how to regulate a watch

How To Regulate Your Own Watch

We’re all watch enthusiasts here. It would be nice if you wouldn’t have to go to your watchmaker for every little thing.

Especially when you have a bigger collection, it could save you a lot of time and potentially money as well.

This article explains how to regulate a watch and specifically on how to correct the rate.

What’s the rate?

Your mechanical movement has a set of gears, called the train wheel and the mainspring powers this. The last gear in this train is the escape wheel.

The pallet fork locks and unlocks the escape wheel, so the train wheel advances the required amount.

How to regulate a watch
The escapement. Balance wheel in yellow, pallet fork and escape wheel in blue. The pallets and impulse pin are in red.

When the gears in the train wheel turn too fast, the watch will gain time, and when they turn too slow, it’ll lose time.

The rate, therefore, is the frequency of the pallets locking and unlocking the train wheel. You can adjust this with the balance.

The balance has several parts, but the most important ones for the rate are the balance wheel, the hairspring, and the impulse pin.

The balance wheel swings left and right with the help of the hairspring, and with every pass, the impulse pin engages with the pallet fork to advance its position.

You can imagine that with a longer swing, the pallet fork will be engaged less so the rate will drop. Of course, the opposite is also true.

How to measure the rate?

There are several ways to measure the rate.

  • One is to synchronize your watch with an accurate clock (perhaps a radio-controlled clock or the clock on your computer). Come back after 24 hours and look for any time gained or lost. This method isn’t very reliable, but if you have no other options, it could work.
  • Another way is to time your watch with a digital stopwatch. It could even be an app on your smartphone. Check after 10 minutes and multiply the result with 6. Now you know the discrepancy per hour. You’ll agree that this method is even more unreliable than the previous one.
  • The most accurate way is to use a timing machine. Either a Swiss one (Witschi or similar) or an Asian one (Timegrapher or similar).

    The Swiss timing machines are of better quality and are more precise. They also have more options to select and display and are, therefore, the obvious choice for professionals. For an amateur or hobbyist, however, a Timegrapher from eBay is an excellent choice to measure and display the rate.

    A Timing machine “listens” to the vibrations in the movement and translates them into lines of dots. Lines that have an upward angle show that the watch is gaining time, and a downward angle indicates the watch is losing time.
How to regulate a watch
This is my own Timegrapher. Displayed are the readings from an Omega 30T2. The amplitude and the beat error are excellent. It’s gaining time with a rate of +13 sec per 24 hours.

How to correct the rate?

As I mentioned, the rate is the speed in which the pallet fork locks and unlocks the train wheel.

With every passing of the balance wheel, the impulse pin engages and releases the pallet fork to push it into the next position.

That means that a shorter swing will cause the watch to run faster and a longer swing will do the opposite.

A shorter swing can be accomplished by shortening the effective length of the hairspring. You can do this with the regulator.

The regulator has two regulator pins which guide the first winding of the hairspring.

Moving these pins towards the stud (the beginning of the hairspring and secured to the balance cock) will effectively lengthen the spring.

That’ll make the watch run slower, and moving the regulator away from the stud will make the watch run faster.

How to regulate a watch
Close up of the balance assembly of the MST 372. 1 is the regulator, and 2 is the mobile stud holder. Never touch the mobile stud holder (2) if you don’t have a device to measure the beat rate with. Moving the regulator towards the stud holder will effectively lengthen the hairspring and will make the watch run slower. Of course, the opposite is also true.

Some final advice

  • Don’t fret about a couple of seconds. Everything between 0 and +10 sec per 24 hours is excellent. Remember that not all movements can be regulated perfectly, especially vintage timepieces. Often you have to compromise.
  • Move the regulator very gently and slowly. If the hairspring gets caught between the pins while you keep pushing, you’ll bend and kink it. That’ll ruin the hairspring and, therefore, your watch.
  • Remember to manipulate the regulator and not the mobile stud holder (if it has one). If you manipulate the mobile stud holder, you’ll modify the beat error, and that can’t be corrected without a timing machine.

Do you have any tips on how to regulate your watch? Leave them in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “How To Regulate Your Own Watch”

  1. Hello,
    Great article, thanks.
    One question: I use a timegrapher and have seen on a movement with power reserve indicator (Orient 40N5A) that the more the clock spring is wound up the faster the watch goes. This can be also seen related to amplitude: the higher the amplitude is, the faster it goes.
    Is there a guidance at which power reserve or at which wound state / amplitude a regulation has to be done? I believe it should not be at full wound state but either half or at 75% of power reserve.
    Would be great if you can advise. Thanks

    1. It’s best to check the watch several times during the mainspring cycle and in different positions (at least dial-up and crown down if you wear the watch on the left arm). Note the different readouts and try to find a compromise that creates the best overall rate.

  2. Thanks for the info, with all this time on our hands (no pun, or even a double pun intended!)I thought I’d dig-out and have a go at fixing some old watches.

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