How to wind and set the time on an antique pocket watch

Last updated on May 8, 2021

Crown wind

To wind your antique watch simply turn the crown in a clockwise direction until you feel it cannot turn any more. Do not try and force it past this point as damage can occur, but do not be afraid to wind your watch. Over winding is a term often used in error, watches cannot be “over-wound”. In general, if a watch is wound tight and not running it has a problem other than the mainspring. If you try and wind a watch and it continues to wind without the tension building then it most likely has a mainspring problem.

Key wind

A key of the correct size should be supplied with the pocket watch and you wind by inserting the key into the winding hole, typically under the case back. Inside the hole will be the winding arbor which will wind the mainspring as the key is turned. Winding with a key can be either clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on the model of the pocket watch. You will feel it stop as per a crown wound system. As with the crown wind system, over winding does not occur, but take care not to force past the endpoint. Note: the tension won’t build on a fusee movement. This is due to the gear effect of the fusee itself, the tension should remain constant as the key is turned.

How to set the time

Crown set

To set the time on a crown set watch, you pull out the crown, away from the watch until you hear it “click”. Sometimes a little force is needed, but do not worry this is normal. Once the crown is out, the time can be adjusted by turning the crown. Once you have set the hands to the desired time the crown is pushed back in and the time is set.

Pin set

To set the time on a pin set watch, you push a pin in toward the watch and hold it there, the time can be adjusted by turning the crown. On a pin-set watch, the crown cannot be pulled out. Once you have set the hands to the desired time release the pin and all the time is set.

Key set

To set the time on a key set watch you simply insert the key into the hole for adjusting the time, which is typically under the case back. Turn the key to adjust the time. Once done close the case back. For older key set pocket watches the time is set by opening the crystal and placing the key over the hand’s pinion, the time is adjusted by turning they key, which in turn moves the hands.

A list of additional posts regarding antique watches can be found on the Guides page.

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