How to Set the Time and Date on a Watch

 In Tutorials, Watch Basics

Once you’ve wound your watch you need to set the time and possibly the date.

You don’t have to be a genius but there are some things that you need to keep in mind, especially when setting the date.

Never set the time while wearing the watch. Remove your watch from your wrist and hold it in one hand so you can set the time with the other.

How to set the time and date

How to set the time

Pull the crown all the way out and use your thumb and index finger to set the time.

There’s some info out there that you should only set the time forward (clockwise) but it doesn’t really matter.

It’s true that the cannon pinion is usually fitted on the center wheel but the motion work is separate from the going train. As long as the movement is clean and the cannon pinion is properly lubricated you can safely set the hands backward.

If the movement is dirty or the cannon pinion isn’t lubricated, the amplitude could drop slightly when you rotate the hands anticlockwise.

As far as calendar works are concerned, you can’t do any harm by setting the time backward if everything is working properly. However, you do need to be careful if you have a watch with a date quickset. More on that below.

How to set the date
No quickset

Some movements, mostly inexpensive older movements, don’t have a quickset feature. That means that you have to keep rotating the hands in 24-hour cycles, 1 day at a time, to set the date.

If the date on your watch is 20 days behind, you have some work to do. It’s sad but true.

I’ve seen people selling their watch or neglecting the date feature because it was such a drag.


A watch with a semi-quickset doesn’t have a setting to quickly change the date.  However, you won’t need to rotate the hands in 24-hour cycles either.

You can change the date by rotating the hour hand past midnight. Then, set the hour hand back to 9 PM (proof that it’s alright to set the time backward) and then forward past midnight again. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Not all semi-quickset mechanisms are the same. You can check the details of the movement that’s inside your watch on the Ranfft website.


The quickset is often the setting (of the crown) in between winding your watch and setting the time. Sometimes it can also be something different like pushing the crown.

You can use it to quickly set the date wheel to the correct date. However, there’s one important rule.

It’s very important NOT to use the quickset to set the date between 9 PM and 3 AM. With that, I mean the time on your watch, not the actual local time.

The reason is that the quickset and the calendar works are 2 separate mechanisms.

The date starts to slowly change at 9 PM. The date changing mechanism engages with the date wheel and it’s not fully disengaged till after 3 AM. You’ll force the date wheel and the date jumper if you try to use the quickset at the same time. The calendar pieces are delicate and expensive parts so keep that in mind.

A safe way to set the time and date with a quickset is the following. Make sure that the watch’s time isn’t between 9 PM and 3 AM. If you don’t know when a watch stopped, find midnight first by spinning the hands forward until the date changes and set it past 3 AM. Then, use the quickset to set the date to one day before the actual date. Finally, spin the hands clockwise until you’ve set the time and date accurately.

Do you have a question about setting the time or date? Let me know in the comments below.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Avatar

    Thank you for your information.
    The problem is that the date changes at 9 Am. How can I get the watch to change it at midnight.

    • Melvin Hollenberg
      Melvin Hollenberg

      Hi, the hands will have to be removed. Then put them back in the 24:00 position as soon as the date changes.

  • Avatar
    Mark Richard Pernerewski

    Can quick-setting a date at the wrong time cause a cannon pinion to come loose and stop driving the hands?

    Mark Pernerewski

    • Melvin Hollenberg
      Melvin Hollenberg

      I suppose it could because it puts a strain on the calendar works and the motion works.

  • Avatar
    Chayal M L

    Thanks for the useful article.

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