Instructables
Picture of Cheap Fix for a Quartz Watch
This is my Seiko quartz analog watch. It is almost 19 years old.. In recent months have I noticed it slowly drifts a couple of minutes from the correct time. I checked prices for cleaning and lubrication through an on-line watchmaker. By the time all fees are paid, repair costs would be almost equal to the price of a new watch. Repairs could cost more yet if any parts need replacement. Similar watches to mine are available on eBay and I might be able to find one for less with a movement I could substitute in my watch case, if all dimensions are the same. But, that would be a big risk. Because this watch was given to me by my wife on our 25th wedding anniversary I really want to keep it rather than replace it.
 
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Step 1: A local watchmaker

Picture of A local watchmaker
We live a couple of miles from one of only a few a watchmakers in our very metropolitan area. Because droplets of moisture have sometimes gotten into the watch and condensed on the inside of the crystal, I wanted to talk with him about cleaning and lubricating the watch. The watch also stopped recently, but I got it going again by gently poking with a toothpick at the wheel that drives the second hand. I thought there may be a tiny piece of debris inside the watch, and cleaning would be a very good idea. The watchmaker has a very thick foreign accent and shook his head, "No!" when I asked about cleaning. He said, "New battery! One year!" When the watch was new, the first battery lasted 7 years. I have 3 1/2 years on the present battery. This watch is still supposed to keep accurate time when the battery is getting low, but the second hand begins to jump in 2 second increments every 2 seconds as a sign the battery needs to be changed. I have not seen that, yet, so I assume the battery still has some life in it..Still, some sites urge replacing the battery every two years, even if no inaccuracy problems are evident. I do not know if it makes a difference, but the watch came with a silver-oxide battery. The present battery is an alkaline battery.

Tools
  • Spanner wrench to remove the back
  • Ballpoint pen or jeweler's screwdriver to depress the stem lock
Materials
  • Canned air with a guide tube
  • Rubber cement or a properly sized "O"-ring
The photo shows me pretending to be a watchmaker.
mclare504 months ago

hey there! i just posted an insturctable on my watch and i was wondering if we have the same problem. Could you check it out and see? thanks

atlantica1 year ago
(removed by author or community request)
Phil B (author)  atlantica1 year ago
Perhaps you missed the part where I mentioned this watch was a gift from my wife and I wanted to preserve for reasons of sentiment.
cody3051 year ago
I find it hard to believe that dirt that would slow a watch down could be blown out. Presumably, it would be in the bearings, mixed up with the oil, and not affected by blowing air. Or if there were big "cobwebs" that were rubbing on the surface of the gears, but that seems unlikely. Did you observe any visible dirt coming out? It could be that the mere act of taking it apart and putting it back together improved the conductivity of the battery contacts, or something else that had nothing to do with the blowing air. Still, it's hard to argue with success, so whatever it was, it's great that you got it working properly! Just taking it apart and putting it back together without breaking it is a major accomplishment! And you followed it up with a great instructable! Thanks for sharing! P.S., I prefer digital watches with lots of features like count-down-timer, alarm, etc and they have the added advantage of no moving parts to get gummed up.
Phil B (author)  cody3051 year ago
I have been looking at additional articles on the Internet. Allegedly oil can dry out in time and form flakes, which I assume can migrate to other parts of the watch. Particles of dead skin that might get into a watch when the case was opened to change the battery, etc. are difficult to detect, but can cause all sorts of problems with a watch. It would be almost impossible to notice a particle of something exiting the watch when sprayed with pressurized air.

My watch actually stopped twice for me over the last 19 years. The first time it was probably 5 to 10 years old. I took it to a jeweler and asked about cleaning then. He told me it was not needed. I do not think the battery was replaced then, either. He examined the watch movement for a few minutes, put it back together, and handed it to me. Then it stopped again a couple of months ago as I mentioned. That was when I gently poked the wheel that drives the second hand, and it started again. These two incidents led me to think a light piece of something may have gotten into the works, perhaps when I had the back off to change the battery, etc.

I still have a couple of inexpensive digital watches in a drawer. They would work with a new battery, but have lots of ugly scars from daily wear in years past.

Thank you for looking and for commenting. It has been a day and a half since I last tinkered with the watch and the accuracy of the second hand's indications seems not to have varied. Seiko specifies a gain/loss accuracy of up to 15 seconds per month for their watches. I am anxious to see how much variation I actually have after a month.
ironsmiter1 year ago
Make sure to test your watch's accuracy at ROOM TEMPERATURE. 40 degree F change in either direction can effect the watch by upto a second a day, slow or fast.

ESPECIALLY since you blew out your watch with canned air, you NEED to re-lube the geartrain. Even if you hadn't... every 6-8 years, it should be lubricated. Just like your car needs oil changes in it's transmission, so does your watch. the lubricating qualities will deteriorate, and can eventually turn from a lube to an abrasive, as dust, dirt, and metal particles saturate the oil and the oil itself breaks down over time and wear.
a good quality oiling and cleaning every other battery replacement(using silver-oxide cells) will extend the life of your watch for many decades.

Finally, just break down and replace the o-ring. $5 MAX and then you KNOW it's good to go for another couple years. IF you ever see ANY condensation on the crystal of your watch, GET IT SERVICED. Yes it's expensive, but if you want that watch to keep working, and maintaining accuracy, it needs to have ALL the moisture removed, and the oil replaced. And a new battery while you're at it, for good measure. It will be a small price to pay to maintain your precious piece of horology for generations to come.

the silver oxide batteries have a MUCH better discharge curve, and longer lifespan.

The silver-oxide will run a flat voltage until almost completely dead. It should last many years of use in a watch. Also works better in wide variety of temps. replacement should take place every 3-5 years, to prevent risk of leakage. That's 5 years from the date on the package, not from when it's installed.

The alkaline battery that you have in there now, is a higher CURRENT battery, but lower capacity. If your watch had an active backlight(press the button, and it glows) then this would be the better choice. they suffer from having 2/3ds or less capacity, and a less stable voltage. They still have plenty of "juice" left by the time their voltage has dropped to unusable levels. Replacement SHOULD occur once a year to maintain accuracy and safety.


Now, when you get into a LESS EXPENSIVE and SENSITIVE application, things change a bit.
joule-thief circuits will eek the last drop of juice from an alkaline cell, and not care about the sagging voltage. These qualities make the more common and less expensive alkaline a better choice of power. Also, the risk of leaking is highest when the battery is deeply discharged, but in a disposable circuit, we don't really care. or even if we DO care, we can design the project case to contain the leak away from the rest of the device.
Phil B (author)  ironsmiter1 year ago
Thank you for all of the good information.
iceng1 year ago
Decidedly you have heavenly guardians to try such a delicate fix on the cheap :-)
Phil B (author)  iceng1 year ago
Thank you for looking and for commenting. Mostly, I can be incredibly cheap. I am hoping it will be helpful to someone else. It might also be of use to someone who wants to buy a used watch on eBay.