- May 11, 2018
- Reaction score
So nobody who knows what they are doing is going to do a proper timing adjustment for 20-30 dollars, and proper servicing costs a lot more than 100 bucks. The costs of doing it right is one of the reasons I taught myself how to do this work, got the equipment, including balancing anvils, staking sets, billions of tweezer sets, weird steampunk-looking magnification headsets, different oils and applicators for different parts of the movement gear-train, etc.. By the time I had done 3 of my watches, I was saving real money.That’s a great watch. 5 mins off. Wow. Pay 20-30 bucks and get it regulated or 100 more than that to get it serviced.
To do a full servicing correctly, assuming no jewels need replacement/pressing, means complete disassembly (and this is the only way to do it correctly), cleaning in the sonic cleaner, additional manual cleaning of some parts, oiling the movement from low-friction/high-frequency side (escapement, etc.) through to the low-speed/high-friction (input-power) side of the train, using the appropriate oils for each (I use four discrete types of lubrication). This process, through reassembly, is a minimum of 3-4 contiguous hours, and that's assuming everything goes super smoothly and the movement isn't something with mongo chronograph complications. That's JUST to clean it.
Timing and proper positional adjustments (making sure it keeps time within spec, across different positions, such as face up, face down, Top up, top down, etc.) can take a whole day or more, especially when you uncover latent problems, like an unevenly worn cap jewel or balance staff that causes huge positional timing shifts. In that situation, one often has to disassemble the escapement and spend considerable time sorting out issues (usually caused by lack of regular service), such as the horrible process of re-staffing a balance.
So what are some obvious things that cause a watch to run fast? Well, very often (especially on older watches), the balance hair-spring has become magnetized. This can usually be sorted out with a demagnetizer in about 10 seconds. This is because one or more of the hairspring coils is pulling or fully magnetized to another coil, causing the balance oscillation to be significantly truncated, leading to an increase in frequency. Another cause is lack of viscosity from lubrication. Another can be a mismatched mainspring, driving too much power into the gear train (I've seen this quite a bit, where an overpowered spring was used). Worst case, an obstruction or tolerance problem (usually from a hard hit) can truncate the movement of the balance, causing it to run fast. Finally, for very old watches, the balance might simply need manual adjustment (older, high quality movements, have adjustable balance screws, because things just drift over time).
The actual process of dynamic timing can be seriously maddening. Often you'll get something sorted in a couple of positions, only to have timing come undone when adjusting the final position. I generally only time to 4 or 5 positions, but good watchmakers time to 6 and temperature - I don't have the equipment or know-how for temperature adjustments. This why proper comprehensive servicing costs so much money: it's a metric-crap-ton of work.
Just like cobblers, there is Steve from Bedo's, and there is the guy who glues stuff on top of old soles. There is simply no way you can properly service a watch for a 100 bucks (any more than you can get Steve's work for 100 bucks). If you got a watch timed for 20 bucks, they just ran it through a demagnetizer and fiddled with the regulator (and they got lucky - the regulator is only good for a +/- 1-2 minutes per day max, depending on movement). If you got it "serviced" for 100 bucks, they did a quick and dirty movement rinse and dumped some oil where they could reach (which is exactly what I caught a well known shop in NYC doing). That kind of servicing is actually worse than no servicing, as it leaves dirt in the pivots, removes remaining oils from hard to reach places. This why so many watches croak not long after that kind of treatment.
So what am I advocating? Either pay the bucks to get it done right, if it's a worthy watch, or learn how to do it yourself, which I highly recommend. It's a very rewarding hobby and, while there's a fair amount of stuff required, it's not like becoming a cobbler, which needs huge room filling machines. Also, watches are machines, which makes them more deterministic (they either work right or they don't), doing what Steve does is more art than mechanics, so it's a lot harder to replicate what Steve does.