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Thread: Time machine.

  1. #1

    Time machine.

    This is not a review because I'm not a watchmaker and my horological knowledge is rather basic. That said, I still have a vague idea of how a movement should behave when measured by a timing equipment. And I can perform simple regulation, but adjusting a watch is clearly out of my skills.
    Please, accept the usual apologies for my basic English and I hope this text will be, at least, remotely useful.

    Do I need a timing machine?

    Since my former watchmaker decided to retire (a year or so ago) keeping in check +50 mechanical watches became highly problematic. The brand's official service centres are usually expensive and sometimes really frustrating (I'm talking to you, Swatch Group). Choosing which watches are in need of a service is not always an easy task. I don't respect the 3-5 year period commonly advised, but I don't wait for a severe malfunction to appear in order to get the watch repaired. I established a fragile balance between these two extreme attitudes, mostly because my watchmaker used to take care of the final decision: to service or not to service.

    But I'm on my own, now. I needed to be able to perform simple measurements and I was curious about some of my own myths, to the point I decided I had to get some timing equipment.

    Everyone knows this instrument and the internet is full of tutorials. I'll be brief:

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    Watch not included

    There's a microphone, the main unit itself and a power supply.

    Patience (and silence) is the first requirement

    Watch movements take time to settle. That's the first rule. After placing the watch on the microphone base, I wait for at least one minute, before taking the readings for granted. And I do that for every position change. So, one watch will require around 30 minutes for a full set of preliminary measurements.
    Unfortunatelly,the microphone used has a fixed (rather high) gain and easily picks external noise, so, the silence becomes the second rule. Still, older, noisy watch movements can be too "loud" for a clean sheet of data, but we can't change that (a potentiometer would be called for, but that's another matter).

    There is not such a thing as perfection

    We'll have to remind ourselves that we're testing the watch against an exterior reference and both have its own errors. Let's minimize the ones that depend on us:

    A simple regulating procedure (please remember: I'm not talking about "adjustment"because that's a different and much more demanding procedure) only establish the results for the position, temperature and state of winding of a certain watch, at the time of regulation. More common practices recommend, at least, two sets of measurements: one with the watch fully wound and the other, 24h later. The isochronism – or lack of it – will define new values and the amplitude would naturally decrease a bit: the minimum allowed – although it varies with the movement/manufacturer – should be around the 180-200 degrees.

    In order to calculate the amplitude correctly we need to know the angle lift (52 by default) of the specific movement. It can be "googled" – preferably from the manufacturer data sheet - and manually chosen on the machine.
    We also want to be sure that the "tic-toc" of our watch is not freely dancing the waltz and for that reason, the beat error should be as close to zero as possible (some manufacturers accept errors up to a maximum of 0.8ms).
    The amplitude-24h and the beat error will give us some idea on the condition of the movement.

    The results obtained are similar to the actual wearing experience?

    It depends. My watchmaker used to place the watches – hand wind movements included – on a winder for a couple of days to – somehow – simulate actual wearing and I often saw him actually wearing a watch on his wrist for testing purposes.

    My experience – statistically meaningless, btw - tells me that if a watch has a very small beat error, a relatively uniform amplitude and a low Delta (faster and slower rates with very similar values) the results obtained (averaged) differ for only a couple of seconds (usually on the plus side, but not always - depends on the wearing pattern) from those obtained after a normal daily experience, on the wrist. With more unstable movements, well, my guess is as good as any..?

    Timing two different watches: fully wound, dial up. Ignore the numbers next to the mainline on the screen; they're only related to the testing period chosen.

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    Omega cal. 30T2 (circa 1939). It settled @ +3s. 0.5ms is an acceptable beat error for such an old mechanism.

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    Longines Master Collection chronograph (ETA A07 231). Nice.

    And we need watchmakers…

    Not only to perform the more delicate tasks that complicated mechanisms demand, but because the simple data available from the timing equipment must be rightly understood and it does not tell the whole story. For example, a completely dry movement may – or may not – pass the tests, but it will not foul the experience of a good watchmaker.

    In conclusion: this equipment is fun and potentially useful, because it can clarify some doubts, help to identify potential problems and keep the collection in check. However, if you're OCD with your watches, be prepared for some unpleasant surprises, but, at the same time, I'm sure you'll be glad to find some excellent performers in your collection.

    I hope this text was legible enough and thank you for your time and patience.

    Edit: I believe it's a bit early to have a definitive opinion on the consistency of the results. Truth be told, I do have some minor doubts - same conditions, same watches and somehow, the machine went temporarily crazy, showing the most strange readings. Turned it off and on again and it seems fine, now. We'll see...
    Last edited by CFR; Jul 9, 2015 at 05:44 AM.

  2. #2
    Very nice, thanks for the post.

  3. Likes CFR, JAGtime liked this post
  4. #3
    Thanks for providing a writeup on that! I've always wanted one, but never got around to buying it. It would be fun to have a little more info on my watches to see if there is something strange going on.

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  6. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by FuzzyB View Post
    have a little more info on my watches to see if there is something strange going on.
    That was the main reason why I bought one.

  7. #5
    Extremely interesting, C. Though you are humble about your knowledge and English language skills, they both prove to be outstanding. Thanks for the write-up.

  8. Likes CFR, popoki nui liked this post
  9. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by JAGtime View Post
    Extremely interesting, C. Though you are humble about your knowledge and English language skills, they both prove to be outstanding. Thanks for the write-up.
    Thank you very much, Jane.

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  11. #7
    When i clicked the thread i was expecting one of these..






    Congrats C!... very useful indeed.... i have to trim my auto 'cave-man' style... work for me but very2 time consuming.. still FUN though hehehe..

    Thanks C!

  12. #8
    Happily unadjusted 😜 popoki nui's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAGtime View Post
    Extremely interesting, C. Though you are humble about your knowledge and English language skills, they both prove to be outstanding. Thanks for the write-up.
    Couldn't have said it better; Jane says exactly what I was thinking. Very nicely done, C.

    ~Sherry.
    Eterna | Tudor | Seiko | Casio | G-Shock | Orient | Swatch | Mondaine | Zodiac (pre-Fossil) | Rolex | Wenger | Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer | Omega | Timex | Bucherer | Citizen



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  14. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Iyonk View Post
    When i clicked the thread i was expecting one of these..



    Congrats C!... very useful indeed.... i have to trim my auto 'cave-man' style... work for me but very2 time consuming.. still FUN though hehehe..

    Thanks C!
    Oh, that machine would be much cooler...or maybe not, who knows?

    And thanks, Iyonk.

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  16. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by popoki nui View Post
    Couldn't have said it better; Jane says exactly what I was thinking. Very nicely done, C.

    ~Sherry.
    Thanks, Sherry!

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