balance wheel, watch runs fast.
    I don't think that is true Kevin. A watch may be faster or slower in the short arcs. The behavior depends on a lot of factors but the combination of hairspring and balance is inherently isochronous just like a pendulum is. Also just like a pendulum it can have escapement errors and other faults that affect the rate in either direction.
    Tom McIntyre Click me.
    If you don't learn to laugh at trouble,
    you won't have anything to laugh at when you're old.
    Will Rogers

  11. #11

    Default Re: what makes an old watch run fast ??? (By: Tom McIntyre)

    Shorter hairspring will run fast. When you turn the regulator, you are effectively making the watch run faster by shortening the hairspring, or slower by lengthening the hairspring. Moving the regulator a small amount effects the rate a great deal. The effective length of the hairspring is from the collet to the regulator pins. If one did not lose too much of the hairspring, one could make up the increase in rate by moving out the meantime screws or adding mass to the balance with balance washers. I am not sure this is even possible on a dollar watch.


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